Whether or not there would be a final Cranberries’ album hinged on what was on a hard drive on the other side of the world.
Last spring the surviving members of the Irish band began combing through unfinished vocals that singer Dolores O’Riordan sent to Ireland before her death a few months before.
What they had intrigued them, but they awaited with some anxiety the delivery of O’Riordan’s hard drive from her New York home. Relief came as soon as it was plugged it in. Her urgent, powerful voice was all over rudimentary songs she hadn’t gotten around to email.
“It was just like winning the Lotto,” said Noel Hogan, the band’s lead guitarist and co-writer. “And that was it. We had the songs.”
Like a parting gift, O’Riordan left enough strong vocals on the demos that the Cranberries were able to fashion them into their eighth and final album, “In the End,” out Friday.
It’s an 11-track album with lyrics that explore personal turmoil over the Cranberries’ melodic, driving Celtic alt-rock. One music executive gave Hogan the best complement when it was finished: You’d never know all the members of the band weren’t in the same room.
The band insisted the album be of the highest quality or they wouldn’t release it. “Before we went into the studio, we kind of set the bar saying, ‘OK if it’s not good enough, it’s not going to make the cut,’” said drummer Fergal Lawler.
The Cranberries used demo vocal tracks on past albums when a new song would excite O’Riordan and she would deliver a passionate demo version that she’d be unable to achieve later in a studio. This time, her vocals were especially strong.
“When Dolores was doing the demos, she kind of gave that bit more and was really just feeling very emotional with these songs,” said Lawler. “The songs are about a period of her life that was quite difficult for her and she wanted to get that out and get it down on paper and move past it.”
On Jan. 15, 2018, 46-year-old O’Riordan accidentally drowned in a bathtub after drinking in her London hotel room. Hogan said O’Riordan had turned a corner in her life in the years before her death, saying she had her bipolar condition under control and had started a new romantic relationship.
The songs on “In the End” mine a time of turmoil, with lyrics like “I wonder when I should give in” and “I feel the storm is coming in.” But they also celebrate love: “You are my everything” and “When I see your face/All of my worries dissipate.” (There’s also a now-heartbreaking reference to “a hotel in London.”)
“Things were looking up. That’s what a lot of these songs are about,” Hogan said. “If she was still here today sitting with us, nobody would think anything else of it. You would just think, ‘These are songs about that period.’ But, obviously, with everything that’s happened, it’s something we’ll be asked, I think, for a long, long time.”
The Cranberries made a splash right from the beginning of their career, when their 1993 debut album — “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” — sold millions of copies and produced the hit single “Linger.” Other later hits included “Zombie” and “Dreams.”
Hogan recalls first realizing how special O’Riordan’s voice was while recording “Linger.” Her soprano could suddenly drop and she somehow found an extra, breathy gear at the very top of her highest note, almost a yodel.
“We’re all looking at each in the room going, ‘Where did that come out from?’ Because she was so small and tiny — you didn’t expect that. And then she only grew from that point on. As the years went down, she just got better and better.”
Recording the new album was an emotional time for the surviving members, which also includes Hogan’s bassist brother, Mike. The band worked on the songs with their longtime producer Stephen Street, everyone listening intensely as O’Riordan returned to life in their headphones.
On other Cranberries albums, O’Riordan would come early to the recording studio and lay down several guide vocals. She would then leave, letting the rest of the band do their parts because she disliked listening to songs over and over. In the evening, she’d return to record her vocal parts for real.
“So in that respect it was kind of the same way we’d work,” said Lawler. “It’s just that in the evening time we’d be kind of waiting for her to come in and realize, ‘Oh, she’s not going to come in.’ So that’s when it kind of hit you again.”
Not having O’Riordan around to offer fresh vocals meant the band had to adapt. If she left behind softly delivered lyrics, the band had to play softer. If an unfinished song needed something in the middle, they had to improvise.
After the first week of work on the songs, the band took the weekend off, and reflected on what they had done.
“That’s when I thought, ‘This is actually really going to work,’” said Hogan. “We came back in on a Monday going, ‘This is actually really, really good.’”
“In the End” will be the last Cranberries album, the bandmates vow. They won’t look for another lead singer. They hope they’ve done her justice. And they hope fans like the last songs.
“If there’s another place that she’s looking down from, that’s what she would really love the most: That those songs that she spent a lot of time working on and loved means so much to so many other people,” said Hogan.
Janelle Monáe Leads The Revolution In Stirring ‘Turntables’ Video
YouTube “We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.” That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic…
“We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.”
That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic refrain with clear gospel influences. It’s Monáe’s take on a contemporary protest song, a call for a political sea change, in the vein of, say, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” or Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”
Courtesy of Atlantic RecordsAnd on Tuesday (September), Monáe released a moving music video — or, as she calls it, an emotion picture — that solidified that message. The visual opens and closes with the singer walking along the beach in a beige trench coat and military cap. At times, she can be seen singing into a retro microphone before an American flag; in others, she moves through staged breakfast scenes, with a family reading through newspaper headlines as they mouth her lyrics. The visual flashes through archival and contemporary footage depicting inspirational figures past and present: Where one scene shows the model and activist Jillian Mercado at a photo shoot, another depicts a conversation with lifelong activist Angela Davis.
What rings true without is a hopeful cry for change and for equality, and a recognition of those who have been leading that fight for decades. Monáe wrote “Turntables” for the new Amazon Studios documentary, All In: The Fight for Democracy, that shines a light on voter suppression, particularly through the lens of Stacey Abrams’s failed bid for the Georgia governorship. “Right now, I am focused on turning the election in our favor,” Monáe told Entertainment Weekly, “and I hope this song can inspire those who are on the ground doing the work.”
Joe Keery’s Reinvention, Mxmtoon’s Carly Rae Jepsen Collab, And More Songs We Love
Getty Images/April Blum The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new? Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by…
Getty Images/April Blum
The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?
Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by genre and can include anything — it’s a snapshot of what’s on our minds and what sounds good. We’ll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
St. Vincent ft. Yoshiki: “New York”
St. Vincent, the intuitive musical goddess that she is, must have sensed our collective need for another quarantine ballad. Enter “New York [Feat. Yoshiki],” a classical arrangement of the standout single from 2017’s Masseduction. An added string section courtesy of Yoshiki, a Japanese multi-instrumentalist, beautifully complements the song’s original piano instrumentals. What more can I say? “New York isn’t New York / Without you, love” just hits different in the middle of a pandemic. —Sam Manzella
Djo: “Keep Your Head Up”
Last year, Joe Keery (of Stranger Things fame) released a glossy solo album under the moniker Djo. It was titled Twenty Twenty, and its sparkling arrangements ended up being quite far removed from the overall vibe of 2020 the year, but who could fault him for his optimism? Keery has also long been a contributing member of Chicago psych band Post Animal, but Djo is simply Joe — and latest “Keep Your Head Up” feels like several Joes ripping open a vortex in the funk-time continuum. This is a groove, peppered with buzzy synths and icy falsetto and an honest-to-god sax part. It’s akin to Todd Terje doing Tame Impala, a lightheaded cocktail rush that feels both clubby and bedroom ambitious. Positively galactic. —Patrick Hosken
Mxmtoon ft. Carly Rae Jepsen: “OK On Your Own”
When Mxmtoon’s Maia said she recorded “OK On Your Own” for the girls and the gays, she wasn’t kidding. The mellow bedroom-pop bop soundtracks a journey of self-reflection after a breakup, complete with the soft ukulele instrumentals that put the 19-year-old singer-songwriter on the map. Is it revelatory? No, but with pop icon Carly Rae Jepsen lending her sugary-sweet vocals to the second verse, it doesn’t have to be. Now I’m just waiting for “Party for Two.” —Sam Manzella
Video Age: “Aerostar”
Pleasure Line, the third album from emerging indie pop quartet Video Age, delivers perfectly escapist ’80s new wave vibes for when you need to get outta 2020 for just a moment. “Aerostar” is its punchy center, a hip-twisting, shoulder-shuffling groove that delivers quirky robot dance commands (“Slide to the left, now! Shimmy to the right!”) over hoppin’ funk synths and a kickin’ drum machine. It all harkens to a simpler time, one where dance floors were actually a real thing. Oh, the ’80s! —Terron Moore
Ruel: “As Long As You Care”
About a year ago, Australian middle-part heartthrob Ruel told MTV News that for him, “songwriting is exaggerating to an extent.” On his latest, the technicolor, soulful “As Long As You Care,” his exaggeration is so seamless, you’d be forgiven for believing the 17-year-old is actually a time traveler. The neo-soul groove he rides propels everything upward, even as the sound cheekily looks backward. “As Long As You Care” has one amazing hook, coupled with sonic candy that makes his upcoming third EP, Bright Lights, Red Eyes (out October 23) one to watch. —Patrick Hosken
Alycia Bella ft. Boogie: “Cue the Sun”
Something magical happens two-and-a-half minutes into “Cue the Sun,” the exploratory new collab between striking R&B voice Alycia Bella and rapper Boogie. After piping in the aural equivalent of stage smoke via jazzy piano and gorgeous vocalizations — “It feel like being lost in the right direction” — Bella’s song enters a more sparkly realm for Boogie’s recitations. By the end, you’re lighter, like your mind’s been cleared of all the cobwebs. Cue the sun. —Patrick Hosken
Carly Rae Jepsen
Who Are You Most Excited to See Perform at the 2020 ACM Awards? Vote!
The 55th Academy of Country Music Awards will welcome back Taylor Swift and present a new collaboration from the evening’s host Keith Urban and P!nk on Wednesday, Sept. 16. But which one of the highly anticipated performances are you counting down the hours to? Nine-time ACM Award winner Swift, whose latest studio album Folklore has topped the Billboard 200 for six…
The 55th Academy of Country Music Awards will welcome back Taylor Swift and present a new collaboration from the evening’s host Keith Urban and P!nk on Wednesday, Sept. 16. But which one of the highly anticipated performances are you counting down the hours to?
Nine-time ACM Award winner Swift, whose latest studio album Folklore has topped the Billboard 200 for six weeks, will come back for the first time in seven years to perform the country-leaning fan-favorite track “Betty.” Meanwhile, 15-time ACM Award winner Urban and Pink will come together for the world television premiere of their brand new collaboration “One Too Many,” which is from the country star’s forthcoming album, The Speed of Now, Part 1.
Billboard broke the news Monday (Sept. 14) that all five nominees for entertainer of the year — Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs and Thomas Rhett — will take the stage to perform a medley of their greatest hits. Additionally, ACM’s freshly crowned new male and female artist of the year winners Riley Green and Tenille Townes, respectively, will also perform.
For the first time in the awards show’s history, the ACMs will be broadcast live from Nashville, with socially distanced performances from the Grand Ole Opry House, the historic Ryman Auditorium and The Bluebird Cafe.
The 55th ACM Awards will air live Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m. ET (delayed for the West Coast) on CBS and CBS All Access. (The event is produced by dick clark productions, which shares a parent company with Billboard.)
So which of the performances can’t you wait to see? Vote below!