In 1986, guitarist/vocalist John Rzeznik, bassist/vocalist Robby Takac, and drummer George Tutuska formed the Goo Goo Dolls. They started as a cover band, dabbled with punk, and eventually settled on alt-rock. After 12 years and five albums, they finally hit the big time in 1998 with the hit single, Iris. Since then, the band has gone on to sell over 15 million records worldwide, picking up four Grammy Award nominations and 19 top ten singles in the process. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Goo Goo Dolls songs of all time.
10. Can’t Let It Go
As Louder Sound says, the Goo Goo Dolls’ 2006 album Let Love In is uneven and tired sounding in parts, but it still has a few classic anthems in the mix. Of those, Can’t Let It Go is one of the best. It doesn’t waste any time getting to the chorus, and considering Rzeznik’s talent for a killer chorus, that’s no bad thing at all. It didn’t get the single treatment, but of all the songs on the album, this is the one that deserved it the most.
9. All Eyes On Me
The band’s sixth studio album, Dizzy Up The Girl, is widely regarded as the one that helped send their career into orbit. In fairness, a lot of that comes down to the success of their No. 1 hit, Iris, but one song alone doesn’t make an album sell over 4 million. Much of the success of Dizzy Up The Girl lies in the deep cuts, of which the haunting All Eyes On Me is one of the greatest. Featuring hushed verses, a massive chorus, and some very bracing drumming from new drummer Mike Malinin, it’s an underrated gem.
8. Big Machine
Johnny Rzeznik calls Big Machine “his disco song.” His definition of disco might be a little different from ours, but disco or not, it does find the band breaking free of their comfort zone and getting a little free and easy with their usual rhythms. As usual, the hook is massive and the chorus is catchy – both Goo Goo Dolls trademarks, and both done exceptionally well here. Released as a single from the band’s 2002 album, Gutterflower, it climbed to No. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 10 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart.
The Goo Goo Dolls’ big breakthrough came with Dizzy Up The Girl, and so did some of their biggest hits. Although Broadway didn’t climb quite as high on the charts as the album’s first two singles (Iris and Slide), it still managed to reach a very respectable No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 24 on the Billboard year-end Hot 100 singles of 2000. According to Genius, Rzeznik took his inspiration for the song from his hometown of Buffalo, where most of the blue-collar workers spent their free time drinking away the hours. As he got older, he noticed the next generation was falling into the exact same habits. Lyrically, it takes its lead from Bruce Springsteen, but that adrenalin-pumping chorus is pure Goo Goo Dolls.
According to The Cheese Life, Amigone was supposedly named after a funeral parlor in the Dolls’ hometown of Buffalo, NY. If it is, the slightly morbid theme hasn’t infected the song, which is a fast-paced, hard-driven slice of rock with some ace drumming from Mike Malinin and stellar vocals from bassist Robby Takac.
5. Black Balloon
Iris was the song that got everyone talking about the Goo Goo Dolls and sent copies of Dizzy Up The Girl flying off the shelves, but it’s by no means the only good song on the album. Black Balloon, for example, is an absolute banger, with a gritty vocal from Reznik and a stunningly accomplished performance from the rest of the band. If any song helped transform the perception of the Goo Goo Dolls from a bunch of alt-rock amateurs into serious contenders, this was it. Released in June 1999 as the fourth single from the album, it took the band to No. 16 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Although Iris turned the band into a household name, their first major hit was actually released three years earlier. Taken from the album A Boy Named Goo, Name took the band to the top of both the US Modern Rock Tracks chart and the Album Rock Tracks chart and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was inspired by Rzeznik’s turbulent relationship with former MTV VJ Lisa Kennedy Montgomery. “I was trying to capture a moment…it was pretty interesting to have a song inspired by a moment. And I thought it was a very sweet song,” Rzeznik has explained.
3. Ain’t that Unusual
Ain’t that Unusual is a song about losers. Unlike most songs about losers, it doesn’t offer a light at the end of the tunnel. “Someday you never made it,’ Rzeznik sings, ‘maybe you never will.” Fortunately, the riffs and chorus are both big enough to stop it from falling into abject misery. Recorded for the 1995 album A Boy Named Goo, it’s an excellent example of just how innovative the band can sound when they put their minds to it.
2. Long Way Down
Long Way Down distills everything there is to love about the Goo Goo Dolls in less than 3 and a half minutes. It’s a little rough and ready, a tiny bit naive, and has just enough grit to counter the sentimentality of the lyrics. Rzeznik’s raspy performance is dynamite, while the chorus is, as you’d expect, powerful enough to stop an army. Released as the fifth single from 1995’s A Boy Named Goo, it didn’t reach quite the same heights of glory as the album’s other big single, Name, but it still managed to claim to No. 7 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and No. 25 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Sure, it’s predictable, but sometimes, the most obvious choice is obvious for a reason. Iris was the song that turned the Goo Goo Dolls from alt-rock pretenders into chart-topping contenders. Released on April 1, 1998, it’s one of the biggest crossover hits of all time, becoming the most played song of 1998 on pop, modern rock, and adult contemporary radio. It climbed to No. 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100, No. 3 in the UK, and topped the charts in Australia, Canada, and Italy. The Goo Goo Dolls never managed to top its success… then again, what band could?