Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 26: The Cranberries, "Sunday"

Artist: The Cranberries
Song: "Sunday"
Album: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?
Year: 1993

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Though it is often overlooked due to the overwhelming presence of one or two styles of music, in retrospect, one cannot deny the fact that the first half of the 1990's was perhaps the most musically diverse period in nearly three decades.  With countless bands pushing the limits of music in so many new directions, the musical landscape has rarely been more varied, and this can even be seen within the pop hits of the era.  Even with the unexpected resurgence of psychedelia, which was being fused together with nearly every style of music, to the domination of "gangsta rap," there were still a number of bands that were able to find commercial success with their individual sound, and few groups of the era were more promising than Irish rockers, The Cranberries.  Their name alone defines the entire decade to many, and this is quite understandable, as their string of hit songs continually offered a beautiful and powerful alternative to the rest of the music scene, and yet these same songs somehow managed to simultaneously fit perfectly with the music of their peers.  Though each of their record is fantastic, it is their 1993 debut, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?, that features the band in their finest hour, and every song on the album is captivating and moving in its own way.  Yet even on such an exceptional album, one can argue that there is no song that better defines everything that made The Cranberries so fantastic than one finds in their 1993 song,"Sunday,"

Perhaps moreso than any other band of their generation, The Cranberries had an uncanny ability for constructing absolutely beautiful musical arrangements, as they combined the "jangle" of the rising "indie rock" sound with soaring, completely captivating moods.  Though the band had a handful of hits that displayed this idea, one can experience both extremes of their sonic genius on "Sunday," and it begins with the slow, moody guitar progression from Noel Hogan.  The progression itself is rather simple, yet the amount of emotion that he conveys is far beyond that of almost any other song of the era, and it is this ability to express such high levels of sorrow and joy that defines the sound of The Cranberries.  The way in which bassist Mike Hogan gently emphasizes certain notes only adds to this overall mood, and the light touches from drummer Fergal Lawler gives the song a slow-building tension that is completely unique.  It is the manner with which the band as a whole builds this tension, with a lone violin adding to the mood, that makes "Sunday" such a superior musical experience, and after this focus introduction, the song gently explodes in the musical joy that defines the band.  The fact The Cranberries are able to completely change the face of "Sunday," yet not raise the volume in any way is part of their unique genius, and it is almost impossible to not get completely swept up in the flow of the song.  The numerous peaks and valleys that the song offers in many ways defines the band, and "Sunday" remains just as intriguing and melodically original today as it did almost twenty years ago.

However, while the music of The Cranberries is absolutely impossible to "write off" in any way, there is little argument that the focus of nearly every song is on the unparalleled voice of Delores O'Riordan.  Without question one of the most iconic voices of her generation, on "Sunday," she shows off her entire vocal range, as well as her uncanny ability to express deep emotions through this seemingly boundless scope.  While she does not go for the almost falsetto notes that define many of the bands' other songs, it is the strength and drive within her singing on "Sunday" that are far more representative of her sound, and the clearly untouched, unaltered sound of her vocals is nothing short of stunning.  Throughout the entire song, there is a raw, straightforward sound in the voice of O'Riordan, and it is this sense of authenticity that helps to draw the listener in even further, as one cannot help but get caught up in the feelings which she is expressing.  Furthermore, the words that she sings seem to be personal in a completely unique way, and they are also lyrics to which many can easily relate.  Throughout most of this record, one can find songs of the frustrations of love, and there are few lines that better sum up these feelings than when O'Riordan sings, "...and I couldn't find the words,  to say, "I love you."  And he couldn't find the time,  To say, "I need you."  It is this level of honesty, along with the sheer power of the voice of Delores O'Riordan that sets The Cranberries so far apart from every other band of their generation.

The fact that such a diverse set of musical approaches were all able to find commercial success throughout the first half of the 1990's serves as not only a testament to the talents of the bands recording, but also to the open-minded, almost tenacious musical tastes of society at the time.  Yet in retrospect, it is almost unfathomable that the light, but highly emotional music of The Cranberries would be able to find such success in the "prime" of the grunge and "gangsta rap" movements.  A majority of the "lighter" bands of the time period had already come and gone by the time The Cranberries debut album was released, and yet there is no question that to this day, they remain one of the most definitive acts of their generation.  Furthermore, one would be hard pressed to name a more instantly recognizable or powerful a voice from that time period, and to this day, it is the soft intensity of The Cranberries that helps them to remain one of the most endearing bands in history.  In a manner unlike any other group in history, The Cranberries were able to keep a delicate sound intact, even when the tone and pace of the music increased, and it is this unique balance of sounds that continues to make their songs such wonderful musical experiences.  This distinctive tone and sound are the very essence of The Cranberries, and there is no better way to experience their absolutely beautiful brand of musical mastery than their 1993 song, "Sunday."

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