Sinead O'Connor Announces Retirement, Shares Thought Process Behind Tearing Pope Picture on SNL

“I know if I do this there’ll be war. But I don’t care,” writes O’Connor of the controversial live moment in an excerpt from her new memoir.

After a long career punctuated by meteoric success and shocking controversy, Sinead O’Connor has announced that she intends to retire from recording and performing music. The Irish singer made the announcement via Twitter on Friday.

“I’ve gotten old and I’m tired,” she wrote by way of explanation, joking that it was time to “Hang up my nipple tassels” after the release of her upcoming 2022 release, “NVDA.”

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“There’ll be no more touring or promo,” she wrote.

The singer later returned to the platform to apologize to “booking agents or promoters or managers” who may have been taken aback by her surprise announcement.

But staying on brand with her fiercely independent nature, she explained it by adding, “I didn’t wanna wait for permission from the men, as to when I could announce it.” She also suggested “a few whiskeys” might have also contributed to her decision to come forward.

If O’Connor is only remembered for two things, it will be those stark, black-and-white, close-up images of her face during the hauntingly simplistic “Nothing Compares 2 U” music video and her tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II on live television thereafter.

The first seemed poised to launch her career into the stratosphere. Many believe the latter almost destroyed it entirely. Certainly, she never recovered from the controversial moment commercially.

It dominated news headlines at the time, with NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” insisting it had no idea she’d intended to do that during the live broadcast, and painted O’Connor in a horrible light for many years.

Immediately following the incident, the backlash was fierce. O’Connor was banned for life from NBC. The Anti-Defamation League condemned her and conservative groups boycotted her music.

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In an excerpt from her new memoir, “Rememberings,” shared with the Daily Telegraph, O’Connor recalled that it was her mother’s picture of the Pope that she tore up, something she’d been intending to do publicly for some time — though she didn’t necessarily plan to do it that night.

“My intention had always been to destroy my mother’s photo of the Pope. It represented lies and liars and abuse,” she wrote. “I never knew when or where or how I would destroy it, but destroy it I would when the right moment came.”

She said that while she’d harbored resentment toward the Catholic Church because it is her belief they do not care about Ireland, the tipping point came from media reports of “children who have been ravaged by priests but whose stories are not believed by the police or bishops their parents report it to.”

And so it was on her mind during the week of rehearsals for her 1992 appearance on “SNL” and just like that, she decided “tonight is the night.” During rehearsal she had torn up a picture of a child after her a cappella performance of “War.” During the live broadcast, she switched the picture without telling anyone.

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“I know if I do this there’ll be war. But I don’t care,” O’Connor wrote. “I know my Scripture. Nothing can touch me. I reject the world. Nobody can do a thing to me that hasn’t been done already. I can sing in the streets like I used to.”

“Fight the real enemy!” O’Connor shouted after tearing up the picture to stunned silence from the studio audience. “When I walk backstage, literally not a human being is in sight. All doors have closed. Everyone has vanished. Including my own manager, who locks himself in his room for three days and unplugs his phone.”

Even as the industry turned its back on her, along with many of her fans, O’Connor doesn’t think the photo destroyed her career at all. “People say or think that tearing up the photo derailed my career. That’s not how I feel about it,” she wrote. “I feel that having a number-one record derailed my career and my tearing the photo put me back on the right track.”

That’s because, as she put it, “Everyone wants a pop star, see? But I am a protest singer.”

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As for what might be next for the visionary artist, O’Connor had a suggestion of her own over the weekend. On Sunday, she tweeted that she’d always wanted to be a mentor on “The Voice of Ireland.”

She said that her busy schedule never allowed her to be involved in the past, but she’s totally available now. “If they ever want me they can contact my managers,” she wrote. Unfortunately, that version of “The Voice” aired its final season in 2016, so there would have to be a whole revival to make that dream come true.

If there’s anyone who can make the unexpected happen, it’s definitely Sinead O’Connor. When it comes to her, we wouldn’t count anything out.


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