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Her vocals were one of a kind

On The Cranberries' Linger, the choice for the first dance at many weddings, lead singer Dolores O'Riordan sings: "But I'm in so deep, you know I'm such a fool for you, you got me wrapped around your finger... Do you have to, do you have to, do you have to let it linger?"

Ironically, in an interview with The Guardian newspaper last year, she said the 1993 song was about being rejected.

But O'Riordan, who died suddenly in London on Monday at age 46, was accepted and embraced by masses around the world.

Her unforgettable and distinctively Irish drawl that painted every Cranberries rock anthem was a salve for many teenagers in the 1990s.

They included those who were angry at their parents or the world - and would have the haunting Zombie, with its grunged-up guitars and O'Riordan's repeated refrain of "In your head, in your head, zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie", on full blast as they screamed into their pillows.

O'Riordan was one of a handful of trailblazing female rock singers in the 1990s, when the battle among the cocksure boys of Britpop such as Blur and Oasis dominated headlines.

Her little Irish pop-rock act, also made up of guitarist Noel Hogan, his brother, bassist Mike Hogan, and drummer Fergal Lawler, started off as a support act for another Britpop exponent, Suede.

But they went on to become one of the most popular pop-rock bands in the 1990s, selling 40 million albums around the world.

Thanks to MTV, female rock singers were becoming more visible at the time. Among them were O'Riordan's American counterparts such as Courtney Love, whose baby-doll dresses and smeared lipstick made her the bad girl of grunge, and No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, with her effervescence and ska-pop leanings.

Fellow Irish woman Sinead O'Connor's vocal stylings were frequently compared with O'Riordan's.

But while O'Connor went on political diatribes and Love made headlines with her legal problems and drug addiction, O'Riordan was the soft-spoken lead singer who preferred to let her band's socially conscious music, her stage presence and her singing do the talking.

The 1993 hit Zombie, for instance, was written after two children were killed in a bombing by an Irish paramilitary organisation (the Irish Republican Army) in England that year.

The band played in Singapore thrice. The first time was in 2002, in a double-bill gig with No Doubt. After a hiatus from music from 2003 to 2009, the band returned to Singapore in fine form for a near sold-out show at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in 2011, and again in 2012.

Her songs will probably linger on tonight at Clarke Quay as cover bands take on Cranberries classics in tribute, and lead singers try to imitate her unique vocal affectations.

But O'Riordan remains one of a kind.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2018, with the headline 'Her vocals were one of a kind'. Print Edition | Subscribe