’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Nothing Compares 2 U”
The eighth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor. A worldwide smash that reached the top of the charts in more than a dozen countries, this Prince-penned ballad catapulted the Irish chanteuse into the stratosphere of fame. Her mainstream radio success was short-lived, however, as follow-up single “The Emporer’s New Clothes” stalled at No. 60 in the U.S., and O’Connor has not graced the Hot 100 chart since.
The song’s popularity was amplified by an emotionally raw music video that enjoyed generous airplay on MTV and VH1 and was highly celebrated, winning Video of the Year at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards, an honor we’d argue was of greater value then than now.
Let’s give this gorgeous song another listen:
Compare this song to the track it mercifully kicked out of the No. 1 spot, “I’ll Be Your Everything” by Tommy Page, and you will feel you’re comparing prime rib to bologna. While Page’s song is a forgettable cliche, O’Connor’s is in a class by itself — deep, poetic, classic and everlasting. The instrumental is rich enough to add emotional weight, but clean enough to let O’Connor’s vocals ascend. This song worked across genres, appealing to lovers of pop, rock, alternative, soul and perhaps even classical. And for some reason it feels, to us, distinctively at home in the ’90s, even though it was written in the early ’80s and first released in 1985 by The Family, Prince’s funk band.
Was it dope? You bet your shaved head it was. This song was inescapable, lauded by critics and fans alike. O’Connor’s androgynous look and outspoken personality drew headlines and cemented her as a feminist music icon, all on the basis of this one love song written by a guy who rumor has it couldn’t stand her. For those of us who lived through it, the worst we can say is that it was overplayed.
Does it hold up? We think so. In the past few years, there’s been a place for melancholy ballads like this on the radio and on people’s playlists. “Nothing Compares 2 U” lives in a contemporary sweet spot between over-the-top (see: Celine Dion) and too corny to be tolerated (see: New Kids on the Block). From the moment we hear those opening strings, we can’t wait to hear O’Connor mourn for her lost lover.
Dopeness: 5 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?