Analogue Music | A Song for the Moment: Remembering Dolores O'Riordan

A Song for the Moment: Remembering Dolores O'Riordan

By Matt Conner

​"... And all the things that seemed once to be so important to me / Seem so trivial now that I can see" -The Cranberries, "Shattered"

There should be a song for this moment, too. 

When I read the news on Monday that Dolores O'Riordan had passed away, I felt the way we often feel when an influential figure, especially with so much presumed life left within her, has passed. Present emotions of shock and sorrow mix with melancholy memories of the past, scenes set to music as you recall what you admired and respected about such an artist. Throughout the nineties, my own coming-of-age decade if you must section such things off, The Cranberries always provided the perfect accompaniment. 

There should be a song for this moment, too. 

I spent a lot of time by myself in the '90s, an adolescent and then young adult with the same over-the-ear headphones listening to Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can't We? and No Need to Argue and To The Faithful Departed and Bury the Hatchet. There were songs for me in those moments and for every Cranberries fan in those days. O'Riordan was emotionally vulnerable even as she was simultaneously cool and confident. Hers was a vulnerable charisma, resulting in weighty yet accessible songs.

That's why there were songs for so many moments in those days. Is there a single '90s adolescent around who didn't feel the despair of knowing we were all "in so deep," as she describes on "Linger"? In the same way Julien Baker captures emotional experiences in the present, O'Riordan was doing the same 25 years ago. "I thought nothing could go wrong / But I was wrong, I was wrong." We all were.

O'Riordan was also the one doing the breaking. She musters up the confidence to take the necessary step on "Daffodil Lament," where she sings, "I have decided to leave you forever / I have decided to start things from here / Thunder and lightning won't change what I'm feelin' / And the daffodils look lovely today..." 

Yet O'Riordan's laments were more than just love lost and found (although there's plenty of that on the Cranberries' early work). The sludgy guitars of the grunge period made the perfect lead-in for "Zombie," a song inspired by violence in England and Northern Ireland. Suddenly, O'Riordan's emotionally charged delivery turned a corner. The Cranberries could always beautifully detail brokenness on a personal level, but now those talents were brought to bear on the backdrop around us. For those awakening to the wider world themselves, the Cranberries became trusted friends for internal and external realizations alike.

That quickening is best framed by the band's hit "Free to Decide":

"So to hell with what you're thinking
And to hell with your narrow mind...
Cause I'm free to decide, I'm free to decide
And I'm not so suicidal after all.

For those looking for a song for this present moment, this shocking and sorrowful moment when we ask the existential questions that accompany news with such gravity, perhaps O'Riordan has already asked the questions herself on "Will You Remember?" If so, it reveals her as she always ways, a prescient presence for the journey once again providing expression for the emotions we're all feeling.

"Will you remember the dress I wore?
Will you remember my face?
Will you remember the lipstick I wore?
This world is a wonderful place."

It doesn't feel true in this moment, but we'll trust you nonetheless. It's what we've learned to do all along.