All About the Drama Behind ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’

Prince’s estate refused rights for O’Connor’s hit track to be used in her 2022 documentary, ‘Nothing Compares,’ named after the song

<p>David Corio/Redferns; Kristy Sparow/GC </p>

David Corio/Redferns; Kristy Sparow/GC

Sinéad O’Connor’s rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U” is widely beloved, but the hit didn’t make everyone happy.

The Irish singer-songwriter, who died on Wednesday aged 56, had been open about her struggles in recent years, particularly in the 2022 documentary Nothing Compares — named after her hit song. The film, however, wasn’t able to use the track because Prince’s estate refused to give O’Connor the rights to use her version of the power ballad for the film.

Instead, the music video plays with commentary from the director and O’Connor without sound, alongside a disclaimer saying, “The Prince estate denied use of Sinéad’s recording of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ in this film.”

Sinéad O’Connor and Prince

Sinéad O’Connor and Prince

Related: Sinéad O'Connor Dead at 56

In September 2022, Prince’s half-sister Sharon Nelson explained the decision not to allow O’Connor to use the song in her documentary in a statement to Billboard.

“Nothing compares to Prince’s live version with Rosie Gaines that is featured on the Hits 1 album and we are re-releasing that album on vinyl on November 4th,” Nelson said in a statement. “I didn’t feel [Sinéad] deserved to use the song my brother wrote in her documentary so we declined. His version is the best.”

Prince’s version of the song with Gaines was released in 1993.

Nothing Compares director Kathryn Ferguson told the outlet that the refusal “as the rights holders, was their prerogative,” and it forced the team to get creative.

“In the end we were very happy with that section of the film,” she said. “It meant the focus remained on Sinéad’s words, and on her own songwriting.”

<p>David Corio/Redferns/Getty</p> Sinéad O’Connor

David Corio/Redferns/Getty

Sinéad O’Connor

O’Connor and Prince — who died from a fentanyl overdose at the age of 57 in 2016 — never actually met before she released her recording of “Nothing Compares 2 U” in 1990. In her memoir, Rememberings, O’Connor detailed an evening the two spent together, where she described Prince trying to have a “pillow fight” with pillows stuffed with items “designed to hurt.”

Looking back now, “It certainly didn’t change my opinion of him as an artist, which was the only opinion I could have had. I never knew him otherwise,” O’Connor, 54, told PEOPLE of the encounter in 2021. “Obviously, I came away not liking him very much and not particularly wanting to go around to see him again. But having said that, though, I won’t lie. I didn’t like the man.”

At the time, O’Connor said she did not know that her manager and Prince’s team were involved in some “legal proceedings,” and she called the superstar a “devil” and “an awful monster of a man.” She also noted that when recording her 2021 book, the chapter about Prince was difficult for her.

“When I was recording the audio, the thing that messed me up was the Prince chapter,” she told PEOPLE. “I had to go to bed for a couple of days because I don’t think that I emotionally engaged with it at the time.”

Despite her strange encounter with icon, O’Connor says his death affected her deeply — even sharing that she “felt terribly sorry and sad for him.”

“I sobbed when he died,” O’Connor said. “I just felt terribly sorry and sad for him of the loneliness of his death. The price you pay for being so successful is an awful, aching loneliness, and I think he was terribly lonely, terribly vulnerable.”

She added, “The loneliness of fame, I think, was ultimately his undoing.”

O’Connor’s death was first reported by The Irish Times.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad,” her family confirmed in a statement to RTE. “Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

A rep for O’Connor did not immediately reply to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

<p>Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty</p> Sinéad O’Connor

Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty

Sinéad O’Connor

Related: Sinéad O'Connor Says Artists Must Start 'Difficult Conversations' as She Reflects on 'SNL' in New Documentary

The singer broke through in 1990 with “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which became a global smash. Prior to her death, she’d released 10 albums, most recently 2014’s I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss.

Though the song was nominated for four Grammy Awards in 1991, she boycotted that year’s ceremony, writing in an open letter that the Academy “acknowledge[s] mostly the commercial side of art.”

Two years after her massive hit, O’Connor made headlines once more with an infamous appearance on Saturday Night Live, during which she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II after performing an a cappella version of “War” by Bob Marley. She then told the audience to “Fight the real enemy.”

The stunt sparked serious backlash toward O’Connor, though she has since said she has no regrets.

<p>Yvonne Hemsey/Getty</p> Sinéad O’Connor

Yvonne Hemsey/Getty

Sinéad O’Connor

In 2021, O’Connor announced her retirement from music and touring, writing that she’d “gotten older” and was “tired.” Days later, though, she reversed course, saying, “I love my job. Making music that is. I don’t like the consequences of being a talented (and outspoken woman) being that I have to wade through walls of prejudice every day to make a living.”

In recent weeks, O’Connor appeared to be looking forward to the future, and shared on Facebook that she was working on new music and had hopes for an international tour.

“Hi All, recently moved back to London after 23 years absence. Very happy to be home : ) Soon finishing my album. Release early next year : )” she wrote on July 11. “Hopefully Touring Australia and New Zealand toward end 2024. Europe, USA and other territories beginning early 2025 : ) #TheBitchIsBack,” she wrote.

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