Forgotten by its author, Prince Rogers Nelson, the Irishwoman Sinéad O’Connor, who died last July, made it an interplanetary hit.
Incomparable. Inimitable. Sinéad O’Connor, who disappeared on July 26, was. And even more. But which especially suits the song that made him known throughout the world. A song, however, neglected by its creator, recovered at the last minute by an artistic director and transcended by the extraordinary interpretation of a singer still in the making. “Nothing Compares 2 U”, in the princely spelling, became an international hit thanks to her.
When he wrote the song, in his bunker studio in Minneapolis, on July 15, 1984, returning from a concert on the Jacksons’ “Victory” tour in Dallas (sic), Prince Rogers Nelson was far from suspecting the future of his refrain. The proof, he claims to have produced it in an hour (“It came out like a sneeze”, even specified Susan Rogers, the sound engineer at the time) and intended the model for one of the groups of which he oversees the destinies, as a generous pygmalion and prolix business leader of Paisley Park. In this case it is the ersatz of The Time, an orchestra deserted by its main members, singer Morris Day and guitarist Jesse Johnson.
Accompanied by Susannah Melvoin (member of The Revolution, with her sister Wendy) and Paul Peterson, alias St. Paul, on vocals, the group renamed The Family published its only eponymous album on August 19, 1985. On the B side, sixth song from the disc, again anecdotal “Nothing Compares 2 U”… which goes completely unnoticed. Like the album, despite the classy arrangements by keyboardist and composer, Clare Fischer, already known among others for his work with Dizzy Gillespie, Donald Byrd or Sérgio Mendes, and future arranger for Prince, Michael Jackson or Paul McCartney.
But what is this lively ballad about? Seen from the feminine side, she narrates the emotions of a romantic breakup, with stanzas like “Seven hours and fifteen days have passed since you took your love back from me…”, or even “Everything is loneliness here without you, like a bird without its song…” Basically, “I can never replace you…”
In short, in appearance, a banal passionate lament, like international song has given birth to tons since the dawn of poetic times. The anecdote claims that the romance would have been inspired in Prince by Sandy Scipioni, his housekeeper, who had just given his leave to the great displeasure of his employer. Unless it is an allusion to the recent divorce of his friend Jerome Benton, a pretext to also evoke the traumatic separation of his own parents when he was still just a little “prince”…
Find this article on the version of Nothing Compares 2 U performed by Sinéad O’Connor in full in our issue 158, available on newsstands and via our online store.