|"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 (Dublin, Ireland)|
|Sinéad O'Connor singles chronology|
Sinéad O'Connor's version of "Nothing Compares 2 U"
"Nothing Compares 2 U" is a song written and composed by Prince for his side project, The Family; the song featured on his eponymous 1985 debut album. The song's lyrics explore feelings of longing from the point of view of an abandoned lover.
In 1989, Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor recorded a version of the song for her second studio album, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. It was released as the album's second single in early 1990 and became a worldwide hit. O'Connor co-produced the record with Nellee Hooper, and its music video, directed by John Maybury, received heavy rotation on MTV. In December 1990, Billboard named "Nothing Compares 2 U" as the "#1 World Single" of 1990 at its first Billboard Music Awards.
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. Prince had earlier recorded the song in 1984, which went unreleased until 2018 as a posthumous single released digitally in April of that year.
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 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." Ernest Hardy from Cashbox called it a "genuine tear-jerker". Greg Sandow for Entertainment Weekly said that it is a song "about how to carry on after losing love".
Tom Ewing from Freaky Trigger noted it as 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." Tom Moon from Knight Ridder said she "adapts the breathy approach of a torch singer." Los Angeles Times noted that the singer "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." David Giles from Music Week commented that the song "is not one of Prince's finest moments, and O'Connor does little to disguise this fact bar a few token vocal somersaults. The string synths also have a dirge-like effect, dragging the rest of the arrangement along with them."
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." Steven Wells from NME said "it remains one of the best 'boo-hoo, my bloke's left me' pop songs ever recorded", and a "stark reminder that O'Connor is blessed with an amazing and unique voice". He concluded with that it "remains the outstanding highlight of her career to date. She's more than capable of surpassing it in the future. Less Sade and more Aretha, please." 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. Plus top five in France and top 20 in Denmark. It was certified platinum in Austria and in the United Kingdom, and gold in Germany and in 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 no. 2 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart (held off the top position by Rod Stewart's "This Old Heart of Mine" for three weeks). In terms of its chart performance on the Hot 100 it ranked no. 3 for 1990, behind Wilson Phillips' "Hold On" and Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love". In April 1990 it was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. On the second of its four weeks at number one, the record's parent album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got started a six-week run at number one on the Billboard 200. In 2019 the single ranked 97 in a Hot 100 60th-anniversary Top 600 covering the period from 1958 to 2018.
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 f*** 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".
- In October 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'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U".
- 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 2020, the song was covered on Chris Cornell's No One Sings Like You Anymore, Vol. 1.
- 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"
- Country artist Jon Pardi covered the song on his album Rancho Fiesta Sessions in 2020.
- Cleveland.com ranked "Nothing Compares 2 U" the best Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song of the 1990s in 2020, calling it "one of the greatest love songs ever written".
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
In the UK Top 100 chart dated 20 January 1990, the single entered at no. 30, then rocketed to no. 3, then to number one, where it stayed for four weeks, holding off a twin challenge from dance acts Technotronic and Black Box. The single slipped to number two in the chart dated 3 March, replaced at the top by "Dub Be Good to Me" by Beats International. "Nothing Compares 2 U" completed its twelve-week run within the UK top 40 in early April. "Nothing Compares 2 U" was Britain's biggest-selling new recording of 1990, ranking no. 2 in the year-end chart behind a re-release of the Righteous Brothers' 1965 hit "Unchained Melody".
US chart history
The single entered the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 at number 33, in the issue dated March 24, 1990. "Nothing Compares 2 U" rose steadily over the next four weeks – no doubt bolstered by the increasing exposure of the song's video on MTV – before reaching number one in the issue dated April 21. The single took just six weeks to reach number one – tied with Madonna's "Vogue" and New Kids on the Block's "Step by Step" as the year's fastest climber to the top. It spent four weeks at number one, as it did in the UK, with Jane Child's "Don't Wanna Fall in Love" and Calloway's "I Wanna Be Rich" stuck at no. 2. Madonna's massive hit "Vogue" replaced it at number one. The single spent ten weeks in the Top Ten – one of only four 1990 releases to do so – and finished its 15-week run in the US Top 40 in late June.
Certifications and sales
|Australia (ARIA)||2× Platinum||140,000^|
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Platinum||50,000*|
|Denmark (IFPI Denmark)||Gold||45,000|
|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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