Sinéad O’Connor Burned Too Bright

My teen idol was a beautiful, bald, fiery lass from Ireland

Steffany Ritchie
5 min readJul 28


Photo by Francesco Paggiaro:

“I remember it, Dublin in a rainstorm. Sitting in the long grass in summer. Keeping warm. I remember it. Every restless night. We were so young then we thought that everything we could possibly do was right” -Sinéad O’Connor, “Troy”*

I remember the first time I heard “Troy”. I was not in Dublin in a rainstorm, but the back seat of my friend’s mom’s car on a ride home from the mall in suburban Massachusetts. I was sixteen. The tape deck was playing Sinéad’s first album at full blast, much to our jaw dropping delight. I had never heard anything like it.

“Oh but I know you wanted me to be there oooooohHHOOOO EVERY LOOK THAT YOU THREW TOLD ME SOOOOOOO! Oh but you should have left a light on! You should have left a light on!” -Sinéad O’Connor, Troy

Sinéad’s epic, scorned rage was a ferocious howl of pure feminine fury. Her guttural growls and siren screams sent me and my two friends into a state of complete hysterical ecstasy. “REWIND!” we screeched and sang along at the top of our lungs, an ungodly wail on the dark highway emanating from the car no doubt. It became an anthem.

We all knew her Prince cover “Nothing Compares 2 U” by this point. I had run out and bought the excellent album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got and was all in on Sinéad’s fiery brand of heartbreak pop and political excoriating. It was 1991, and we were desperately overdue a fiercely feminist music icon for our generation.

Pre riot grrrl, pre Alanis and Courtney and P.J. Harvey, Sinéad fulfilled a gap in my teenage soul for female rage and desire and powerful reckoning that I hadn’t known existed. Her voice was strong and unapologetic; her literal voice and her song writing voice demanded to be heard.

The fragility and whispering quality of her voice lured you in, the softness almost a trick. Once she had you in her grip she would lull and caress, then build up to unfurl a wail, a…



Steffany Ritchie

Hi, I write memoir, essays, music, and pop culture. American in Scotland.