Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sinéad O'Connor: Am I Not Your Girl? [Chrysalis/Ensign, 1992]
Over and above Irish-American backlash and papal maledictions from the depths of the catacombs, this muddled project stiffed because no one understood it, possibly including O'Connor. At least half the titles aren't "standards." I mean, Rice & Webber? Early Loretta Lynn? "Scarlet Ribbons"? An anticlericalist sermon? A putative Marilyn Monroe song that made a bigger splash when Helen Kane did it in 1928? A samba? Doris Day's "Secret Love" (which as it happens was the first record I ever bought, though I came to prefer the B side, "The Deadwood Stage")? All they share (except for the sermon) is that they are not rock (and also, conceivably, that O'Connor grew up with them, as she claims). But unlike La Ronstadt, O'Connor has no not-rock audience, and little not-rock savvy. Instead of hiring some reasonable substitute for Nelson Riddle--Billy May, or her Red Hot + Blue crew--she relies on high-grade hacks like Torrie Zito and Rob Mounsey. Even thorough their blare she sounds so defiant, so vulnerable, so sexual that at times she could be the greatest natural singer since Aretha. So up till the last three cuts, she almost gets away with it. But she doesn't. B