The musical world is reeling from news of the death of Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of The Cranberries. But as the BBC’s Heather Chen in Singapore writes, fans might be surprised to know of the enduring impact the band has had across Asia.
It was 1999 and I was 12 years old when I was first introduced to The Cranberries.
They entered MTV Asia’s then-weekly chart countdown with their music video for Promises. Dark, edgy and exciting all at once, the song from their fourth album made its debut at number 12.
I discovered their back catalogue, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
Together with U2, they gave Asia an introduction to Irish rock and pop, and their anthems – like Linger, Dreams and Zombie – remain staple tracks on radio stations and in karaoke bars across the region,
You could be in a car in Bangkok any day and hear Animal Instinct playing, and know you’re being serenaded by Dolores O’Riordan and her band.
“The Cranberries had so many hits in Asia,” said Lauretta Alabons, director and founder of Singapore-based concert provider LAMC Productions.
The former entertainment television presenter said she was “shocked and saddened” by the news.
“The 90s was a very special time as a lot of new genres of music came to the forefront. Music fans had access to MTV and iconic music stores like Tower Records and HMV. All their CDs sold [during this time] also contributed to their longevity during this era.”
Pop princesses were extremely popular with girls my age at the time, but O’Riordan came across as more Joan Jett than Britney Spears to me.
She was different and unapologetic about it – her unique vocals, childlike and raw.
Decades later, I still can relate to every one of their songs at different stages of my life growing up. Dreams, when I was transitioning from one stage of myself to the next, and Zombie when I became more politically aware.
The 1994 protest song was even used as a teaching aid in some Singapore secondary schools, to educate students about the troubles in Northern Ireland.
Other fans have shared my respect for the Irish frontwoman, like Shirlene Chew, a fan in Singapore since she was 14.
She told me that she was drawn to O’Riordan’s “originality and rebel style”.
“She was a rebel and I loved her for that. When she first came on the scene, there were people who thought she sang funnily, almost like yodelling. But I didn’t feel that way. It was that quality that drew me to her,” she said.
“Her music video appearances were also different from other music stars of that era. She danced funny too but because she was so authentic, it became her style instead.”
“Their music helped me to stay true to who I am. Being a teenager was tough back in those days.”
In Malaysia and the Philippines, O’Riordan’s name as well as the band, continued to trend on Tuesday among fans as they paid tribute.
Chiang Xuan We recalled travelling to Singapore from his home in Kuala Lumpur “just for the opportunity” to watch The Cranberries live in 2011.
“It was a six-hour bus ride but the hours flew by because I was listening to their CDs and feeling excited,” he said.
“It was worth it. Her voice sounds fantastic on records but to hear it in person, in her distinct style was life-changing. So much so that I don’t think the band could ever carry on without her, they just wouldn’t be the same.”
Husband and wife @pinot and @ditut, Indonesians living in New York, made their own animations of her.
Ariel, a vocalist from the Indonesian band Noah, called O’Riordan “one of my biggest influences in music”.
O’Riordan’s popularity and influence also travelled to China, where she enthralled many fans.
Among them was Cantopop queen Faye Wong, who covered the band’s 1992 mega-hit Dreams and made it into a successful 1994 single of her own, titled Dream Lover.
There hasn’t been any reaction from the singer herself, following the announcement of O’Riordan’s death. But she’s being remembered among fans and netizens alike on the popular Chinese micro-blogging site Sina Weibo.
“Without Dolores O’Riordan, we wouldn’t have Faye Wong’s cover of Dreams in Chungking Express (which was also featured in a 1994 Wong Kar-wai drama film),” wrote Tiff Zhang in response to a post debating which song was better.
“An Irish songbird who was a major musical influence to one of China’s biggest pop stars. Rest in peace,” said another Weibo user.
Renowned Chinese music producer and talk show host Gao Xiao-song, who frequently used Zombie as the opening theme for his show, paid tribute to the late Irish rocker by sharing a 2017 memory of meeting O’Riordan in Ireland.
“That was our farewell,” he commented, adding that he would miss O’Riordan’s “wind-like voice and otherworldly style”.
Additional reporting by BBC Chinese’s Zhijie Shao in Hong Kong.