The Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan has passed away at the age of 46, but she will leave a legacy that will outlive all of us. Though the world has lost an internationally-acclaimed icon, we will forever be able to linger in awe of the Celtic-tinted sense of anguish and yearning that lives on through the beautifully melancholic tones of O’Riordan’s incomparable vocals.
The unmistakable sound of the group was punctuated by O’Riordan’s ability to seamlessly merge her hard-hitting, unapologetic, steely grit with a fragility and delicateness that burst through with every folky Irish twang of pain. Often sombre and tormented in her lyricism, O’Riordan was unique in her aptitude to faultlessly evoke every emotion.
The Cranberries enjoyed a widely successful career, selling over 40 million albums across multiple decades. Although at times the Limerick quartet can be overlooked because of the emergence of Britpop at the same time that The Cranberries hit their prime, the band, unlike the likes of Suede and Blur, managed to crack America and become internationally recognised. The British charts in the ‘90s were initially too self-absorbed to acknowledge the brilliance of the band, but The Cranberries belatedly got their album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? to number one in the UK charts, whilst the debut studio album sold over 5 million copies in America alone. With the band’s second studio album No Need To Argue achieving similar success, going seven times platinum in the US, The Cranberries has established themselves as alternative rock giants by 1994.
Amongst the grunge of ‘90s America, O’Riordan’s piercing vocals cut through the mire in a way that no-one else could. Heartfelt and dogmatic, O’Riordan and the band refused to be caged, emotionally and politically, offering the adoring public eclectic and unique songs such as ‘Dreams’ and ‘When You’re Gone’. Most notably, of course, The Cranberries have provided the world with two songs that stand far above not only the rest of their own discography, but above much of the music produced in the decade, with ‘Linger’ and ‘Zombie’. The latter, written in response to an IRA bombing in Warrington in 1993, showed an aggression and defiance that became stereotypical of both the band and its leading lady. The song was politically poignant, but also showed the versatility that allowed The Cranberries to continue to be successful critically, commercially and on the live stage. ‘Linger’, meanwhile, has become a modern classic. A sweeping string section and brooding synths all brought together by the subtlety of the aching and agony that is so masterfully portrayed by O’Riordan’s singing.
O’Riordan should not merely be recognised for her pure talent, but her persistence and bravery in continuously battling and overcoming a lifetime full of hurdles. Faced with the challenges that fame and media attention provides, O’Riordan was simultaneously having to confront her own anorexia, depression, bipolar disorder and a history of childhood abuse. After The Cranberries entered a hiatus in 2009, O’Riordan continued a solo a career that produced two studio albums, neither of which quite matched the success of her time with The Cranberries, but the purity and strength of her voice can still be found in her singles like ‘Ordinary Day’ and ‘When We Were Young’.
O’Riordan was an enchantress, an empowered activist, and an inspiration to millions.