Nothing Compares 2 U: Rolling Stone's #165 of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

Nothing Compares 2 U
Single: Sinéad O'Connor
Album: I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got
B-side: Jump in the River
Released: January 8, 1990
Genre: Pop
Songwriter: Prince

Prince wrote "Nothing Compares 2 U" in 1984.  In 1989, Sinéad O'Connor covered it for her second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. It hit Number 1 in 17 countries and topped the Billboard Hot 100 single's chart in the US for four weeks, making the song the number 3 single for 1990. In Great Britain, it came in at number 2 for the year, behind a re-release of the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody."  It's number 165 of Rolling Stone's 2004 list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."
"Nothing Compares 2 U” captures the stasis, anger and 
devastation of a bad break-up with awful accuracy.
Tom Ewing for Freaky Trigger
In 2003, Q Magazine ranked "Nothing Compares 2 U" number 242 of the "1001 Best Songs Ever."  In 2007, VH1 listed O'Connor's rendition number 10 of the "100 Greatest Songs of the 90s". Pitchfork Media included the song at number 37 on their Top 200 Tracks of the 90s in September 2010. It's number 77 of Billboard's "Greatest Songs of All Time." TIME magazine numbered "Nothing Compares 2 U" among its 2011 list of "Best All-TIME 100 Songs." In 2020, The Guardian counted the song number 12 of the "100 Greatest UK Number Ones."

The Family

The Family
Album: The Family
Released: August 19, 1985
Genre: Pop, R&B, funk, jazz
Label: Paisley Park/Warner Bros.

Nineteen eighty-four saw Prince break out. He wrote "Nothing Compares 2 U" that year for his side project, The Family. They worked with Prince under his contract with Warner Brothers. It allowed him to recruit and produce other artists for the label.  

The Purple One was penning more songs than his record company would release. Who wants their star artist's latest album competing with the LP the hit maker now has on the charts?  After seeing The Idolmaker, a film about a rock promoter, Prince had an idea.  Put together some acts for the excess material. 


His first project was Morris Day and the Time. On their debut album, Day laid down the vocals and Prince played all the instruments. Prince was using this group like Don Kirshner used the Monkees; to front for his music. He even coached Day on how to sound like him. It didn't get much better for the band. After his acting debut in Purple Rain, Day left to pursue a solo career. Several others quit, too. The few remaining members rebranded as The Family. 

Morris Day in Purple Rain

The Family cut one self-titled LP,  made up of Prince penned songs, before disbanding. One of those tunes was "Nothing Compares 2 U." Prince wrote it in an hour and recorded it with the band immediately. For the Family's LP,  singer Paul Peterson (aka St. Paul) supplied the vocals over Prince's instrumentation. He was advised to sing it in the style of Prince. 

Prince released a live version with Rosie Gaines on his 1993 album The Hits/The B-Sides, but his original solo recording didn't appear until 2018, when his estate released it from the vault. According to Susan Rogers, his sound engineer, Prince didn't like O'Connor's cover, but that was no slight on her. He didn't like anyone recording his songs unless he asked for it.


Sinead O'Connor
I'm a troubled soul who needs 
to scream into mikes now and then.
Sinead O'Connor
In 1989, at her manager's suggestion. Sinéad O'Connor covered "Nothing Compares 2 U" for her album, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. This was O'Connor's last big hit, earning the 18th spot of VH1's 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders. She  alienated a lot of people with her political statements. 


When she won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance, she boycotted the show for  the materialism in the music industry.  In  New Jersey, she wouldn't go onstage if they played the National Anthem play before her concert . She tore up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live. "I'm not a pop star," she wrote in her memoir, Rememberings. "I'm a troubled soul who needs to scream into mikes now and then."

Music video
As far as I'm concerned, 
it's my song.
Sinead O'Connor
The music video for "Nothing Compares 2 U" received heavy rotation on MTV.  In 1998, the network named this 34th on their list of the greatest videos ever made. The clip won three "Moonmen" at their 1990 Video Music Awards: Video of the Year, Best Female Video and Best Post-Modern Video.

Directed by John Maybury, it's a closeup on Sinéad O'Connor's face as she goes through stages of sadness and anger while singing the lyrics. Toward the end of the video, two tears roll down her face, one on each cheek. When Sinéad cried, it was real tears.

In the Rolling Stone Top 500 songs issue, she said, "I didn't intend for that moment to happen, but when it did, I thought, 'I should let this happen.'"  In her 2021 memoir Rememberings, O'Connor explained that the lyric that triggered the tear was:
All the flowers that you planted mama
In the back yard
All died when you went away
Her mother was abusive toward her and died in a car accident when Sinéad was 18. That day, she removed the photo of Pope John Paul II from her mother's bedroom wall. This was the same photo she famously tore up on Saturday Night Live. 

In Rememberings, she wrote about her contentious relationship with Prince. After this song made her famous, he invited her to his Hollywood mansion and asked that she be one of his proteges. When she declined the offer, he verbally abused her and got physically aggressive. 

In her account, she left on foot in the middle of the night and Prince followed in a car. But her thoughts on Prince don't reflect how she feels about "Nothing Compares 2 U." She told the New York Times, "As far as I'm concerned, it's my song."


Chris Cornell
Prince's music is the soundtrack to the 
soulful and beautiful universe he created. 
Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell
Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden 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.

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