Song Analysis – “Black Balloon” Goo Goo Dolls

This is going to be one of my most difficult song analyses yet. But I want to attempt it just to show how freaking incomprehensible Goo Goo Dolls’ lyrics are.

Artist: Goo Goo Dolls
Album: Dizzy Up The Girl
Title: Black Balloon

Baby’s black balloon makes her fly
I almost fell into that hole in your life
And you’re not thinking about tomorrow
‘Cause you were the same as me
But on your knees

[Wikipedia is helpful on this song, saying that, “This song, according to the band’s frontman Johnny Rzeznik, is about a woman with a heroin addiction and how her lover is desperately trying to save her. He has also said that is about ‘seeing someone you love that is so great just screw up so bad.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Balloon) Urbandictionary confirms that a “black balloon” is a device used to inject drugs into a vein. So when the balloon makes her fly, it is heroin getting her high. Clearly, a stereotypical heroin addict is not “thinking about tomorrow” and has little concern for her future. But the singer feels a connection to this woman, telling her that she was the same as him but on her knees. Being on her knees could symbolize the way she has become enslaved to her addiction.]
A thousand other boys could never reach you
How could I have been the one
I saw the world spin beneath you
And scatter like ice from the spoon
That was your womb

[It starts to get fuzzy here. The line about “a thousand other boys” could be referring to all her ex-boyfriends, ex-lovers, etc. The number “a thousand” almost certainly cannot be literal. Alternatively, he could be talking about her having a baby and there being thousands of other sperm trying to fertilize her egg. I am reluctant to accept this alternative but it does seem to take care of the “womb” at the end here. When he says, “I saw the world spin beneath you” he may be expressing his attempt to put her on a pedestal and seeing her on top of the world. Next, he uses a metaphor to describe something that scatters “like ice from the spoon.” Some readers see this as another drug reference as sometimes heroin is heated on a spoon before it is injected. I question this interpretation because it suggests that “ice” means heroin when in fact, “ice” is street slang for amphetamine – a drug that is totally different from heroin. The Goo Goo Dolls may be playing fast and loose with their drug jargon, hoping no one will notice. Or they may be trying to say that the world was spinning like ice scattered from a spoon? But who scatters ice with a spoon? And then like a fly ball from left field comes this unexpected line, “that was your womb.” What am I to make of that? I really haven’t the foggiest notion of what that could mean.]
Comin’ down the world turned over
And angels fall without you there
And I go on as you get colder
Or are you someone’s prayer

[I don’t really know how to deal with “the world turned over.” The last stanza spoke of the world spinning and now it’s turned over. Of course I know that the earth rotates. Maybe he’s using that rotation as a symbol of how quickly life changes. The line “angels fall without you there” is sort of sweet, implying that this girl is so great that she holds heaven together. Angels do not fall in the Islamic tradition, but in Christianity, my understanding is that there are “fallen angels,” rebels of heaven who joined Satan when he turned against God. When he says, “as you get colder,” I wonder if this is not another drug reference, alluding to the chills addicts get when they are in withdrawal. When the singer asks if this addict is “someone’s prayer,” it seems that he is saying that someone out there is wishing for a person like this. I suppose there’s someone for everybody, but unless someone is terribly codependent, would he wish for a heroin addict? As a side note, the line brings to mind an Urdu expression – “Ap ki dua hai” which literally means “It is your prayer.” The expression is used to say “I am well (because you pray for me).”]
You know the lies that they always told you
And the love you never knew
What’s the things they never showed you
That swallowed the light from the sun
Inside your room

[He seems to reveal some of the addict’s backstory here. Perhaps her father walked out on her as a kid and her mom lied about what really happened. Is he referring to a black hole -“that swallowed the light from the sun”? ]
Comin’ down the world turned over
And angels fall without you there
And I go on as you get colder
And there’s no time left for losin’
When you stand they fall
Comin’ down the world turned over

And angels fall without you there
And I go on as you grow colder
All because I’m
Comin’ down the years turn over

And angels fall without you there
And I’ll go on to bring you home
All because I’m
All because I’m
And I’ll become
What you became to me

[I think it is significant that he talks about bringing her home. One of the most universal elements in storytelling is the idea of homecoming. Look at any of the great epic poems (Odyssey, Iliad, Divine Comedy, etc.) or major works of literature (Canterbury Tales, Huck Finn, Don Quixote, etc.) and you’ll see this theme of leaving home and coming back. Homecoming means coming full circle, and returning to one’s roots. He ends by saying he’ll “become what [she] became.” What she became was a strung-out female heroin addict. I hope that’s not what he wants to become. Seriously though, I think he’s saying that he wants to be as important to someone as she was to him.]

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  1. #1 by Mandy on January 15, 2009 - 3:20 pm

    I absolutely love this song. It really makes you think, and not many songs can do that. The lyrics are amazing. I have also heard that Johnny’s ex-wife was a drug mule, swallowing “black balloons” of heroin to smuggle them. It’s rumored that she died when one of them burst, causing her to overdose. But who knows?

  2. #2 by Becca on March 16, 2009 - 5:50 pm

    About the line “comin’ down the world turned over,”
    I think it refers to the fact that when you’re high and “come down” from being high, the whole world is really depressing and bland in comparisson (obviously) to when you were high.

  3. #3 by chadwick on April 25, 2010 - 11:46 am

    the world turned over…is perhaps a reference to the march “the world upside down”….this is off the top of my head so excuse the random thought….this was played when the British lost the battle to the Americans at Yorktown….Perhaps I am going a bit deep, but if you think about it….the authors world is most certainly turned upside down during this relationship….just a thought! I am on facebook….Chadwick Howard

  4. #4 by Shonta Budesa on January 17, 2011 - 2:56 pm

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “return the favour”.I am trying to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

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