A decade of inconsistent, spotty, or simply confusing output from iconic Irish singer/songwriter Sinéad O'Connor was redeemed with 2012's refreshingly focused and honest effort How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? That album saw O'Connor effortlessly creating the same type of emotionally charged yet easily melodic fare that constituted her earliest, most popular work, and positioned her for a graceful return to form. Two years later, I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss follows the impassioned pop framework of its immediate predecessor, branching out into even more vivid stylistic dimensions and retaining all the energy, controversy, and fire that have come to define O'Connor as both a musician and a political figure. Taken at face value, the songs here are vibrant and multifaceted. The album opens with a song that curiously shares a title with the record that came right before this one, a smooth alt-pop production about desire and a quest for sweetness, driven by a melancholic chord progression and multi-tracked vocals of soft, swaying harmonies. A blues structure guides tracks like the country-flavored twang of "Dense Water Deeper Down" as well as the shuffling, heavy guitars of "The Voice of My Doctor." Saxophonist Seun Kuti shows up for a guest spot on the snaky funk of "James Brown" and Brian Eno is also somewhere on the album adding synth textures in a way no one else can. When Sinéad switches into a pop mode, the results are buoyant and beautiful, as with the yearning sentiments and hooky chorus of "Your Green Jacket" or the strident, building guitar pop of "Take Me to Church." Circumstances outside of the recording studio creep into I'm the Boss. Though none of the songs overtly address the issue, the months leading up to this album saw O'Connor writing an open letter to Miley Cyrus warning her of the exploitive nature of the music industry waiting to chew her up and spit her out as she spun out into an increasingly cartoonish public persona. Cyrus responded with aloof sarcasm and distance, picking at O'Connor's issues with shaky mental health and possibly missing the point that someone who experienced the slippery road of stardom before her could offer a valuable perspective. Instead of choosing to fire off against Miley in a venomous diss track, O'Connor turns her gaze inward, reasserting how problematic the music industry can be on "8 Good Reasons" with lines like "You know, I love to make music/But my head got wrecked by the business." Despite the controversies that have swarmed around her since the beginning, unfriendly or unfair press, and a history of musical wandering that fans couldn't fully get behind, Sinéad has rarely catered to anyone. That I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss continues a string of strong, entirely enjoyable releases is a bonus for Sinéad's audience, but as evidenced by liner notes that proclaim "this album is dedicated to me," she's still doing it for no one but herself.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas