Music Video Meaning


All the things you don't know about rock music videos and more

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Do you really know what Cranberries’ Zombie is talking about?

You’ve already seen the music video Zombie so many times. But do you know what Cranberries’ Zombie, their most famous song, is talking about?

Of course you will remember the golden look of Dolores O’Riordan. You will surely have noticed that the video is full of historical references, symbols and metaphors. But maybe you’ve never read anywhere about what Cranberries’ Zombie is talking about. This is the right time! Let’s review the main elements of the video.

Ireland’s War for Independence in the Cranberries’ Zombie video

The video focuses on Ireland’s War for Independence from England. It is set in 1993, when the IRA (Irish Republican Army) bombed the town of Warrington in England; two children died.

But precisely what Cranberries’ Zombie is talking about? The video was filmed in Belfast, Northern Ireland and describes the daily life of the areas subject to the English control. In the scenes we see the real British soldiers, guarding the area, and the children playing a war game. The soldiers in the scenes were told that it was a simple documentary about daily patrol operations.

The connection with Heart Shaped Box from Nirvana

Behind the scenes is Samuel Bayer, world-renowned director who also worked for Nirvana, Green Day, Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Metallica. For Nirvana he dealt with the music video Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991). However, there is a great resemblance between Zombie and another Nirvana’s music video, Heart Shaped Box, shot a year earlier by the Dutch Anton Corbijn. It is not excluded that Bayer was inspired by that, above all for the religious symbolism used and the grotesque sets.

A mix of black&white scenes and color scenes

Now that we have seen what Cranberries’ Zombie is talking about, let’s see other details of the music video.
In the video there are black and white scenes where Cranberries are playing in the rubble. Also the scenes with children and British soldiers are black and white.

Then there are the color shots. The scene in three colors (gold, red and black) set in a metaphorical and symbolic world. Dolores is covered by gold like an Egyptian queen at the foot of a cross, surrounded by golden children holding up arches. The symbolic reference is to the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. He was a senior officer of the Roman army, who however was very close to Christianity and was pierced by hundreds of arrows as a punishment.

Other color scenes show the murals depicting war heroes of the Catholic IRA (Irish Republican Army) and its Protestant antagonist, the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force). These war victims are revered as martyrs. Their images cover entire walls of buildings and churches. One of the images shows the drawing of a volunteer of the hooded UVF who takes up a machine gun and fights in the name of God (you can read “for God”). In other images you see the names of the militants who fell in the war, written in large letters on the walls of the houses. They are together with murals of flags and human faces.

The real zombie scene: the dog devours the bones (human?)

The shot shows a child who has a black dog on a leash. This dog finds bloody bones on the street and starts eating them. A veil of mystery on the belonging of those bones: human or animal?

It would have been too bloody to show a scene of human “zombies” and so here is this expedient. A scene that in my opinion is the metaphor of the song. The civil war is like a horror film, where human beings devour each other without any sense.

The new music video by Bad Wolves

Before her death, Cranberries’ singer Dolores O’Riordan was collaborating with the American metal band Bad Wolves for a new version of Zombie. The sudden death has prevented the realization. But the song and the video came out anyway (even without her voice).

In the music video the band plays, while a model dressed as Dolores spreads the golden paint on a glass. She writes “1-15-18”: this is the date of the death of Dolores, which occurred on January 15, 2018.

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