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The Meaning Behind The Song: When Angels Cry by Janis Ian

The Meaning Behind The Song: When Angels Cry by Janis Ian


When it comes to music, some songs have the power to touch our hearts and leave us contemplating their deeper meaning. One such song is “When Angels Cry” by Janis Ian. Released in 1995 as a part of her album “Revenge,” this powerful ballad explores the complexities of love, loss, and the profound impact that four-letter words hold.

The Lyrics

The lyrics of “When Angels Cry” evoke a sense of vulnerability and introspection. Janis Ian’s heartfelt words allow the listener to ponder the deeper emotions hidden within each verse:

“Wait Your tired arms must rest
Let this moment pass
Wait until the morning
Close your eyes and let me see
Who you used to be
Left without a warning
Who knew one so big could grow so small
Lighter than the writing on the wall”

These opening lines depict a plea for patience and understanding. The narrator urges someone to take a break and reflects upon how quickly things can change. The comparison of one’s diminished state to the weightlessness of words on a wall introduces the theme of transformation.

“When angels cry, can I stand by
When stones weep, can my heart sleep
Wish I’d never heard, wish I’d never heard
Wish I’d never heard
The power of a four-letter word”

Here, Janis Ian speaks of the profound impact that words can have. The emotional weight is emphasized through the metaphor of angels crying and stones weeping. The regret of longing to unhear the power that words hold resonates deeply.

“‘Cause only love will matter in the end
For woman or for man
What’s the difference now
Here we live with bottles
And needles and truth
Here is your living proof
That death cannot be proud
Some say it’s a judgment on us all
I can’t believe that God could be that small”

These lines delve into the significance of love, emphasizing its universal importance. Janis Ian touches upon the tumultuous aspects of life, acknowledging the struggles humanity faces. She challenges the notion that hardship is a divine punishment and instead upholds the strength and resilience found within love.

The Song’s Significance

“When Angels Cry” holds a special place in my heart, as it reminds me of a time of personal reflection and growth. The song’s poignant lyrics allowed me to contemplate the transformative power of love and the impact that words can have on our lives. It served as a catalyst for self-discovery, prompting me to reevaluate how I communicate and express my emotions to others.

Moreover, Janis Ian’s lyrics resonate beyond personal experiences, touching upon universal themes of love, resilience, and the inherent humanity we all share. It serves as a reminder that amidst the chaos and challenges of life, love remains a constant force that can heal and unite.


“When Angels Cry” by Janis Ian is a moving song that invites deep introspection into the power of love and the significance of four-letter words. Through heartfelt lyrics and introspective metaphors, Ian encourages listeners to reflect on their own experiences and consider the transformative impact of words in their lives. This beautiful ballad serves as a testament to the strength and resilience found within the human spirit and reminds us of the universal nature of love and compassion.

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