Contrary to underlying and assumed popular belief that the U.S. charts comprise of the holy grail of artists, and that they comprise of the be-all-and-end-all of every artist that is undoubtedly the most inspiring and the best; there has been, and probably will forever be, something much more poignant, moving, powerful, compelling and encouraging if you will, about music that is produced, written and recorded outside of the U.S.A., in my humble opinion. I’ve already mentioned in a previous blog post (or maybe in the introduction post in this series) about how we aren’t as caught up as most people on the state of ‘pop’ music these days; and since that time we’ve found out that a number of artists on the top 100 charts whom we do not listen to, and haven’t blogged about- are American. Artists like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, BTS, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Post Malone, Drake, Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, Megan Thee Stallion, Maroon 5, Lil Nas X, SZA, Luke Bryan, Dan + Shay, Jason Aldean, Kane Brown, Khalid, Imagine Dragons, Eminem, Cardi B, Chris Brown, Twenty One Pilots, Kendrick Lamar, Jonas Brothers, Eric Church and Panic At The Disco; have all dominated the charts over the past year or so, and apart from BTS who is from South Korea, they’re all from America, or American adjacent countries. None of these artists are artists who we have blogged about, or are going to be blogging about (except for Justin Bieber, who was recently a late addition to this blog list!); and so when looking at who is cool and hip at the moment… does this mean that we’re out of touch with American pop, and even if we are, does it matter in the grand scheme of things?
I know it may seem like I’m on a rant or an ‘American music bashing session’ or something like that. But it’s actually not that we don’t like American music- we do. Just take a look at our blog list, and then you can see how much American music has influenced us. Carrie Underwood is one of today’s most respected and popular country artists, and for her to have originated from American Idol, and to still be active today, with rising popularity and influence; is remarkable by anyone’s standards. Same with Kelly Clarkson– she has really made an impact and had influence around the world, as an ex-Idol winner, this time in the pop/rock music sphere. PINK, a global pop icon, is a no-brainer on this list, and the sentiment is the same for pop/soul singer Christina Aguilera, who has been in the business for 20+ years! Tim McGraw, one of the most dependable country stars, doesn’t have the most interesting voice, but does tell compelling and moving stories with his relatable songs; and Pentatonix is the world’s best acapella group, no question about it. John Mayer, one of the deepest and most thought-provoking songwriters this side of the millennium, will be forever known for his ground-breaking and revolutionary album Continuum; while Justin Timberlake– a star in his own right- is a worldwide phenomenon, partly due to the hit song “Can’t Stop The Feeling” … and rightly so! And guess what- all these artists (and more!) are American! We’ve been inspired and influenced by some great American artists, and I’d say that American musicians and artists form maybe the greatest percentage of inclusions on this ‘most influential artists of all time’ list. However, there is something that seems to be a bit more special, about artists from other countries other than the U.S., who tug at my heart strings so much, and seem to be more relatable and relevant in terms of honesty, openness, vulnerability, and authenticity.
Maybe it’s because I come from Australia, that I have a strong affiliation and love for homegrown music artists like Guy Sebastian, Delta Goodrem, Tina Arena, Vanessa Amorosi, The McClymonts, Keith Urban, Natalie Imbruglia, Dami Im, Missy Higgins, for KING & COUNTRY, Rebecca St. James and Newsboys, to name a few! Or perhaps I’ve also been moved and inspired by artists from the U.K., inclusive of artists like Ed Sheeran, U2, Little Mix, The Shires, Snow Patrol, Dua Lipa, Lucy Thomas, Leona Lewis, Spice Girls, Ronan Keating, The Corrs, Philippa Hanna, and Delirious?; simply because of the fact that I’ve been enamoured and captivated by a number of British TV shows throughout my life (Life on Mars, Ashes To Ashes and Broadchurch come to mind), and the my love for their music has sort of flowed on as an extension of that. Regardless of the various reasons for being intrigued, compelled, impacted and inspired by music that isn’t made in the U.S.; the fact still remains. That we could go on and on and on about all of the reasons why we think one type of music is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than another. We could give our reasons ‘for’ American music, or ‘for’ British music or ‘for’ Australian music. Those reasons can be mutually exclusive, or they may not be. But whatever the case, disagreements over music because of the nationality of someone, of which someone has no control over… well that’s extremely petty.
Last time I delved into rock band Linkin Park, and their music was probably on the whole the most morbid I’d ever heard… lyric-wise and thematic-wise as well. But it was last week that I realised that this ‘war’ that we have between lovers of different types of music is meaningless. I for one didn’t relate to Linkin Park, but someone else could’ve. And objectively I can appreciate Linkin Park for a hard-hitting rock band that has its place in society. But for us to move past our differences of likes and dislikes and this ‘invisible music competition’ we’ve unnecessarily created (of whether Aussies or Americans or Brits are the best at music) which could be valid or in fact something that we’re just doing for kicks and no real meaning; for us to abandon all of that…? Does a popular and influential band need to be broken up, or does an artist need to be dead for the praise to come through? Is a person’s legacy worth more when they’re dead, or shall we shower love and appreciation and acknowledgement upon someone while they’re still alive? The sad thing about Linkin Park was that I only heard about them for the first time the same year that Chester died… but for me who isn’t much of a fan of hard rock, that’s not that much of a surprise. What’s an even greater surprise, at least to myself, is that Linkin Park these days have been receiving much more attention and tributes and well-wishes (in 2017 at least) than I think at any point in their career. Well, that may not be accurate but to me it honestly felt like that. And this brings me to my next point- that I reckon is THE thing you should take away from this blog. That regardless of nationality or genre, and whether we have preconceived ideas about certain artists or not… don’t you think we ought to appreciate these artists who may be on the fringes of mainstream pop culture for whatever reason, and give them a chance while they’re still alive? So that they can see us as a human race, loving their body of work, and we can be in that wonderful moment of being alive in the same time period as whoever this person is, this musical and lyrical genius? It’s good and everything to acknowledge artists like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston posthumously, but have we ever stopped to wonder whether these icons would still be alive if we paid attention to and listened to their music more all those years ago? If we were to stop saying ‘which artist is the best’ and started to love music as the complex most universal love language as it is, regardless of what type of music we’re listening to… well, then don’t you reckon the world would be a nicer place to live? With less division?
Can I be honest with you here? I didn’t really feel like blogging about The Cranberries. The Irish rock band formed in Limerick, helmed by Dolores O’Riordan, who drowned in January 2018… there would be so many layers about her death that I’d have to cover, and given that I connected overall in a greater sense to their music than to Linkin Park (I’m comparing their music because both lead singers are dead!), I’d have to write about The Cranberries as musicians and as people a whole lot more, and write about a dead person in a greater capacity- more than I did when I was writing about Chester and his band. To be completely frank and honest, I’m still not comfortable writing about a dead person (although I’d need to quickly ‘get over’ my hesitancy because I’d be writing about dead people all the time next year!); so I kept putting off writing about this artist- someone I knew to be influential purely on the songs “Zombie”, “Dreams” and “Linger”. I kept putting off writing about The Cranberries, until recently, when I found Linkin Park’s blog to be, although emotionally taxing, rather ‘easy’ and eye-opening. When I finished the Linkin Park blog, I sort of concluded that appreciating the work and fruits of labour of someone who has died is somewhat of a good thing, as it brings you back in time and provides you with all sorts of nostalgia and sentimentality. And if you’re discovering an artist for the first time (and they’re dead), there’s a sort of melancholy there, because then you can’t be happy when they succeed, and sad when they fail. You’re just sad that they’re not there anymore. But the upside of listening to an iconic artist, even if they’re not around anymore, is that you can be appreciative of their discography, that at least they did something they loved. And that is certainly the case with The Cranberries, who I found presented themselves with more passion, zeal and zest for life than Linkin Park. I went into listening to The Cranberries music with probably more of an open mind than maybe any other blog I’ve written- I had this the mentality of appreciation for a great artist, and I ended up listening to one of the most confronting, comforting, powerful, moving and thought-provoking artists of the 90’s. Though not as impacting as many other artists I have heard, who are originally not from the U.S. (personally I find The Corrs, U2, Little Mix, Ed Sheeran and Delirious? much more impactful and iconic than The Cranberries!); there’s still something captivating about Dolores and her band- something that still makes them set apart from many of the pop and rock stars today. To this day, I’m not really sure what that ‘something’ is- is it determination or maybe their work ethic? Is it maybe God’s anointing on their music or just that they’re one of those ‘’special’ artists with no rhyme or reason? Regardless, this is a band you all need to check out. Listening to their music will enrich your soul and give you all a new appreciation for life right now. You think that life is hard now with COVID-19? One listen to the songs of Dolores and co. and you definitely won’t feel the same. And in the midst of COVID-19… don’t we need inspiration and encouraging?
Before we dive deep into the songs- the hit singles and the underrated gems off the 8-album discography, let me first set the scene for you, give you some background of the band. Though you can check out their band’s formation on Wikipedia (and there is a lot of information, probably more in depth and with such eloquence that I could never write about in a succinct manner!), we do sort of need to know the band’s ‘mission’ and/or ‘vision’ statement (if you could call it that!), their ethos and their morals, before diving deep into their music, don’t you think? With The Cranberries having to toil very hard for their success (I reckon they’re the pinnacle definition of a ‘working class band’ if ever there was one- a vast difference to someone winning a talent show!), they themselves have classified themselves as an alternative rock group, but in their music and their signature sound, they have also incorporated aspects of indie rock, jangle pop, folk rock, post-punk, and pop rock. With five of their albums reaching the Top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart, and eight of their singles reached the Top 20 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart; The Cranberries have also sold nearly 50 million albums worldwide; and they’ve been ranked as one of the best-selling alternative acts of the 1990s. The Cranberries have received an MTV Europe Music Award, a World Music Award, an International Group nomination at the Brit Awards, a Juno nomination, a Juno Award win, an Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement, and a BMI Award with a Special Citation of Achievement; while their final album In The End, earnt them a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album. With brothers Noel and Mike Hogan being descendants of Irish poet Michael Hogan, it’s no surprise that artistic ability and creativity run in the family; while the group also performed at Woodstock II in Saugerties, New York in 1994. There are a bunch more ‘interesting facts’ about The Cranberries– ranging from which albums reached platinum, or gold or any other dizzying height, or about every other award and nomination the group acquired (you can read more about the band here!), such as the hit song “Linger” peaking at No. 3 in Ireland, their 2nd album No Need to Argue reaching 5× platinum in Canada, platinum in Switzerland, and 7× platinum in the United States, the group winning the “Best Song” award for “Zombie” at the 1995 MTV Europe Music Awards (beating out Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone”), and the group receiving a BMI Award in London for three million radio plays in the U.S. of their single “Dreams”- the award presented with a special citation of achievement. But I’ll leave it all for you to peruse… after all, what good are the awards if the songs aren’t heart-warming and inspiring enough?
What I do is so different [to what Sinead O’Connor does]. I might have been singing before she ever sang – who knows? It’s not like I’m not going to sing because somebody from up the road got there first because she was a few years older than me.
The boys [my brothers] were always allowed to come home late, do all the things I wasn’t allowed to do because I was a girl, any time I went to a disco – until I was 19 years old! – one of my brothers would have to go with me. That seemed so old – like, nearly dead! And still not free, either! I was a good little Catholic girl, mind – but I was always rebellious underneath.
[but fame is difficult. In my 30’s], I just wanted to stay at home, do the laundry, take my children to school. Just switch off and be a mother… I became a volunteer at my children’s school, I went into the classroom. It was very grounding. I got sick of being famous. [but] “I write at my best when feeling negative. When I’m happy, I prefer to go to the pub and have a Guinness or two – I guess I’m a bit of a melancholy type of person. “There’s plenty of happy music out there. If people want to buy happy music, there’s always Kylie Minogue.
I think there’s a lot more passion when you are unhappy, do you know what I mean? Because you are messed up, and I think a lot of people relate to that – being messed up, or confused or lost or whatever – as opposed to being happy. It’s something you take for granted. [but it’s] really hard to perform them live…
Could it be a bit of a ‘cop-out’ that I’ve bypassed several of The Cranberries’ achievements in favour of their songs- like I’m whizzing through this blog in favour of others because I connect with the artists a whole lot more? Well… you’d be half right. It’s true, other artists like Richard Marx, Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, even artists that Jon blogged about like Jackie Evancho, Goo Goo Dolls, Backstreet Boys and Carly Rae Jepsen to name a few; have all resonated with me much more than The Cranberries have. However, I’ve written about achievements and awards and the like, in many paragraphs over many blogs for a while now- isn’t it time that this one is a bit shorter, knowing that future blog posts will have to be more in depth- artists like Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams? I do need to pace myself after all and figure out which blogs need to be longer than others based on reputation of aforementioned artist… Also, I’m not across all of the Irish music markets currently- and the group had tons of hits in their hometown- so unless you all wanted (or needed) more and more paragraphs of aimless facts that don’t mean anything unless you’re a die-hard fan of Irish music in general (which I’m not!), then on this blog, you might be doing some more researching yourself… hope that’s ok! Anyway, we can indeed see a very complex person from these quotes from Dolores above (when she was alive), and as we realise that this band is extremely raw and honest and vulnerable, and not that polished or pristine; we also realise that alternative rock bands have their place just like pop groups and country groups. Mike, Noel, Fergal and Dolores have delivered poignant melodies and heartfelt ballads- and none more apparent than songs present on their first album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?. In particular, it was the song “Dreams”, that catapulted the group into stardom. Everyone knows this song- it’s extremely iconic, and one listen and you’d instantly have a sense of familiarity, warmth and homeliness. With Dolores’s piercing, calm and gentle vocals shining through, the track is driven by vibrant synth and electric guitar; and the rocker lyrically inspires and encourages also. As we are presented with a melody where Dolores expresses her intense love for another person, this anthem of sorts has been included as a soundtrack in many movies, including Mission: Impossible, You’ve Got Mail, Boys On The Side, The Next Karate Kid, Shot Through the Heart, and The Baby-Sitters Club, and TV shows like 90210, JAG, and My So-Called Life; while we also are encouraged to feel the emotions of the song with our partner. “Dreams” is a pure love song, and The Cranberries deliver this song with such professionalism, and they also encourage us to love deeply and fully too, as ‘…I know I’ve felt like this before, but now I’m feeling it even more because it came from you, then I open up and see the person falling here is me, a different way to be…’.
The rest of the debut album is just as renowned and quintessential as the debut single, and reminds me how much of a powerful and compelling first album The Cranberries actually released. “Linger”, a typical 90’s synth and keys driven ballad, is just as moving and vibrant a song as “Dreams”, and is another recognisable song that is timeless as well as legendary. A track about Dolores’s first kiss and subsequent first heartbreak, the track reminds us of the transience and fickleness of relationships, and that sometimes, things don’t turn out the way you want them to. As Dolores has mentioned about how “Linger” changed her life, we are presented with the band at their peak- seemingly having the time of their lives: Linger was the first song we wrote. Initially, it was just a chord shape, with no real melody or lyrics. I took a tape of it home and came up with a verse and chorus. I wrote about being rejected. I never imagined that that it would become a big song. It was inspired by a night I had at a club called Madonna’s. This guy asked me to dance and I thought he was lovely. 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. 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…Linger was a worldwide smash. Fans were chasing me all over. Once, I was in a shop buying underwear and about eight people spotted me. I started running and after three blocks hid behind a skip. Some years later, after I was married, the guy Linger is about wrote me a long letter, saying: ‘I know the song’s about me. I never meant to hurt your feelings. Can we meet?’ I thought: ‘It’s too late. You dumped me!’ I didn’t reply. And while it is true that afterwards, the band never really truly recreated their success; it’s strange and ironic that that success has been built upon a tragic love break-up song, about something seemingly so sad. And thus, perhaps the saying that beauty can come out of the ashes… is a true saying after all. “Sunday”, an ethereal, haunting and mysterious keys led melody, is directed at a spouse/partner or someone that the persona is admiring from afar, in the ‘unrequited love’ sense (no idea why it’s called “Sunday”!) as we are encouraged to take risks and step out in faith in any situation, as the reward is mostly greater than the risk; while the heartbreaking and gut-wrenching “Still Can’t” depicts a messy breakup, as Dolores reminds us that ‘…[you] still can’t recognize the way I feel, nothing of what you said to me was real, and you still can’t find the strength to apologize, he lies, you just go on laughin’ and tellin’ everyone lies…’, and encourages us to rid ourselves of toxic relationships asap. It’s a warning song about what could occur when we’re in a relationship for too long that feels stale and stagnant- so let me say ‘kudos’ to Dolores and co., as this relevant song is one that needs to be heard to be fully appreciated. “I Will Always”, a slow-paced ballad, depicts the affirmation of the persona to their friend, allowing them to ‘…be whatever you want to be, go wherever you need to go…’, because the persona isn’t leaving their friend’s side, that ‘…I will always go beside you…’, reminding us to find true friends who will stick by us through thick and thin; while “I Still Do” speaks about a breakup whereby one person still loves the other, but has to let them go because they’re better off as friends. “Pretty” is a song that essentially compliments someone on their looks, and is meant to be a positive song of showering praise on someone close to us; while “How” tries to make sense of a betrayal that occurred by someone close to the persona. With such deep and introspective topics examined in this debut, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? is not for the faint of hearted, the listeners who prefer boppy, fun melodies. This album isn’t that, and is more of a deep thinker’s album, and for that, Dolores and her bandmates deserve all the praise. Yes, I did speak about Dolores in the present tense… because we can still give a dead person praise, can’t we? They just can’t receive it…which is sad. All the more reason to recognise and listen to someone when they’re alive.
If I’m giving you the allusion that this debut album is their most successful album- at least in terms of their chart position in Ireland, then you’d be right in a sense. But there are still songs and projects by The Cranberries that are nonetheless poignant and inspiring, even if it didn’t reach the lofty success of the first album. “Zombie”, from the second album No Need To Argue, was a big part in propelling the second album to be overall their most popular and respected album in a worldwide sense, with the track being a political and social statement. A track whereby the band intentionally blasts the Irish Republican Party over their role in the infamous Irish civil war called The Troubles; we are met with one of the most intense and lyrically divisive tracks this group has ever recorded, as Dolores and co. encourage us all to fight and to stand up for what we believe in- to stand firm for what is right and true even if others do not agree with you. Somewhat similar in theme to “Dare You To Move” from Switchfoot, The Cranberries have delivered a winner here- and a track that encourages us all to come together and share love instead of war and hate, regardless of which side of the religious or political spectrum you fall under. “Ode To My Family”, a heartfelt and emotional ballad that pays homage and tribute to Dolores’ family, relays to us that ultimately, no one but her immediate family, will fully and truly understand her (it’s really a celebration of how close she is to her roots and her hometown and the people she holds dear to her heart!); while the moving and compelling “I Can’t Be With You” speaks about a broken relationship even though both people are still in love, once again diving deep into the complexities and realities of relationships.
“Ridiculous Thoughts”, is a controversial song in that it calls out the press and journalists and berates them for always wanting to be intrusive about artists’ lives, for reasons that are less than noble and righteous; and we are also introduced to Dolores singing about people she trusted only wanting to be close to her because of her fame and her status as a singer. And that is an extremely brutal thing to experience- and hence this song was written to make sense of all of her experiences: You wouldn’t believe how many men there are in the music industry who look at a woman in a sexual sense and just want to try it on, to get you into bed. Even people that you once respected and that you thought valued you because of your mind, your soul, your talent, end up wanting you for only one thing and that really can be disappointing. You know that they’re secretly saying ‘She’s a great head, and a powerful figure, I wonder have I any chance?’ And worse some of them want to possess you, which is even more frightening. One song on the new album ‘Ridiculous Thoughts’, is about people you once thought were people you respected, until you realised their minds were filled with trivia. “Dreaming My Dreams”, a simple yet beautifully sung love song dedicated to Dolores’s husband at the time, is one of the few tracks that are musically sparse (just a piano and acoustic guitars), yet nonetheless powerful, moving and inspiring (a song that we all can declare to our partners and spouses!); while the title track is a defeatist, philosophical and reserved acapella-type track about the end of a relationship- that is painful to listen to but necessary in the sense that we all need to remember that good things can run its course and there’s nothing that can be done about it except appreciate that the relationship happened at all. “Yeat’s Grave”, a lyrically heavy melody full of metaphors that I don’t fully understand, is a track about a famous Irish poet who died but was respected, as I’ve included Dolores’ thoughts about the song below- probably one of the songs that meant the most to her; while “Daffodil Lament”, one of the longest songs in the group’s discography, at over 6 minutes, is a song full of metaphors and is freeflowing with no verses and no chorus. To this day I’m still perplexed as to the entire meaning of the song- and maybe it’s supposed to be vague and interpreted as to how you want to. But I need help, can anyone tell me what this song means?
Dolores’s thoughts on “Yeat’s Grave”: I was really into Yeats’ poetry, so much so that I wrote a song called Yeats’ Grave the first time I went to Sligo and saw where he is buried. I loved his passion, the dreamer he was. And the fact that he looked beyond the material world to matters spiritual, which is really representative of the Irish people as a race. He was so passionate and just wrote what he felt. I always found it difficult in school because I loved Yeats’ poetry but I wasn’t into analysing it. I just had my own understanding of it, me as a poet myself – a young girl who writes. I write my own lyrics and as far as I’m concerned I’m writing my own poems and verse and it might not be over-intellectual and it mightn’t be fifty pages and have big words and y’know, clauses and all that stuff in it but I’m just writing what I feel and as far as I’m concerned Yeats just wrote what he felt. But then you sit down at your exam and it’s like ‘where does he use similes in this poem’ and ‘where is he being ironic’. I’m sure when Yeats wrote his poetry he didn’t want kids to look for the irony in it, I’m sure he wanted young people to sit down and go ‘wow that’s cool, I really understand that’
Probably one of the band’s most controversial albums, was their third. Although To The Faithful Departed sold four million copies in six weeks and went double platinum in the US and Gold in the UK (a very remarkable effort by any metric and standard!), it failed to match the sales of its predecessors; and the album was heavily criticised by the press due to the politically charged songs “Bosnia”, “War Child”, and the real, unaltered sound of gunshots in “I Just Shot John Lennon”. These songs form the lyrical backbone of the album, and though not singles, everyone remembers this album for the three songs… but sadly in a negative way. “War Child” speaks about the unintentional fallout and collateral damage from wars in general, and the children that are caught up in the middle of wars they don’t have any business being in the middle of; and is extremely in-your-face and direct. And as Dolores earnestly and prayerfully reminds us to always keep the children in mind on such a messy and complex thing such as war, we are encouraged to always fight for peace for the sake of children who are more innocent and naïve (for better or worse!) than we are. “Bosnia”, similar in theme to “War Child”, is equally as compelling and confronting; while “I Just Shot John Lennon” dives deep into the concept of judging our celebrity idols and always placing them on a pedestal, when really we should be letting them be real human beings and live real lives- and maybe they’d still be alive if we weren’t so obsessive over them all the time. With the concept of To The Faithful Departed being dedicated to all those who have gone before us. Nobody knows exactly where these people are, but I know we would like to believe it is in a better place. I believe it is a Human impossibility to obtain complete peace of mind in this dimension, there’s too much suffering and pain – particularly for children: ‘suffer little children, to come unto me for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. To the faithful departed and those left behind, there is a light that never dies; we are met with an album full of questioning and reconciling faith with war and hate and hurt… and when things like that are mixed in an album, it’s evident that critics and listeners will be uncomfortable. No wonder the project is such a ‘mixed bag’ according to the charts.
“Hollywood” also ruffles feathers, and dives deep into how the reality of being famous and the glitz and the glamour and being a rock star, doesn’t exactly line up with the image that many young aspiring stars have in their head (which is fine, but just an unfortunate reality, and maybe this song is a subtle dissuading of young people away from the music industry!); while “Salvation” deals with the concept of taking drugs, with Dolores pleading with young people to not do drugs and to free your soul and mind, because ‘salvation is free’ (is this song about surrendering to Jesus?). “Free To Decide”, an intense ‘hateful’ song to the press and somewhat of a spiritual sequel to “Ridiculous Thoughts” and addresses the pressures of always having to live up to the expectations of society; and the track concludes that the band themselves are free to decide how to act and behave, and the listeners are in fact free to decide to listen to their music or not. “When You’re Gone”, the melancholy and emotional melody, is about Dolores’s grandfather passing away, and her emotions and feelings surrounding the ordeal; while the explosive and hard-hitting “I’m Still Remembering” speaks about a wife in an unhappy relationship, speaking to her husband and wishing that he’d remember happier times in their marriage. A song that reminds us to fight for our relationships and to always give 110%, because relationships are two-way streets, and are indeed hard work, but rewarding in the end; we are also encouraged to always choose to be in that relationship every day- because just like Casting Crowns says: it is a slow fade from a happy relationship to an unhappy one.
With The Cranberries’ first three albums being probably the most well-known out of their entire discography, does this mean I can leave my blog finished here? I mean, I could. But I won’t because the rest of the albums still contain truths and pieces of solid gold! “Promises”, from Bury The Hatchet, is a revenge/justice type track, whereby Dolores and her bandmates eloquently and earnestly warn us all of keeping our own promises with the ones we love, as they conclude that we need to be faithful, true, loyal and dedicated to our friends and family- to those we respect, and to our promises we made when we were younger; while the acoustic guitar driven “Animal Instinct” earnestly details Dolores’s pregnancy, and that her life was never the same (for the better) after her son was born. “Just My Imagination”, brimming with optimism, hope, joy and positivity, brings us all back to a child-like innocence and faith, with Dolores and the band singing about happy times when they were younger, speaking about how it was their imagination that sustained them through the tough times; and with this track being a rare pop tune from the band, it’s worth pointing out that these guys are quite good at recording pop songs… at least from this sample size of 1 song!
“You And Me” is a tribute and love song to Dolores’ son, and essentially champions him and praises his tenacity, love for the world, and very existence; while the fast paced and intense “Copycat” calls out pop stars in the industry today, for copying musical trends gone by, and for piggy-backing on top of someone else’s inventiveness and musical identity rather than figuring out what you want to say yourself in the music. It’s a brave and courageous track that calls out all of the fakers, and because of this I reckon that from-left-field track deserves many listens, as we try to be an original person and who God meant for us to be. “Saving Grace”, a slow-paced guitar led ballad, emotionally and honestly relays a particular person being the persona’s ‘saving grace’, and possibly covertly encourages us to turn to God as our own saving grace; while “What’s On My Mind” is an admission of need and reliance and dependence on someone special, as well as possibly an admission of true love.
“Analyse”, from The Cranberries’ fifth album Wake Up And Smell The Coffee, is a happy-go-lucky pop/rock anthem whereby Dolores and her band passionately sing about living life to the fullest and living in the moment, not to mention not analysing every little detail of your life and instead surrendering to the unknown that each days brings (in my opinion, this song is one of the most underwhelming songs of their entire career!); while the confronting and explosive melody “Time Is Ticking Out”, speaks about environmental issues. With Dolores letting all of us know that ‘…we better think about the things we say, we better think about the games we play, the world went round, yeah, around and round, we better think about the consequences, we better think about the global census, if time went down, yeah, if time went down…’, we are met with one of the most important songs ever from the group, as we are all encouraged to actively do our part and take care of our planet. Whether it is to turn off the lights at a certain time or to reduce our TV watching time, any little bit helps our planet, and the state of our skies and oceans and water. A melody whereby we all need to listen and take stock and plan and listen; The Cranberries have recorded a winner here… as long as we don’t let this song be another informercial that goes in one ear and our the other. “This Is The Day”, an earnest rocker that speaks about the love and loyalty from one friend to another, speaks about the fact that we all should be there for one another, and that faith in humanity and in our spirit (along with faith in God), can and will save us all from ourselves- the enemy within; while the title track vividly encourages us to be active in our world and to be present in the lives of those around us, that You do have to wake up to these realities… The song ‘Wake Up And Smell The Coffee’ is about myself and becoming aware, in a general sense along these lines. On a more personal level, it’s also about looking at the face of my daughter, seeing myself in her and hoping she doesn’t go through any of sadness I went through… enjoy the moment. We have reach maturity after ten years of some success moments, very bad moments, and moments of a lot of confusion, and now we are adopting that philosophy, to notice everything you have, of the luck you have, and to enjoy everything, because maybe it can be the last chance you have. And that’s what we do, enjoy the album recording process, the concerts, everything!
These days, band splits or band rifts are commonplace… and in The Cranberries, band discussions and heated arguments did occur, reminding us all that people are human and such a band like this isn’t immune to internal conflict. In January 2003, following advice from their legal advisors, The Cranberries parted ways with record label MCA, due to the band’s dissatisfaction with the promotion of Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. Although the group also reiterated that even with little effort from the label, the project still reached top-10 sales in many countries, there were indeed comments from MCA regarding that the album did not reach the Billboard 200’s top 30. Weirdly though, possibly in an in-your-face and stick-it-to-the-man moment; the 2002 concerts drew an average audience of 10,000 people, with many of the dates selling-out. But as Dolores told Billboard back in the day: “…since we were signed in 1991 by Island Records, we have gradually seen our label dissolve from a pioneering independent spirited label into a corporate monolith that completely lost touch with the group’s creative vision…”. And could it be that label issues resulted in the band parting and going their separate ways for a time in 2003? By September time, the band announced they were taking some time to pursue individual careers, as well as concentrate on family. They also scrapped sessions for a sixth studio release. With The Cranberries initially only supposed to embark on a two-year sabbatical (like Switchfoot in between Where The Light Shines Through and Native Tongue); Dolores assured that the group would just take a hiatus, that “we’ve been together for 13 years; it’s a much needed break. It was getting predictable and lacking in a challenge; time to experiment”. And although the hiatus kept being extended, the members still kept in touch and were friends… and this made their comeback album Roses all the sweeter and rosier!
What would a comeback album sound like? Well there’s been many comeback albums I have adored and appreciated over the years, like Head Above Water (Avril Lavigne), The Unmaking (Nichole Nordeman), Kings & Queens (Audio Adrenaline) and I Will Praise You (Rebecca St. James). I’m also anticipating Firebird from Natalie Imbruglia later on this year. But for The Cranberries, and their album Roses, released 11 years after album #5; I guess you could say the bar was set high, considering their calibre and reputation. But these guys didn’t disappoint! “Tomorrow”, the lead single from the album, speaks about living in the moment and not holding any grudges, because there may not be a tomorrow. The world could end tomorrow (unlikely but there is a slim chance anything could happen!) and so we must treat every moment with care and with concern; and this song graciously speaks about our mortality and the reason we all need to forgive and let go of the past, rather than just slamming down the concept of death down our throats. “Fire And Soul”, to me, speaks about a relationship going badly at the moment, because someone is placing their dream, their passion above the other person (similar to the plight of one of the main characters in The Big Year!), however the partner is gracious and accommodating enough to allow the other person to chase their ‘fire and soul’. It’s a song about give and take and compromise, and a song that allows us all to look inwards at ourselves, asking whether we have any idols in our loves ahead of our loved ones. If we do… we should tear them down, don’t you think?
“Show Me The Way”, essentially a prayer to God, asks God to ‘…show me to the end of the night, show me to the end of the day, show me to the end of tomorrow, tomorrow, show to me the path I should take, show to me the choice I should make, show me direction…’; whereas “Raining In My Heart” speaks about a fresh breakup that is all the more real because ‘it’s raining in my heart’, a reminder that you still love the person, but you know that you’re both no good for each other, and thus you can part ways, still be happy for your own soul and wellbeing, but sad in your own feelings. The jazzy, piano led “Waiting in Walthamstow”, speaks about the secret love of two people, and the kick they both get out of sharing something so secret that only the two of them know about (as we are reminded that a secret relationship can be fun, but reality has to hit sometime and two people have to return to the world from their own bubble!); and the title track, one of the most emotional and honest songs from The Cranberries ever, speaks about Dolores’s father’s cancer, and the transience and fickleness of life itself: My father had cancer for six years, and the song “Roses” is about him. He passed away three weeks ago [in 2012], and I was holding his hand. He was so sick for so long that it was good when he was out of pain. “Roses” was reflecting on the circle of life and how when someone goes, someone new comes in the door. There’s definitely hope, because everybody dies, but with death comes spiritual peace and peace in your heart. It’s the end of any struggle that you might be having. We all get old and we all die, but that’s a new beginning.
With Roses having peaked at 51 on the Billboard 200 chart, and also having achieved numerous placements on other Billboard charts (such as No. 4 on the Independent Albums, No. 6 on the Canadian Albums Chart, No. 9 on the Alternative Albums, No. 10 on the Rock Albums and No. 20 on Tastemaker Albums chart), it seemed as if no one was interested in the band reuniting- at least according to this article. In 2017 though, the group returned after yet another hiatus of 5 years, to unveil an acoustic album called Something Else. Released via BMG, the album featured orchestral arrangements of prior releases, re-recorded in 2016 acoustically with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, and three new songs: “The Glory”, “Why”, and “Rupture”. With the release of the new album, The Cranberries announced a tour which was to include dates in Europe, parts of the UK, and North America. The shows were scheduled in smaller venues, with live orchestral accompaniments. However, in May 2017, shortly into the European tour, the Cranberries had to cancel the remainder of the European dates due to Dolores’s health, with the band’s website citing “medical reasons associated with a back problem“. Regardless, in my mind Something Else is severely underrated, as we are presented with acoustic versions of hit songs like “Dreams”, “Linger”, “Zombie”, “Ode To My Family”, “Animal Instinct”, “Just My Imagination” and “Ridiculous Thoughts”. With the band also delivering to us “The Glory” (a swelling, anthemic piano and strings prominent ballad about the persona’s love for someone who will make their day all the more brighter), “Rupture” (a song about depression, and begging someone to help save the persona from themselves) and “Why” (an acoustic guitar ballad about Dolores’s father’s death and her trying to make sense of the tragedy); Something Else walks the line between old and new, familiar and fresh, known and unknown- as listeners and fans rediscover the reason why they loved The Cranberries in the first place.
Then came the death of Dolores O’Riordan. In January 2018, Dolores passed away unexpectedly in London, England. According to Wikipedia, she had recently arrived in London for a studio mixing session on her D.A.R.K. album and to discuss the upcoming album of the band with record label BMG. The inquest into her death was adjourned until 3 April while the coroner awaited the results of “various tests”. On 6 September 2018, it was ruled that she had drowned in her hotel room’s bathtub due to sedation by alcohol poisoning. And after I read that segment, I felt somewhat sick to my stomach. Because no one should die before their parents. It’s not the way of the natural order of things, and it does bum me out when something so unnatural in terms of death when you’re in the prime years of your life- happens. It’s such a sad situation, and as such, and quite expectedly, in late 2018, Noel Hogan confirmed the band’s dissolution, which would occur after the release of their final album In the End. I mean, were the remaining members supposed to hire another lead singer, and forge ahead without her? During the 2017 tour, and the following winter, Dolores and Noel Hogan had written and demoed eleven tracks. Her recorded vocal demos for the album were stored in her personal hard disk drive from her home in New York City. Hogan stated: “We will do this album and then that will be it. No one wants to do this without Dolores…So there’s a song called ‘In the End’, it’s the last song on the album, and it just kind of summed up the whole album and the band. Because it’s definitely the end of it for us. So we’ve called it that.” At the time of O’Riordan’s death, more than 40 million of the Cranberries albums were sold worldwide. With The Cranberries‘ final album In the End was nominated for Best Rock Album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards; I guess this is quite fitting that an album titled In The End, was the final album. Let me tell you the truth, I haven’t listened to the album yet. And maybe that’s because it was released after Dolores died- and it feels… insensitive to listen to this album and enjoy it for what it is? Dunno, maybe. Regardless, the project succeeded on the charts (relative to what has released lately!), and maybe, just maybe, this project will help bring newer fans of The Cranberries back to their older material.
With The Cranberries‘ music has been likened to Sinéad O’Connor and Siouxsie and the Banshees; Dolores has mentioned time and time again that her singing style which incorporated yodelling was inspired by her father, who used to sing “The Lonesome Cattle Call”: “I just kept with my father all the time, just copying him and eventually I learned how to do it. Then over the years there were artists like Sinéad O’Connor and Siouxsie from Siouxsie and the Banshees and even Peter Harvey was doing it. It was something that you could work into The Cranberries’ format because a lot of that was used in religious Irish music”. Dolores was influenced by Gregorian chants, and by her experiences singing solo in the local church, school choir, traditional Irish ballads and songs in both English and Gaelic- and as she was also a classically trained pianist and played the church organ… I reckon there will be no other musician like her, and she will be truly missed.
With The Cranberries having released countless compilation albums, to me there’s no other greatest hits project than Stars: The Best of 1992-2002. There’s radio edits of many of their smash hit singles, as well as a couple of new songs in “New New York” and “Stars”. The album received a number of certifications, while there was a DVD released, with music videos, live recordings and a documentary. If ever there’s a one stop shop for all things The Cranberries, this project would be it. And aside from the studio albums and these best of greatest hits projects, I’d say that’s it for the group. There’s no collaborations with any other artists (unlike Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez and Peter Hollens, to name a few, who have been heavily immersed in recording songs with other artists for the sake of unity and joy and celebration!); and sadly, The Cranberries haven’t done much outside of music. They haven’t owned an island like Tim McGraw, they aren’t actors and dancers like Jennifer Lopez, and they’re not immersed in racial justice and other social justice impact causes like Lecrae. They just have their music and that’s it (unless I’m not looking hard enough) … but that’s ok. I’ve mentioned before previously on other blogs, that the measure of influence of an artist is dependant somewhat on what they do outside of the spotlight and how they act outside of the spotlight. For The Cranberries though, with Dolores struggling with bipolar for most of her life, and for the group writing about several heavy, but relevant topics through their career- I’d say the songs speak for itself, don’t you reckon? Some artists are known for what they do outside of music, and some artists are known for just their songs. The Cranberries… well, they’re in the second category; and that’s ok. The band is no more, with the former 3 members (who in effect really didn’t make the band because they weren’t the lead vocalist!) moving on and embarking onto… I guess whatever comes next; The Cranberries will be forever remembered for “Linger”, “Dreams” and “Zombie”. But they’re much more than these three songs, and hopefully this blog will encourage you all to dive into one of the most powerful yet underrated bands of the 20th century. And as I mentioned earlier in this blog that though American music is impacting and influential, that there’s something ‘more special’ about other types of music not from the U.S.; let us all join together and listen to The Cranberries, not because they are Irish. But because they are an inspiring and moving artist. This ‘my artists is better than your artist’ has to stop. Could it be that comparison is killing musicians and singers literally before our eyes? Are we more responsible for the deaths of our idols than we realise? Something to think about, that’s for sure!
It’s obviously the first thing you think of in the morning when you wake up, what day it is and what happened a year ago. Grief comes in waves. Some days you are fine, then on other days the reality hits you and even now you can’t believe it. Like even driving around, you will see someone walking past and they might look like her. Some days it’s not even believable and you just have to kind of accept it and get on with it as best you can. Recording on the first day without her was really difficult, but we had to do justice to the work Dolores put in, make it sound as good as possible. Hopefully she would have been proud of it.
I think we realise how lucky we were to have as much stuff as we did. An awful lot of the work was done as Dolores had recorded a lot of vocals and sent a lot of emails. They were meant to be demos mostly but they weren’t really because she was such a good singer that her demos were great… A couple of weeks went by [after the funeral] and I started going through the hard drives and the demos that had been sent around. I soon realised that actually, these would make a really good album.
It was really important to us that Dolores’ mam and brothers were OK with it [with In The End]. We contacted them before we even said anything to anyone else. We wanted to chat with them and see what they thought; they were fully supportive because they thought it would have been a shame to have that recording and not be able to do anything with it.
It’s only really since Dolores passed away that I’ve grown a proper appreciation for songs like ‘Linger’ and ‘Dreams’. They were just songs in the set list for us; everybody else was losing their mind about them.” They all laugh in agreement. “And when I listen to them now I realise how great they are for someone so young, which I never, ever appreciated until a year ago. We must have played it a gazillion times in our lives and it just becomes a part of the set, but it’s different now. We’re so lucky to have left that behind, to have that legacy.
You want and hope, more than anything, for your music to be your legacy – that it will speak for itself. You hope that in fifty-years-time, ‘Linger’ might come on somewhere and people will still speak of it as a classic. I think all we ever wanted first and foremost was the music to be our legacy. I think, even to the very end, if we’d have gotten the demos together, listened to them and thought they weren’t right, I think we’d have left it because you’d ruin it and we never wanted to do that. As it is, I think we’ve ended well and now we have closure. With ‘In The End’, it will make sense why this is the album title when people hear it…it’s actually a song about your career – what you expect and what you get. It was the very last song that we recorded and it just kind of sums everything up, really. It is the very end for us.
Does The Cranberries make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of all Time’ list? Is there any song (other than “Linger”, “Dreams”, “Zombie”, “Ode To My Family”, “Stars”, “Ridiculous Thoughts”, “War Child” and “Tomorrow”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!