Goo Goo Dolls, “Magnetic”

Goo Goo Dolls - Magnetic - Neil Krug

The Goo Goo Dolls have always been kings of melodious optimism.  There’s no mistaking Johnny Rzeznik’s iconic voice or the group’s signature, upbeat sound, but have they evolved by the tenth album?

I was really excited when I saw that “Magnetic
” was coming out, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The result was somewhat predictable, but still enjoyable.

The most important part of any music is its message.  Lyrically, the album is in stark contrast with recent releases.  In an age of constantly increasing moral depravity, the Goo Goo Dolls are surprisingly refreshing in their take on things.

In “Rebel Beat,” Rzeznik sings “And when the sun goes down, and we fill the streets/You’re gonna dance/’til the morning to the rebel’s beat/You can take everything from me, oh, yeah/You can take everything from me/’Cause this is all I need.”  In Bulletproof Angel, he sings “She asked if I’m a lover/I say I try to be/She said love until your heart breaks/cause there are no guarantees.”

This kind of optimism is present throughout the entire record, really with only one exception.  “Keep the Car Running” contains a more melancholy tone, and says “There are days when I feel that everything that’s good is gone/There are times that I feel no matter what I do, it’s wrong.”  The song is a bitter goodbye to a less than delightful circumstance, as Rzeznik sings in the chorus, “Tired of waiting around/Now what are we becoming?/Keep the car running.”

Musically, the album is either exciting or depressing, depending on your perspective.  The first Goo Goo Dolls album I listened to all the way through was “A Boy Named Goo,” from 1995.  There have been four Goo Goo Dolls albums in between “A Boy Named Goo” and “Magnetic,” yet their sound hasn’t changed at all.  It is more consistent; there is an utter absence of filler tracks on “Magnetic,” but their sound has not changed at all over ten albums.  To fans who love the Goo Goo Dolls sound like myself, that’s not necessarily a negative thing.  Others, however, may ask “Why would I buy the same album ten times?”

Song Breakdown:

Rebel Beat: This is undoubtedly the strongest song on the record.  The catchy tune makes you want to sing along and put it on repeat for the next half hour.  Johnny Rzeznik said in an interview that the song was inspired by seeing streets closed off in New York because of big parties going on.  Put simply, the song is about enjoying life.  5/5

When the World Breaks Your Heart: “When the world breaks your heart, I can put it back together.”  This song is a promise to loved ones that when the world crushes you, remember that you’re not alone.  God should be our ultimate comfort, but being able to lean on someone (and being someone that others can lean on) is a positive uplifting message that we need more of.  4/5

Slow It Down: The line “Oh just shut your mouth and know that you are everything to me” says it all.  Let’s be honest here – it’s a sappy love song.  I don’t mind that, but it isn’t as well pulled off as previous Goo Goo Dolls love songs, which often leave me in a state of euphoria.  This one doesn’t, but it’s still a decent song.  3/5

Caught in the Storm: The song opens by saying “Every secret that you ever told me I kept down inside,” but it turns slightly sour.  Rzeznik sings “I’m caught in this storm we call love, so alone, come find me.”  It’s bittersweet, but the noteworthy thing here is that he still loves the girl during the troubled times.  That’s important in an era where when something is broken we throw it away instead of fixing it.  5/5

Come To Me: Musically this song leaves behind the ballady feel for an acoustic vibe, and is perhaps the most clever song lyrically.  The first verse says “I’ll be kind, if you’ll be faithful/You be sweet and I’ll be grateful/Cover me with kisses dear/Lighten up the atmosphere/Keep me warm inside our bed/I got dreams of you all through my head/Fortune teller said I’d be free/And that’s the day you came to me.”  That’s a pretty good representation of the song.  I really like the love-struck lyrics, but it’s really hard to overlook the casual reference to pre-marital sex (Rzeznik is engaged, but not married).  4/5

Bringing On the Light: To be honest, I’ve never cared too much for Robby Takac’s voice in comparison to Johnny Rzeznik’s.  His hoarse smoker voice clashes with the melodic Goo Goo Dolls vibe.  Occasionally they’ve used him when venturing outside of their niche into slightly heavier rock, and then it’s worked, but on this track it makes me cringe.  I feel like it would most logical people.  The song itself isn’t too bad, but the vocals are distracting and somewhat repulsive.  In addition to the musicality, the lyrics are so vague that I can only venture an obscure guess as to the meaning of the song.  It’s about old days.  And something about light.  All in all, it’s pretty weak.  2/5

More of You: I’m torn on whether this or “Rebel Beat” should be called the strongest track.  This song probably has the most singable melody and Rzeznik sings with dedication that he will never let his woman go and will always love her.  Great song, great message.  5/5

Bullet Proof Angel: I like this song for the most part.  The strings and backup singers backing up the sheer emotion of this song are very powerful.  I’m not crazy about love songs that refer to the object of the singer’s affection as an angel, simply because it contributes to unrealistic expectations that cause many to desert a loving, helpful relationship in search of perfection that they will never find.  Still, a good song overall.  4/5

Last Hot Night: The title of this song really should have been different.  When I saw this, I thought it was going to be a “sex song,” but in reality there is nothing risqué about it at all.  The song opens by asking a girl to dress up and go out and have fun with him, singing “It’s the last hot night in America/It’s the last hot night in the world/And I’m looking for you.”  The only potential problem is he never tells us why it’s the last night.  Unfortunately, that vagueness weakens the song.  3/5

Happiest of Days: This is another Robby Takac track.  It isn’t cringe-worthy like the last one, but it’s still weaker than it would have been had Rzeznik contributed vocals.  I do believe that this could have been strong if the two of them had done it duet-style.  Takac sings about “struggling through the happiest of days.”  This is another vague one.  At this point I must say the lyrical strength is decreasing as the album reaches its close.  3/5

Keep the Car Running: This one is slightly more melancholy, with the line “There are days that I feel that everything good is gone.”  It’s a song about going through change when things have turned south.  It seems like an odd choice for a closing track, putting the only pessimistic song at the end, but it turns out well, musically.  It’s another singable song, and I’d put it right behind “Rebel Beat” and “More of You” musically.  4/5

Logan Judy
Logan Judy is a Christian blogger and science fiction author with a Batman complex. At Cross Culture, Logan writes about film, comics, cultural analysis, and whatever else strikes his fancy. In addition to his work at Cross Culture, Logan also blogs and podcasts at A Clear Lens. You can find him tweeting about Batman, apologetics, and why llamas will one day rule the world, @loganrjudy.
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