Goo Goo Dolls was formed in Buffalo, New York, in 1986, by school friends Robby Takac and George Tutuska. They met guitarist and vocalist John Rzeznik through a band that he was playing in with Takac’s cousin. Originally, John did not sing on the group’s recordings.
The story goes that the group got its name when they saw an advertisement for a toy in a copy of “True Detective Magazine.”
The toy was called a Goo Goo Doll…
Initially, they were just a cover band. But, they quickly started to develop their own sound, which was mostly rooted in Punk and Rock music. They got their first record deal in 1988. After that, they began touring and opening for acts like Motörhead, The Dead Milkmen, and Gang Green.
They had released three albums, and Rzeznik had become more present as a vocalist on the tracks. They were getting regular airplay on college radio stations and even contributed a song to the soundtrack for the slasher film Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
Tutuska left the band right before the release of their fifth album, A Boy Named Goo. This became their first to be certified double-platinum and was distributed through the Metal Blade label. It marked a change in their sound. A sound that would become known worldwide soon after.
When 1998’s Dizzy Up The Girl became a multi-platinum success, the band was transported into superstardom. Goo Goo Dolls have released fourteen albums and have sold over fifteen million records worldwide. So, here are my picks for the Best Goo Goo Dolls songs of all time.
Top 50 Best Goo Goo Dolls Songs of All Time
Long Way Down
Album: A Boy Named Goo
Starting this list of Goo Goo Dolls’ best songs, we have one of the lesser-known hits from one of their lesser-known albums. “Long Way Down” is at the halfway mark between the group’s early Punk-influenced sound and the more mainstream Rock sound that was soon to follow.
The heavily-distorted guitar and bass sounds, the riff-driven composition, and the upbeat nature of the song speak to the influence of Grunge and Hard Rock. While the Dolls have become famous for their ballads, there is a proud lineage of heaviness that early fans can still appreciate.
A Boy Named Goo also marks an important shift in the group’s sound…
It’s the first album that saw John becoming their vocalist in earnest. “Long Way Down” is an example of him beginning to carve out his sound as a singer and writer.
“Long Way Down” may have been overshadowed by the success of the album’s highly successful ballad, “Name.” But it’s one of the best Goo Goo Dolls songs of all time. It was featured in the soundtrack for the 1996 disaster film Twister. The band also performed it on an episode of “Beverly Hills 9210”.
Can’t Let It Go
Album: Let Love In
Most would argue that the Let Love In album has much better songs than “Can’t Let It Go.” But I believe the chorus makes it worthy of a spot here.
John Rzeznik has spoken about how a good chorus can come to him at the most inconvenient of times. He would have to resort to borrowing pens and napkins or calling himself from someone else’s phone to leave a voicemail for himself. This may have been the case with the uplifting chorus of “Can’t Let It Go.” And aren’t we glad he went through the trouble?
From a lyrical standpoint, the song show’s us how John’s writing has been sharpened and developed to a precise and brilliant level. He effortlessly lays down one beautiful contrast after another while also managing to come up with a beautiful melody. “And half the world is beggin’ – While the other half steals – Some days I can’t believe – Others I’m on my knees.”
Come To Me
Despite lacking any real commercial success, “Come To Me” has become one of the most enduring tracks from the Magnetic album. The track was a healthy surprise for listeners who, up until that point, had heard plenty of Rock-style ballads. But, this kind of Country and Folk influenced track had never been part of their sound.
And they pulled it off beautifully…
John’s voice is given a large space to fill due to the minimalistic arrangement, and he pulls it off perfectly. Lyrically, we see him experimenting with a new influence and style of writing. In my opinion, he rose to the occasion wonderfully.
I’d recommend watching the music video for this one if you want to get into the message of the track. Shots of the band playing acoustic instruments are interspersed between shots of young and old couples, signifying a promise to one another that binds and fulfills for life. Goo Goo Dolls have always managed to sneak a lot of positive energy into their music, and this track is one of the best examples of that.
“Disco” might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the punchy guitar riff that drives this rumbler of a song. But, there you have it. Once again, we have a good dose of experimentation mixed with some old motifs that we love. Namely, a nice anthemic chorus and a soaring vocal during the verses.
“Big Machine” is John’s take on folks who get obsessed with the ‘Los Angeles Lifestyle.’ This was no doubt something that stood out to the band members. After all, they were used to the very different surroundings of working-class Buffalo.
In this case, he may have made up the love interest that appears in the lyrics. But there are enough real-life examples to make it as real as it needs to be.
Anyone who has spent time in LA will know what he’s talking about…
“Ecstasy is all you need – Living in the big machine now – Oh you’re so vain – Now your world is way too fast – Nothing’s real and nothing lasts.” This track has particular power when they perform it live. And, if you want a great example, go check out the recording of it on their 2004 DVD release, Live In Buffalo.
Album: Dizzy Up The Girl
If there’s one Goo Goo Dolls song that pays homage to the old advice “Write what you know,” it’s got to be “Broadway.” As mentioned, the group was used to working-class, blue-collar surroundings as youngsters, and this percolated through their music.
Despite being written years after the group had left their hometown, John was able to retain the image that inspired the lyrics with immense vividness.
He has spoken about going to the bar with his father as a youngster. There he saw young men coming of age around him, getting ready to fill the gaps left by their fathers at the bar counter. He decided this would not be his fate, and evidently, he has succeeded tremendously. The group performed “Broadway” for an episode of the hit series “Charmed” in 2000.
Album: Dizzy Up The Girl
For many hardcore Goo Goo fans, this is widely regarded as the best Goo Goo Dolls song ever written. The production for Dizzy Up The Girl was handled by legendary producer and musician Rob Cavallo. He managed to take a simple song written on an acoustic guitar and turn it into a wider composition.
John’s acoustic guitar, contrasting with the electric and overlaid with those beautiful strings, make for something that is eternally rich. As with many of their songs, the guitars were in alternative tunings.
Rzeznik tells the story of a struggling heroin addict…
Despite the desperate effort of her lover to pull her out of it, she is losing the battle. Not only John’s writing and performance impart the narrator’s desperation with incredible believability. “Baby’s black balloon makes her fly – I almost fell into that hole in your life.”
There have been speculations that the track was inspired by the wife of the group’s former bassist Robby, who had died from a heroin overdose, but this has never been confirmed. “Black Balloon” went to #2 in Canada and became a Top 20 hit in the US. It has been certified Platinum.
Album: A Boy Named Goo
When Goo Goo Dolls got started, they were initially regarded as an Alternative Rock group. And, often viewed as Nirvana imitators who came too late to the game. This was the track that changed that forever. Here was a group that could cross over and does it with immense success. As a result, this became one of the most successful Goo Goo Dolls songs.
Once more, we have a track written in a very odd tuning. To play this track, you have to restring your guitar, replacing the b string with a high E string. I’ve seen guys play “Name” with regular tuning. But it doesn’t sound quite right.
The track marked a change of musical direction for the band…
With that change, the mainstream stadium-filling sound that would carry them to worldwide stardom was sparked. Lyrically, the track has been interpreted as a recollection of Rzeznik’s troubled childhood. He grew up mostly with his sisters due to both his parents having passed away. “We’re grown-up orphans who never knew their names.”
On top of that, there is the singer’s relationship with former MTV VJ Kennedy. This seems to have some foundation in truth due to her being thanked by John on the album’s credits. He even used her real name, Lisa Montgomery. “Name” became the group’s first commercial hit; it has sold over two million copies.
Album: Dizzy Up The Girl
“Slide” was released as the first single from what would become the Goo Goo Dolls’ most successful album to date. When they performed it live at the America Music Awards, they were introduced to the stage by an unknown brunette girl called Britney Spears.
How’s that for a fun fact?
The song takes the form of a dialogue between a young catholic girl and her boyfriend. She has gotten pregnant, and the two of them are discussing the options of either getting an abortion or running away together.
The song’s music video features some clever camera work by the director, who used a 100-year-old camera for some of the shots, and with others, even went as far as to cover the lens with water. Apparently, the actress in the diner scene slapped John for getting too close to her at one point during the shoot. Go watch it, and you’ll know which part I’m talking about.
The platinum-selling single has become one of the Goo Goo Dolls’ biggest hit songs. It has also been featured in “Dawson’s Creek” and “Bates Motel.” Undoubtedly, one of the best Goo Goo Dolls songs of all time.
Album: Dizzy Up The Girl
Most people have seen City Of Angels, and you know how much it did for this song and, in turn, the band. John wrote the song after contemplating the circumstances of the character in the film. In turn, it has become one of the best known Goo Goo Dolls songs.
Someone willing to sacrifice their mortality to be with the one they love is a very powerful message. And, Rzeznik came through with a tune that properly communicates that sentiment. He named the song after country and folk music singer Iris DeMent.
The single became an instant international hit…
And, it has stood the test of time like very few songs from the 90s have. It is ranked as the nineteenth most successful single of all time. “Iris” spent a record seventeen weeks at #1 on the Adult contemporary chart and a record eighteen weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 Airplay Chart.
The success of “Iris” helped the album become the group’s most successful ever, with well over five million copies sold. Likewise, the soundtrack for City of Angels has been certified multi-platinum, and the contribution that “Iris” played there cannot be understated.
Here Is Gone
Stay with You
Let Love In
Give a Little Bit (Cover)
Before It’s Too Late (Sam and Mikaela’s Theme)
Free of Me
What a Scene
On the Lips
Eyes Wide Open
Just the Way You Are
Something for the Rest of Us
As I Am
Feel the Silence
Two Days in February
Million Miles Away
Hammerin’ Eggs (The Metal Song)
Another Second Time Around
Girl Right Next to Me
Ain’t That Unusual
Cuz You’re Gone
So Far Away
Lucky Star (Fungus Mix)
Think About Me
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Best Goo Goo Dolls Songs of All Time – Final Thoughts
Few bands from the 90s managed to last as well into the later decades as the Goo Goo Dolls. They’ve been releasing hard-thumping rumblers and beautiful slow ballads for more than thirty years.
The tracks listed here are but a small part of their incredible catalog. And, no doubt, the collection of great Goo Goo Dolls songs is likely to do only one thing – grow even larger. Are there any honorable mentions that you would have liked to see on the list? Let us know in the comments below.
Until next time, happy listening.