The roots of American rock band, Goo Goo Dolls were changed when they embarked upon creating their 1998 track “Iris.” However, the song became the band’s biggest hit to-date and one of the immortal songs in the history of music.
Goo Goo Dolls wrote “Iris” for the soundtrack of 1998 movie ‘City of Angels’ starred by Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. The movie tells the story of an angel (Cage) who falls in love with a mortal woman (Ryan), and wishes to become human in order to be with her. John Rzeznik, the lead vocalist and the writer of this track, revealed that he wrote “Iris” with Nicolas Cage in mind.
Rzeznik talked about the inspiration behind the song; “When I wrote it, I was thinking about the situation of the Nicholas Cage character in the movie. This guy is completely willing to give up his own immortality, just to be able to feel something very human. And I think, ‘Wow! What an amazing thing it must be like to love someone so much that you give up everything to be with them.’ That’s a pretty heavy thought.“
Rzeznik also admits that jumping onto a different genre had him and the band on the edge; “That was the first time we’d ever been in the studio with strings,” he recalls. “I remember kneeling in front of the control room window, looking out at this 15-piece string ensemble, then looking at Robby (bassist) and saying: ‘I really think we’re turning a corner here, and I don’t know if I want to’.”
“Iris” is about the emotions of a guy (an angel in reference to the movie) who would be willing to give up anything just to be with the woman he is in love with. So much so that he is willing to let go of his immortality if that is what it takes to be with her.
Watch “Iris” Video by Goo Goo Dolls
Albeit the above being the official music video, the below live performance from Buffalo, New York, Goo Goo Doll’s hometown, soaked in rain, at night, seems to highten more emotions.
“Iris” Lyrics Meaning & Song Review
The song starts off with a connection to the movie ‘City of Angels,’ and specifically to Nicoloas Cage who plays the role of an angel. As far as the lore goes, angels are immortal. And in the eyes of this angel, who is in love with a human woman, immortality feels like a small sacrifice to be with her. “Forever” in the lyrics is a reference to his immortality.
The angels continues to confess that this woman is the closest feeling to heaven he has experienced. ‘Heaven’ in this context comes with the idea of ‘home’ as well. Heavenly riches and the coziness of one’s own home are some of the most lucrative things anyone can ever ask for. Hence, giving up a combination of the above two stands as proof of what this angel is giving up for this woman.
In the second verse of the song, Rzeznik sings why this angel is so in love with this woman. The angel is intoxicated by her beauty and elegance. She is a breath of life that this angel loves to consume for the rest of his life. However, his life is infinite and this woman’s is not. So, the lyric “sooner or later, it’s over” speaks about the impermanence of this love no matter what. If the angel stays immortal, he would watch his love die away some day. If he becomes mortal, they would die together some day. In his eyes, the latter seems to be a better option than living forever with a painful memory.
The angel is more focused about the present than the invetible ending to this story.
The hook of “Iris” is one of the most beautifully crafted lyrics, and they talk about love, the world, and the impermanence of life. The angel knows that his decision to become mortal would not be received well among other angels. An angel becoming human is called a ‘fall’ signifying the descent on to Earth from heavens above and also the descent of heavenly morals and traits to the level of humans. Their love is not something everyone outside of their spectrum would understand and approve. However, it is not stopping this angel.
“When everything’s made to be broken” lyric also emphasizes how nothing lasts forever, even love. Everyone will eventually turn into dust at some point. But the angel swears that his love will stay undead until that inevitable day they leave this world. It is a comforting gesture extended by the angel.
The third and final verse of “Iris” is as powerful as the rest eventhough it sings about the true nature of human relationships-pain!
Lies, deceit, and heartbreak are all part of human nature. This angel is also on a path to ‘descent’ to humanity. These lines don’t necessarily sugges that the angel’s love would change once he is human. However, the song oozes out the flaws of human relationships. More important to remember is that ‘pain’ is also a great source of strength. If every single thing goes perfectly in life, and it looks like a romance movie, what source could build strong connections among people? There would be no effort from anyone if they knew everything would be okay in the end. But, in real life it won’t be unless you collectively work towards it. And this strengthens relationships and bonds. So, in some cases, pain does help. It makes you feel more alive, more human, and more imortal. It makes you realize that you have limited time to make amends.
“Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls has stood the test of time for the emotions poured out through the lyrics, vocals and the performances by the band.
Let us know what you think about this song and your emotions towards it, in the comments below.