Lead Goo Johnny Rzeznik wrote this song for the movie City Of Angels
, where it is sung from the perspective of Nicolas Cage's character. In the film, Cage plays an angel sent to help humans make their transition to the afterlife. When he falls in love with a human (played by Meg Ryan), he must choose between love and eternal life.
In a 2013 Songfacts interview with Rzeznik
, he explained how the film influenced the song. "I was thinking about the situation of the Nicolas Cage character in the movie," he said. "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."
This is about a person with an invisible identity who no one understands. Then, he finds true love. He wants his true love to know that he exists and that she is the only person in the world who can understand and love him - hence the last line, "I just want you to know who I am." The title means this is how I see you and me and everyone.
Britney - Calabasas, CA
The name "Iris" was inspired by a country singer named Iris DeMent, whose name Rzeznik came across while reading a magazine. This was confirmed in a 1999 interview with Goo's bass player Robby Takac in Addicted To Noise
Kayla - Trenton, NJ
This song came at a transitional stage in the Billboard charts, giving it a very strange chart history. In the '90s, many record labels refused to sell certain singles in America so that folks would have to buy the album to get the song. Promotional singles were sent to radio stations, which dutifully played the hits in the order they were received (videos were released accordingly).
Billboard's Hot 100 chart stipulated that a song be sold as a single to be eligible, so a song could be saturating the airwaves, but have no presence on the Hot 100. Billboard's Airplay chart kept track of radio play, and on August 1, 1998, "Iris" hit the top spot, where it would stay for 18 (non-consecutive) weeks. The week of December 5, 1998, Billboard eliminated the Hot 100 restriction on songs being sold as singles, and "Iris" appeared at #9, months past its popular peak. There is little doubt that "Iris" would have made #1 if it was eligible from the start on the Hot 100; the #1 song throughout August was "The Boy Is Mine
" by Brandy & Monica, which had already held the top spot for two months.
This was nominated for Grammys in the categories Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Pop Performance By Duo Or Group. It didn't win any of them.
This is one of the most popular songs to feature a mandolin. The instrument was played by a session guitarist named Tim Pierce.
Goo Goo Dolls play this at most of their shows. When we asked Johnny Rzeznik what he thinks about when he sings it, he replied: "I try to get back into the moment of the original intention of that song. Like, what was I thinking and feeling when I was writing that song? And sort of go back into it in that way. That helps. That puts me right back in the mood to play it, over and over and over again."
In Greek mythology, Iris was the god messenger who left her messages in a rainbow.
Rebecca - Clayton, GA
This has become a popular wedding song; Avril Lavigne picked it for the first dance at her wedding to Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley in 2006 (the couple divorced in 2010).
The song became a Top Ten hit in the UK for the first time in October 2011 after X Factor contestants Frankie Cocozza and Joe Cox both performed it on the show. Its highest charting previously in the UK was #26 in 1999.
This returned to the UK top 20 after bricklayer Robbie Kennedy auditioned for Britain's Got Talent with the song on the April 27, 2013 edition of the show.
The Goo Goo Dolls performed this in Madison Square Garden as part of the "Concert For New York" to raise money for victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Boyzone singer Ronan Keating covered this for a solo single in 2006, reaching #15 in the UK.
1997 was a rough year for Rzeznik. His marriage had just broken up and he was struggling with a bout of writer's block. "It was a really manic time in my life," he told Louder
. "I was looking for something to hold on to." Then came "Iris." He was surprised at how easy the songwriting process was. "Most of the time, for me, writing involves procrastination, fear, doubt, criticism... Most songs I write I have to torture myself; be a prima donna for about an hour. 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!'"
Speaking of the song title, Rzeznik explained: "I was trying to be pretentious and arty by calling it that. I figured if [Smashing Pumpkins frontman] Billy Corgan can get away with it, so can I. So I figured, what the hell, I'll tap into the pretentious market."
The Goo Goo Dolls started out as a punk rock band in the '80s and, after a few albums, began incorporating pop elements and lighter fare to balance their harder tracks. To the dismay of their core fanbase, the band had their first a major hit with the mellow acoustic single "Name
" on their fifth album, A Boy Named Goo
. Releasing another rock ballad like "Iris" was a risk of further alienating their veteran fans, but their fate was sealed as soon as they stepped into the studio.
Rzeznik told Songwriter Universe
how the song marked a turning point in the band's career before they even recorded it: "The great truth about songwriting is that nobody really knows how or why something becomes a hit. We took a massive leap forward with that song and its sound was an enormous change for the band. I wrote it sitting alone in a studio, and when Robby and I stood behind the glass listening to it come to life with a 16-string orchestra, we looked at each other, and thought, 'We can't go back.' We knew if we put this song out, a lot of people, including fans, would probably hate us. But we didn't care because we knew it was good! I've always believed that if you write a song you plan to play every night, it damn well better be an honest extension of who you are. At that time, 'Iris' was."
The City Of Angels
soundtrack also featured the '90s staples "Uninvited
" by Alanis Morissette and "Angel
" by Sarah McLachlan. The major selling points for Rzeznik, however, were U2 and Peter Gabriel, who respectively contributed "If God Will Send His Angels
" and "I Grieve
" to the album. Said Rzeznik: "I wanted to be on the same piece of plastic as them. It made me feel like I was hob-nobbing with musical royalty. I thought that someday I could show it to my kids - tell them their old man was once on a record with Bono and Peter Gabriel."
This wasn't the band's first soundtrack success. They landed a Modern Rock hit when "Long Way Down
" was used in the 1996 movie Twister
This was also used in the TV shows The Boys ("Proper Preparation And Planning" - 2020), Family Guy ("Peter, Chris & Brian" - 2015), and Being Erica ("Being Ethan" - 2011).
Believe it or not, rasp-throated Rzeznik was much too shy to sing in the band's early days. Robby Takac was lead vocalist on their self-titled debut, while Rzeznik didn't start singing until their sophomore release, Jed. He took over as primary vocalist on their third album, Hold Me Up. "I had really bad stage fright, and Robby really guided me through that nonsense," the singer told Vice. "He's really helped me out a lot. This band wouldn't exist right now if he wasn't in it."
Nancy Bardawil, who also directed the clip for "Slide
," shot the video using the same LA tunnel that's featured in City Of Angels
. Rzeznik is also shown in a tower, peering at the world below (scenes from the movie) through telescopes. The tower was built on a soundstage and most of the telescopes were also constructed by the crew. Bardawil told VH1's Pop Up Video
that the telescopes were the worst part of the shoot - they kept breaking.
To promote the band's Dizzy Up The Girl
anniversary tour in 2018, Rzeznik and Takac released a tongue-in-cheek video
chronicling their bromance and the alleged origin of their signature tune.
While awaiting the results of the 2020 United States presidential election, Phoebe Bridgers tweeted she would cover this song if Donald Trump lost. Fulfilling her promise, the singer-songwriter linked up with Maggie Rogers to record a duet version under the name Phoebe & Maggie. Released as a pay-what-you-want one-day exclusive via Bridgers' Bandcamp page on November 13, 2020, it earned both artists their first entries on the Hot 100, peaking at #57. All proceeds are directed towards Georgia politician Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight organization to promote fair elections.