Nothing Compares 2 U
|"Nothing Compares 2 U"|
|Single by Sinéad O'Connor|
|from the album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got|
|B-side||"Jump in the River"|
|Released||January 8, 1990|
|Studio||S.T.S Studios (Dublin, Ireland)|
|Sinéad O'Connor singles chronology|
Sinéad O'Connor's version of "Nothing Compares 2 U"
It was later made famous by Sinéad O'Connor, whose cover was released as the second single from her second studio album, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. This version, which O'Connor co-produced with Nellee Hooper, became a worldwide hit in 1990 and its music video received heavy rotation on MTV. Its lyrics explore feelings of longing from the point of view of an abandoned lover.
Prince released his own rendition of "Nothing Compares 2 U", with Rosie Gaines on guest vocals in 1993. This live version of the song was included on his compilation album The Hits/The B-Sides. His original 1984 studio recording of the song was eventually released in 2018 as a single and later on the 2019 posthumous compilation Originals.
In 1985, the funk band The Family released their only album, The Family. It contained songs written by Prince with "Nothing Compares 2 U" being one of those songs. The song appeared more-or-less as filler music on their album and was not released as a single and received little recognition.
Sinead O'Connor recorded the song for her second album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, released in 1990, where she and producer Nellee Hooper gave it a completely new arrangement. The song became an international hit for O'Connor.
Prince had never recorded the song for himself and took no interest in performing it in concerts, however, in the years after O'Connor turned it into a hit in 1990, he began performing the song live. He performed duets with Rosie Gaines in concert and subsequently had a live performance released on compilation albums: 1993's The Hits/The B-Sides, and the 2006 Ultimate Prince. He also recorded a solo version for his concert film Rave Un2 the Year 2000, as well as for his 2002 live album One Nite Alone... Live!.
The song received favorable reviews from most music critics. Bill Lamb from About.com wrote that O'Connor's "emotional, gutsy performance made it a classic. Painful loss meets stunning vocal beauty with a perfectly understated instrumental arrangement." Matthew Hocter from Albumism described it as "a song deeply rooted in emotion and despair which would go on to certify O'Connor and that song as one of music history's most unforgettable moments." AllMusic editor Steve Huey called the song "stunning" and noted its "remarkable intimacy". Jodi Cleesattle from American Eagle wrote that "there is pain in Sinead O'Connor's voice, and there probably always will be." She noted that "loneliness and longing" are highlighted on the song, adding that O'Connor's voice "fits the song perfectly. Her vocals soar and leap unexpectedly but gracefully, making, the ballad, the loveliest of love songs." Bill Coleman from Billboard described it as a "brilliant interpretation of the melancholic lament." Greg Sandow for Entertainment Weekly said that it is a song "about how to carry on after losing love". Tom Ewing from Freaky Trigger called it a "very moving track" and added that it "captures the stasis, anger and devastation of a bad break-up with awful accuracy." He also complimented the music "whose stately, sympathetic pulse gives O’Connor the canvas she needs to be so devastating." Dave Sholin from the Gavin Report wrote of the song,
A few times each year a song comes along that deserves extra-special recognition. Here's the first such entry of 1990. Since I've been shouting the praises of Sinéad's remarkable interpretation of this Prince-penned tune to many of you for over a month, it was safe to assume it would eventually end up on this page. Absolutely brilliant—and if you haven't caught the video, do yourself a favor and check it out NOW!
Tom Moon from Knight Ridder said she "adapts the breathy approach of a torch singer." Los Angeles Times noted that O'Connor "match raw emotion with spare sounds" on "the quiet, desperate, lovelorn beauty". Music & Media stated that "out of all the recent covers of Prince songs - Chaka Khan's I Feel For You, Tom Jones' Kiss and Simple Minds' Sign 'O' The Times - this is definitely the most convincing." They noted further that "originally recorded by Minneapolis band The Family for their 1985 debut album, O'Connor's emotionally charged version has immediate appeal" and added that it is "destined to be her biggest hit to date." The Network Forty wrote that "when Sinead sang "Nothing Compares 2 U", seas calmed, angels wept and Top 40 radio stood still to listen to this powerful expression of unrequited love." Mark Richardson from Pitchfork commented that "you have to look pretty hard to find a better expression in pop music of the void that exists when a relationship ends." Pop Rescue wrote that O'Connor "makes light work" of the track, adding that she's "having plenty of power to belt out the lyrics at the right points." They added the song as "a fantastic exhibit of 90’s music". Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine noted that it perhaps is O'Connor's "greatest vocal achievement" and described it as a "classic torch song she quite simply owns." Tom Doyle from Smash Hits added that "it doesn't sound at all like any of her other stuff."
O'Connor's power ballad version of the song became a worldwide hit, topping charts in O'Connor's native Ireland, Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It also became a top-five single in France and a top-20 in Denmark. It was certified platinum in Austria and the United Kingdom, and gold in Germany and Sweden.
In the United States it spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100; in addition, it was number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and reached number two on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart (held off the top position by Rod Stewart's "This Old Heart of Mine" for three weeks). It became the third best-selling single of 1990 and the 82nd best-selling single of the 1990s, and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 1990. The song's popularity sent I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got to the top of the Billboard 200, where it stayed for six consecutive weeks.
Directed by John Maybury, the video consists mostly of a closeup on Sinéad O'Connor's face as she goes through stages of sadness and anger while singing the lyrics; the rest consists of her walking through the Parc de Saint-Cloud in Paris. Toward the end of the video, two tears roll down her face, one on each cheek. O'Connor has said that her tears were real. She did not intend to cry but then thought, "I should let this happen."  She explained that the tears were triggered by thoughts of her mother, who died in a car accident in 1985. She said she learned to channel her emotions with the "bel canto" singing style, which she compared to extreme acting methods. In the middle and at the very end of the video there is a shot from O'Connor's photo session for the I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got album cover.
The clip won three "Moonmen" at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards: Video of the Year (O'Connor was the first female artist to be awarded it), Best Female Video and Best Post-Modern Video. It was nominated for Breakthrough Video, Viewer's Choice and International Viewer's Choice during the ceremony. The video was also the subject of many parodies and spoofs, such as Gina Riley's parody "Nothing Is There" on Fast Forward, referring to the fact that O'Connor tended to shave her head bald.
O'Connor's relationship with Prince
Speaking about her relationship with Prince in an interview with Norwegian station NRK in November 2014, O'Connor stated about Prince:
I did meet [Prince] a couple of times. We didn't get on at all. In fact, we had a punch-up. He summoned me to his house after "Nothing Compares 2 U". I made it without him. I'd never met him. He summoned me to his house—and it's foolish to do this to an Irish woman—he said he didn't like me saying bad words in interviews. So I told him to fuck off. He got quite violent. I had to escape out of his house at five in the morning. He packed a bigger punch than mine.
Prince released his own rendition of "Nothing Compares 2 U", with Rosie Gaines on guest vocals. This live version of the song was included on his 1993 compilation album The Hits/The B-Sides. This version reached #62 on the R&B chart in early 1994.
Prince's original 1984 recording of the song was not released until 2018, when it was issued as a single by Warner Bros. Records in conjunction with his estate. In addition, the Prince version was given its own music video, released in conjunction with the studio recording on April 19, 2018; the video consists of edited rehearsal footage shot in the summer of 1984. The song was later included as the final track on Prince's 2019 posthumous compilation Originals, which contains a multitude of demo recordings Prince had made for other artists such as the Bangles and Kenny Rogers.
- In 2003, Q Magazine ranked "Nothing Compares 2 U" at number 242 in their list of the "1001 Best Songs Ever".
- It was included at number 165 by Rolling Stone in its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
- In 2007, VH1 ranked O'Connor's rendition number 10 of the "100 Greatest Songs of the 90s".
- In September 2010 Pitchfork Media included the song at number 37 on their Top 200 Tracks of the 90s.
- The song was listed at number 77 on Billboard's "Greatest Songs of All Time".
- TIME magazine included "Nothing Compares 2 U" in its 2011 (unranked) list of "All-TIME 100 Songs".
- In 2012, Porcys listed the song at number 60 in their ranking of "100 Singles 1990-1999", noting that "it's probably one of the noblest, most dignified slow songs of the decade".
- The song was simulcast on radio stations throughout the United States to commemorate Prince 15 days after his death. The simulcast was timed to reflect the song's opening lyric: "It's been 7 hours and 15 days since you took your love away."
- Chris Cornell posted a link to his version the day after Prince's death. In an accompanying message, he wrote: "Prince's music is the soundtrack to the soulful and beautiful universe he created, and we have all been privileged to be part of that amazing world. I performed his song 'Nothing Compares 2 U' for the first time a couple months ago. It has a timeless relevance for me and practically everyone I know. Sadly, now his own lyrics in this song could not be more relevant than at this moment, and I sing them now in reverence as I pay tribute to this unequaled artist who has given all of our lives so much inspiration and made the world so much more interesting. We will miss you Prince!!!" On Father's Day 2018, Cornell's daughter Toni released a version of the song she recorded with her dad before his death in 2017.
- In 2019, Stacker placed the song at number 20 in their list of "Best 90s pop songs".
- In 2020, The Guardian ranked the song at number 12 in its list of the "100 Greatest UK No 1s"
- In October of 2014, Aretha Franklin released her thirty-eighth and final studio album “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics” in which she covered several songs by other female recording artists, including an upbeat, jazz version of O’Conner’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”.
Credits and personnel
Nothing Compares 2 U
Jump in the River
Ireland chart history
"Nothing Compares 2 U" entered the Irish singles chart on January 11, 1990, reaching number one two weeks later. After a six-week run at the top, Sinéad O'Connor was replaced by "Love Shack" by The B-52s. The song left the chart on March 29, after twelve weeks.
UK chart history
Having entered the UK top 40 at number 30 on January 20, 1990, the song jumped to number three the following week. "Nothing Compares 2 U" rose to number one for four weeks, holding off a twin challenge from dance acts Technotronic and Black Box in the process. Finally, the song fell to number two on March 3, replaced by "Dub Be Good to Me" by Beats International. Altogether, "Nothing Compares 2 U" enjoyed a twelve-week run in the UK top 40, departing on April 7.
US chart history
The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 US top 40 in the issue dated March 24, 1990 at number 33. "Nothing Compares 2 U" rose steadily over the next four weeks—aided by the song's video gaining increasing exposure on MTV—before reaching number one on April 21. As in the UK, the song spent four weeks at the top, despite competition from Jane Child ("Don't Wanna Fall in Love") and Calloway (band) ("I Wanna Be Rich"). Finally, it dropped to number two, replaced by Madonna's "Vogue". "Nothing Compares 2 U" spent 15 weeks in the US top 40, concluding on June 30.
Certifications and sales
|Australia (ARIA)||2× Platinum||140,000^|
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Platinum||50,000*|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Gold||5,000*|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||600,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
|United Kingdom||8 January 1990|
|Worldwide||4 February 1990|
|United States||11 February 1990|
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