Zombie, the lead single from The Cranberries’ second album, No Need to Argue (1994), is the most popular song by The Cranberries. In April 2020, the official video of Zombie was also the first song by an Irish band to get over 1 billion views on YouTube (Wikipedia). By January 2022, it has been viewed an incredible 1.3b times!
At just under 166m hits, the video of the Cranberries performing Zombie at the packed-to-the-rafters 20,300 capacity Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, Paris, 1999, is no slouch either. The sound of the professionally filmed concert is superb, and the audience enthusiastically sings along with only the slightest prompting. It is a great live Zombie!
Zombie is an exception in the Cranberries catalogue due to its sound and its lyric content. With regard to the sound, the song leans more to alternative rock and grunge than the rest of the band’s catalogue, which is more pop-orientated. According to the band, Dolores O’Riordan, The Cranberries singer and the songwriter of Zombie, was responsible for the sound. She denied it was an attempt to “jump on the grunge bandwagon” and said that the sound came from the issues raised in the song’s lyrics.
Zombie commemorates Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry who were killed in a 1993 IRA bomb attack in Warrington, England. Speaking to Classic Rock in 2017, O’Riordan said: “I remember at the time there were a lot of bombs going off in England and The Troubles were pretty bad. I remember being on tour and in the UK at the time… and just being really sad about it.” Unlike most Cranberries songs, which tended to be group collaborations, O’Riordan wrote the song alone. Here is the song as first released.
Further commenting on her motivation for writing Zombie, O’Riordan opened up to Vox’s Andrew Mueller:”The IRA are not me. I’m not the IRA. The Cranberries are not the IRA. My family are not. When it says in the song, ‘It’s not me, it’s not my family,’ that’s what I’m saying. It’s not Ireland, it’s some idiots living in the past”. Despite the humanitarian impulse behind the song, the Cranberries label, Island Records, allegedly tried to persuade the band not to release the song as a single. The Cranberries insisted.
A further interesting feature of Zombie is O’Riordan’s singing. Since this gets rather technical, I’ll quote Wikipedia: “O’Riordan is yodeling when she does the sharp break from chest register to head register–falsetto in the second syllable of the word Zom-bie. These rapid and repeated changes in pitch in O’Riordan’s yodel, paired with the amplified method that she uses to form her vowels and consonants, set her voice in the sean-nós singing style. This creates a vocal trademark when combined with the Gaelic keening, the lilting vocables, and sung in her thick Irish accent”.
Dolores O’Riordan died on 15 January 2018. She was 46 years old. If you would like to see more from The Cranberries, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel. You can also visit their official website for more information.