There’s a new documentary about controversial Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor that recently aired on Showtime and, well, it’s incredible.
The new doc, Nothing Compares, displays the difficult life of the legendary Irish vocalist, who constantly put herself in the crosshairs of controversy, from highlighting problems with racism in America to her infamous appearance on Saturday Night Live in which she decried the Pope by ripping up a picture of him on TV and calling him “evil.”
O’Connor, who has a new album slated for release soon, her 11th, continues to work, despite tragedy.
Here are a few things we learned from the documentary that everyone should watch.
1. Sinéad O’Connor was made to look like a crazy person by the press at the height of her career because she spoke out about political issues. Headlines told her to “SHUT UP.” So much so that fans came to her concerts to wave flags in her face to try to mess with her. Reductive journalism at its best put her in danger.
2. Her appearance on SNL involved her singing a Bob Marley song and then she ripped up a picture of the Pope. “What effect do you think this will have on your career?” she was asked. “I don’t know,” she replies. “Are you prepared for the consequences?” she was asked. “Look at the alternative,” she said. Many thought she went too far. She was called a Vatican basher. NBC logged 1,000 complaint calls for the “unauthorized” performance. O’Connor knew this would happen. But isn’t this the job of an artist? That was her point.
3. After that performance, O’Connor began to fear for her life. Many around her also feared for her life, too. Death threats came in, a “sack load,” says a friend on her team. Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna talks about loving the SNL performance, however. But she was in the minority in this opinion.
4. People thought O’Connor was “Crazy.” Perhaps they were jealous of her guts.
5. “Do you enjoy shocking people?” O’Connor was asked. “No, I enjoy a debate,” she said. Famed country songwriter and performer Kris Kristofferson said she had “courage and integrity.” He did so as he introduced her at a Bob Dylan concert in New York at Madison Square Garden. “Don’t let the bastards get you down,” he said, as the fans booed while some others cheered. Kristofferson then hugged her after her show, consoling her as she shook.
6. O’Connor wrote “Black Boys on Mopeds” and released it in 1990.
7. The Irish singer did things she thought she was right, first and foremost, fighting against child abuse, racism, religious greed, and sexism. And she put her life, future, and career on the line. She was hated by many for it. But also inspired.
8. “The world does not take kindly to having its programming interrupted,” a supporter of O’Connor says.
9. She shaved her head. And looked beautiful. But was mocked. This was in the ’90s. Not in the 1800s.
10. “There’s no way I’m gonna shut my mouth. I’m a battered child,” says O’Connor.
11. O’Connor talked about priests raping children. In the end, sadly, she wasn’t wrong, though many didn’t want to hear it at the time.
12. After being treated like “shit,” she left the public eye. “[The world] didn’t like what they saw in the mirror [when they looked at me],” she noted.
13. Ireland voted for Marriage Equality in 2015. One can’t help but think O’Connor had something to do with that. “The once conservative nation voted yes to remove a Constitutional ban on abortion,” said a newscaster. One can’t help but think O’Connor had something to do with that either.
14. She was filled with righteous anger. “They tried to bury me, but they didn’t realize I was a seed,” O’Connor says.
15. We need more people like her.