This is a very hopeful song in which frontwoman Dolores O'Riordan sings about meeting a special someone who makes her deliriously happy. "I wrote that about my first love when I was living in Ireland," she said in a Songfacts interview. "It's about feeling really in love for the first time."
Written by Dolores O'Riordan and Cranberries lead guitarist Noel Hogan, "Dreams" is the second charting single by The Cranberries, from their first album. Together with "Linger," these two singles forged a name for the band that carried them until the thundering (and thunderously successful) "Zombie" from their second album.
O'Riordan was just 20 years old when the song was first released in 1992 as the group's debut single, and her youthful innocence comes through on the song. When the group got some attention in 1994, the song was re-issued and became a modest hit.
If it seems like you've heard this song a lot more than would be justified by its chart position, that's because it's unusually soundtrack-friendly. It has appeared in the films Mission: Impossible, You've Got Mail, Boys On The Side, The Next Karate Kid, Shot Through the Heart, and The Baby-Sitters Club. You almost couldn't go into a theater in the '90s without hearing this song! It also appeared in the TV series 90210, JAG, and My So-Called Life.
That piercing, bittersweet male vocal is provided by O'Riordan's then-boyfriend Mike Mahoney singing backup.
This song, together with "Linger," is yet another MTV-Cinderella story - the band saw only moderate success until they toured playing support for the London Suede. From there, MTV picked up their videos for the two singles and gave them heavy airplay. The new fame made it worth the while to re-release the two singles, which then shot into the charts.
Along with "Linger" and "Zombie," the Cranberries performed this at Woodstock '94. The festival version of "Dreams" was included on the Woodstock 1994 album.
An acoustic cover version with strings and piano was used in a 2017 animated commercial for the University of Phoenix where a mother loses her job but becomes an IT professional after taking online classes.
The Voice UK 2018 champion Ruti covered this as her winner's single. Eighteen-year-old Ruti Olajugbagbe won the final on April 7, 2018, claiming victory over fellow finalists Donel Mangena, Belle Voci and Lauren Bannon. She immediately released "Dreams," which was the last song she'd performed in the televised completion. It peaked at #14 on the UK singles chart.