It’s an icon of the MTV era: Sinéad O’Connor staring at the viewer, her shaved head piercing an otherwise black frame, as mournful synths crescendo and she wails that nothing compares to you:
But as many people discovered or rediscovered this weekend, the most iconic of O’Connor songs wasn’t really hers; it was a cover of Prince’s more MIDI-fied 1986 original. “Nothing Compares 2 U” was actually one of many Prince songs that weren’t popularized by Prince. The Bangles, Stevie Nicks, TLC, and others also greatly benefited from his talents as a songwriter.
So it made sense this weekend that, as the country and bluegrass star Chris Stapleton looked for a way to honor the Artist, he’d choose “Nothing Compares.” Before Stapleton was a star, he was a Nashville songwriter, scribbling hits for other artists up and down the charts. In Berkley, California, on Saturday night, he delivered a bluesy and soulful tribute performance of “Nothing Compares” with an orchestration not that far from the kind that Prince chose later in his life. It’s a stirring, transformative cover—and very much worth a listen:
If you’re interested in more on Stapleton, Spencer wrote about his runaway success at the Country Music Awards last fall.