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Song Premiere: Sinead O'Connor, 'Take Me To Church'

Sinead O'Connor.
Donal Moloney
/
Courtesy of the artist
Sinead O'Connor.

Sinead O'Connor's nearly 30-year career forms a portrait of an artist in conflict; a brilliant singer who remains musically, politically and personally uncompromising after forays into folk, pop, standards, reggae and points beyond. By definition, her catalog is erratic, but it's consistently bold and surprising.

On August 12, O'Connor will release a new album of original material titled I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss. Its first single, "Take Me to Church," looks back on a lifetime of battles and broken loves, only to find pathways to peace, redemption, forgiveness and wonder. "I don't wanna sing from where I sang before," she seethes early in the song, establishing upfront that she's embodying no character here but her own.

"Take Me to Church" can't let go of every fight — the chorus follows the words "take me to church" with the words "but not the ones that hurt" — but the song provides a stirring and frequently beautiful glimpse into the mind of a singer who searches constantly for improvements in herself. O'Connor may conclude that "I'm the only one I should adore," but "Take Me to Church" isn't a mere celebration of self. It's a celebration of self-actualization; of making yourself happier by striving to make yourself better.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)