Sinead O’Connor has never been ambiguous about most things, including her feelings about Prince. The late pop icon famously wrote O’Connor’s biggest hit, the 1991 heartbreak epic “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which spawned an equally indelible music video. In various interviews over the past few decades, O’Connor has made it clear that the pair never got along, with the singer occasionally referencing a “violent” incident at Prince’s house. She expanded on the alleged encounter during an interview with The New York Times, which profiled O’Connor ahead of the release of her forthcoming memoir, Rememberings. O’Connor recalls being “terrorized” by Prince, who invited her to his home in Hollywood and proceeded to verbally and physically attack her:
Prince summoned her to his macabre Hollywood mansion, chastised her for swearing in interviews, harangued his butler to serve her soup though she repeatedly refused it, and sweetly suggested a pillow fight, only to thump her with something hard he’d slipped into his pillowcase. When she escaped on foot in the middle of the night, she writes, he stalked her with his car, leapt out and chased her around the highway.
Elements of the story—particularly the thing with the soup—bear the familiar markings of eccentric celebrity. As O’Connor puts it: “You’ve got to be crazy to be a musician, but there’s a difference between being crazy and being a violent abuser of women.” O’Connor previously disclosed at least some of these allegations during a 2014 interview with a Norwegian radio station, during which she referred to the encounter as a “punch-up.”
Following the release of “Nothing Compares 2 U” and her rapid ascendance to pop stardom, O’Connor appeared on SNL, where she very famously ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II in protest of child abuse in the Catholic church. The Times feature on O’Connor allows the singer to reframe the narrative around this cultural moment, which many viewed as a self-implosion of her career:
The media was making me out to be crazy because I wasn’t acting like a pop star was supposed to act. It seems to me that being a pop star is almost like being in a type of prison. You have to be a good girl.
Years later, the Catholic church’s history of child abuse and extensive cover-ups became headline news. And this year, a Times documentary on Britney Spears examined media’s toxic exploitation of pop stars while introducing the word “conservatorship” into the public vernacular. As the author of the Times piece on O’Connor writes, “Few cultural castaways have been more vindicated by the passage of time.”