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Explaining the 'let it linger' meme
An exploration into the birth and life of a strange internet subculture springing up around The Cranberries' song
One of my favourite things about TikTok is its weirdness.
I’m not necessarily talking about videos that are inherently strange, more how it provides a place for internet culture to fold into itself like some sort of self-referential dough.
Take, for example, the recent explosion of The Cranberries’ song ‘Linger’ as a meme. I first encountered it about a week ago when this video popped up on my TikTok feed.
It was bizarre to see a band I love referenced like this, so I dove into the comments to try and find out a bit more.
Know Your Meme pointed out the ‘let it linger’ or ‘letting it linger’ meme first appeared in 2022, but it stayed relatively dormant until March of this year.
“Okay,” I told myself, thinking about the TikTok, “this is just a little internet blip, nothing more will come from it.”
It seems as though the ‘letting it linger’ meme is… lingering.
So… what the hell is happening? What are we seeing playing out here? What does it mean?
To take a shot at answering those questions, let’s rewind and look at The Cranberries themselves.
As a refresher, The Cranberries were an Irish alternative rock band that were popular in the 90s, back when I was just a wee lad.
To me, The Cranberries are an instinctual band; I don’t remember the first time I heard them, instead their music is simply embedded in me — most likely from my parents. In fact, I’d say a lot of people my age and younger would have a similar experience: hearing the band on the TV or radio, in movies, or from relatives, rather than actively finding them.
There’s a nostalgic eeriness to knowing music like that.
Looking back, The Cranberries occupied an interesting niche in popular culture. Although not an overly political band in their music (outside of ‘Zombie,’ the majority of their tracks focus on interpersonal relationships), their very existence was political.
The Cranberries were not only a high-profile Irish band during The Troubles, but vocalist Dolores O'Riordan also sings in her natural accent. While getting more common in popular music (think of Arctic Monkeys, Dry Cleaning, Sleaford Mods, and the like), most non-US artists still sing in a faux-American accent.
I mean, compare the blues-y vocal style of U2 — the other big Irish band of the era — to The Cranberries:
This is particularly relevant because I think it ties directly to where the seeds of the ‘let it linger’ memes may lie: Derry Girls.
Set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, this wonderful comedy show (which concluded its three season run last year) consistently used The Cranberries in important moments in its run.
To me, this is a mainstream location that potentially laid the foundation for this revival of the group’s music.
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But why ‘Linger’? Why now? And like this?
Well, besides the term being funny in itself, of course. There’s something delightfully old-timey about “lingering,” effectively a high-falutin way of saying “staying.” It reminds me a bit of using “perambulation” rather than “walking”).
Still, I think there’s a far deeper element to the success of the ‘letting it linger’ meme.
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One lens to view the meme through is as a type of reclamation.
‘Linger’ is from an era that’s alien to a lot of TikTok users, one — as we discussed earlier — that was most likely absorbed through relatives, TV, or film. This gives the track, already imbued with a deep longing, an increased sense of nostalgia.
Yet that’s not all. By interpreting the song through memes, it transports this old track from an bygone era into being uniquely of the moment.
The song no longer exists solely in its original, musical form. It has been twisted and morphed. More dimensions have been added. And, with them, people’s connection to the track shifts. They are no longer just listeners, they are viewers too, part of the experience.
This enables a duality of feeling. As we can see in countless memes, people are experiencing a connection with the emotional elements of ‘Linger’ while simultaneously poking fun at experiencing those same emotions.
This, friends, is metamodernism in a nutshell.
Growing up, the closest experience older generations had to this was seeing a new music video being released for an old song — but this is a shaky comparison at best.
While this may put a new spin on a track, it doesn’t echo the sense of personal involvement meme culture brings, something that’s vital in the propogation of ‘letting it linger.’
In other words, it’s a predominately modern phenomenon.
We’ve seen something like this with the meme-ification of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill,’ but I believe drawing a direct comparison between the two misses a key aspect of the ‘let it linger’ meme.
Bush’s song became popular directly from a scene in Stranger Things. ‘Linger,’ on the other hand, had no such bump. Yes, Derry Girls hovers in the background, but the song itself was never in the show. ‘Letting it linger’ is an organic movement.
This adds to the meme’s beauty.
It’s not a reaction to a wider trend or an attempt to comment on the cultural zeitgeist. Instead, it’s people finding a new way to connect with a song they love. The memes are both a celebration of that and an invitation to create something from that emotion. It’s a mutation of zines, a gorgeous way to build a culture around a shared passion while simultaneously mocking that very feeling.
And I, for one, can’t wait to let it linger.
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