Men and women in pubs across Ireland toasted to the life of Dolores O’Riordan on Monday, Jan. 15. The Limerick-native and frontwoman of the alternative rock band The Cranberries was found dead in her hotel room at the age of 46 earlier that morning.
Known for her sweet airy voice and diary-like songwriting, O’Riordan’s music was fitting for any ’90s romantic comedy soundtrack. The band’s first hit song, “Linger,” from its 1993 debut album “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” beautifully packages infatuation and uncertainty.
She sings, “But I’m in so deep / You know I’m such a fool for you / You’ve got me wrapped around your finger.”
Around Valentine’s Day of the next year, a polished version of the wistful track peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100. The lyrics, written by an 18-year-old O’Riordan, were inspired by a night she had at a club called Madonna’s.
“This guy asked me to dance and I thought he was lovely,” O’Riordan told The Irish Times. “Until then, I’d always thought that putting tongues in mouths was disgusting, but when he gave me my first proper kiss, I did indeed ‘have to let it linger.’”
“I couldn’t wait to see him again,” she continued. “But at the next disco, he walked straight past me and asked my friend to dance. I was devastated. Everyone saw me being dumped, publicly, at the disco. Everything’s so dramatic when you’re 17, so I poured it into the song.”
Like “Linger,” the single “Dreams” (also from the debut album) epitomizes the dreamlike atmosphere O’Riordan’s voice was capable of creating. Guitars twinkle as she sings, “And now I tell you openly, you have my heart so don’t hurt me.”
Singles “I Can’t Be With You” and “Ode To My Family” from The Cranberries’ 1994 best-selling record, “No Need to Argue,” show off her brogue and soft sound centerstage. Notable songs like “When You’re Gone” from the 1996 album “To The Faithful Departed” and “You and Me” from the 1999 album “Bury the Hatchet” also display her tender side.
However, O’Riordan’s voice was not limited to sweetness; she proved to be an Irish firecracker.
The band’s biggest hit, “Zombie,” from “No Need to Argue,” catapulted The Cranberries into international stardom and showcased O’Riordan’s ferocious side. There is an agonizing beauty in her voice as she howls the chorus over distorted guitars, “What’s in your head, in your head / Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie, oh.”
The 1994 protest song, written by O’Riordan in her apartment, was inspired by the deaths of two young boys killed in a street bombing by the Irish Republican Army the year prior.
In the first verse she sings, “Another head hangs lowly / Child is slowly taken / And the violence caused such silence / Who are we mistaken.”
More of O’Riordan’s aggressive side can be heard in “Promises” from “Bury The Hatchet” when she growls about a divorce, “All the promises we made / All the meaningless and empty words I prayed.” In the anti-drug cry “Salvation” from “To The Faithful Departed,” she commands over a brisk grunge-pop beat, “To all the kids with heroin eyes / Don’t do it, don’t do it.”
Every contribution she made to The Cranberries in her 28-year career was pretty. Between her sugary delivery of lovelorn lyrics and bewitching primal screams, Dolores O’Riordan’s talent will linger long after her death.