The Intense Meaning Behind "Iris" By The Goo Goo Dolls Saturday February 17 2024, 9:45 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
The Intense Meaning Behind "Iris" By The Goo Goo Dolls

The Meaning Of "Iris" By The Goo Goo Dolls 

"Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls, released in 1998 as part of the soundtrack for the film "City of Angels" is one of the band's most famous and timeless hits.

Written by the band's lead vocalist and guitarist, John Rzeznik, this is one of my favorite songs that delve into themes of vulnerability, love, and the desire for acceptance.

I'm not the only one in love with this song; it received three Grammy nominations in 1999: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, cementing its place in music history.

But although the arrangement and instrumentation let you know that this is an intense song meant to touch your heart and soul, what are the lyrics telling us?

The Story Behind The Songwriting Process

"Iris" was specifically written for the soundtrack of the 1998 film "City of Angels," a romantic drama starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. The emotional depth of the movie heavily influenced the song's lyrics and tone.

According to Song Facts, The song's title, "Iris," was inspired by Iris DeMent, a country-folk singer-songwriter. John Rzeznik saw her name in a concert listing in the newspaper and thought it was a beautiful name that fit the song perfectly.

At the time he was asked to write the song, Rzeznik, the band's lead singer and songwriter, was going through a rough period. He was experiencing writer's block and questioning his future in music. The opportunity to write for a major movie provided him with a new source of inspiration.

1997 proved to be a challenging year for Rzeznik. His marriage had recently ended, and he was facing a difficult period of writer's block.

He said the following in an interview:

"Most of the time, writing involves procrastination, fear, doubt, criticism... Most songs I write I have to torture myself. But 'Iris' came so easy. I'd broken two strings on my guitar, so I'd started winding all the strings up and down in these weird configurations, and that song just came out. It was like a gift - like: 'Oh, thanks God!'"

I always like to talk about how moments of divine artistic inspiration seem to be the underlying factor behind my favorite hit songs that I break down on my blog, and this is one of my favorite examples! 

Although the Goo Goo Dolls had been a band for over a decade and had released several albums before "Iris," this song catapulted them to major mainstream success. It marked a significant turning point in their career.

"Iris" enjoyed massive chart success, spending nearly a year on the Billboard charts. It held the number one spot on the Hot 100 Airplay chart for 18 weeks and was also a hit internationally.

Lyrical Breakdowns 

And I'd give up forever to touch you'Cause I know that you feel me somehowYou're the closest to heaven that I'll ever beAnd I don't want to go home right now

The lyrics convey an intense, almost transcendent love for someone, to the point where they are willing to sacrifice everything, even eternity ("give up forever"), for just a moment of physical and emotional connection with that person ("to touch you").

The belief that the other person can intuitively understand and feel this deep connection ("'Cause I know that you feel me somehow") highlights a profound bond that goes beyond words or superficial interactions.

'Cause all I can taste is this momentAnd all I can breathe is your lifeSo and sooner or later, it's overI just don't wanna miss you tonight

In the context of the movie "City of Angels," these lyrics gain a specific and poignant resonance. The film tells the story of Seth, an angel portrayed by Nicolas Cage, who falls in love with a human woman, Maggie, played by Meg Ryan.

As an angel, Seth is immortal and exists outside the human experiences of time and sensory perceptions. However, his love for Maggie leads him to desire those very human experiences and emotions, even though they are fleeting.

In the broader context of the movie, these lyrics underscore the theme of sacrifice and the lengths to which one might go to experience love.

Seth's willingness to give up his immortality for the chance to love Maggie, even for a short time, is a testament to the power and allure of human connection and emotion.

And I don't want the world to see me'Cause I don't think that they'd understandWhen everything's made to be brokenI just want you to know who I am

This line captures the fear and uncertainty about how his love, and the choice he faces, would be perceived by others who cannot fathom the depth of his sacrifice or the nature of his existence.

This part also reflects the fragile nature of life and love that Seth must embrace to be with Maggie. Unlike his eternal, unchanging existence as an angel, human life is characterized by its impermanence and vulnerability.

What Makes The Song So Intense And Relatable 

Though inspired by a movie, Rzeznik managed to write a song that speaks to the universal human experience of longing, love, and the desire to be understood, making "Iris" a timeless piece that resonates with diverse audiences around the world.

The raw emotional honesty strikes a chord with listeners, who may have experienced similar feelings of vulnerability in their own relationships.

Beyond the lyrics, the song's musical arrangement contributes to its intensity. The use of dynamic shifts, from the gentle acoustic opening to the powerful, electric crescendos, mirrors the emotional rollercoaster of the lyrics.

On top of the other elements, the sincerity and emotion in John Rzeznik's voice convey the song's message in a way that feels both personal and universal.

Decades after its release, "Iris" remains a staple on radio playlists, at weddings, and in popular culture. It's been covered by numerous artists across different genres and featured in various movies, TV shows, and commercials.

That's because the song's themes and emotions remain timeless. The feelings of love, longing, and the desire for connection do not fade with time, allowing new generations of listeners to find solace and understanding in the lyrics.

Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

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