no. 1 — Faith and Courage by Sinead O’Connor

I think this was the first album I felt was mine. Of course, it was introduced to me by my parents, but I took to it in a way that superseded their influence. I remember doing a school project where I made a large word document full of word art and stolen google images, making a list of my favorite artists. Sinéad O’Connor was the first one I wrote down. For a long time, this was the only album of hers that I really knew, but man did I know it well. Even after a decade-long hiatus of having forgotten about it, when I finally returned to it I still knew every word.

No Man’s Woman, a track that instills independence and trust in the universe in whoever listens. The strings add to the intensity of the message- O’Connor will never belong to anyone besides the gods she worships. It’s a devotion that both mirrors and rejects romantic love. I had no idea what it meant when I was little, but I think the song stuck true in the mythos of my subconscious.

The State I’m In feels like you’re in a windy meadow on the top of some famous yet remote cliffs overlooking the ocean, basking in the drama and acceptance and raw emotions of what it means to exist. Maybe that’s too dramatic! But so is this song! Sweeping, overlapping vocals feel like curtains being pulled aside to make way for the theatrics to start. The play is the next song- the Lamb’s Book of Life; an Irish-jig-meets-reggae in a pro-peace lilt. No one could pull off a song like that except Sinéad.

My favorite track was, and still is, Daddy I’m Fine. I brought this album in for show and tell in preschool, specifically to play this song to my class. I can’t imagine what the reaction of my teachers were, but honestly I think it was a perfect choice to share. The song bleeds confidence and courage, self-love and sexual awareness. It’s infectious, even to a three-year-old who doesn’t know what thigh-high boots are. Every time this song comes on, I scream the lyrics. It’s my favorite pump-up song before going out somewhere that’s not usually my comfort zone. If I’m going to a bar or a party where I feel like I have to perform self-confidence, what better positive affirmations to chant are there than “I feel real hot when my makeup’s nice / like I wanna fuck every man in sight”?

I remember going to Barns and Noble with my mom one day and sitting in the little booths they had to listen to CD’s with headphones on. As my mom shopped, I hummed along with this album, eliciting stares from the nearby customers until my mom came back and told me I was screaming along. This album elicits that disposal of self-consciousness. As a child and as an adult, I relish that.

Listen to the album here

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Jenna Sylvester

Jenna Sylvester

non-binary writer and gardener. I'm stressed out.