A raw, stirring ’90s-esque alt-rock ballad full of hope and longing, “This Is Christmas” is easy to fall in love with because it’s familiar as it is fresh. The standout single off the Goo Goo Dolls’ new holiday album It’s Christmas All Over aches in all the right ways, capturing the complex emotions this season conjures up for so many while rising and falling in triumphant aplomb.
Yeah, it’s cold and it’s grey
I’m in love with this day
‘Cause it’s Christmas
Yeah, the light in your eyes
And the smile on your face
Says it’s Christmas
It’s a word or a smile
That can change someone’s life
With some change in your pocket
Just to get through the night
It’s “Iris”-gone-Christmas, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that in our book: Mellow guitars and dulcet piano set a warm backdrop alongside the seasonal sounds of bells and big, reverb-drenched drums – but it’s John Rzeznik’s intimate performance that ultimately wins us over, as he deftly transitions between soft, earnest reflections in the verse and grandiose, sweeping outpourings in the chorus.
Wish on stars above
For the ones we love
This is Christmas
Drove a thousand miles
Just to see you smile
This is Christmas
Sing with me softly, my dear
‘Cause it’s all I can give you this year
This is Christmas
A stinging sadness falls over the song like a cloud, muffling this cheerful occasion with the bittersweet recognition of ever-present hardships; for many, that means not being able to spend Christmas with their loved ones this year. In thie future, it may mean something else to you – no matter how joyful and gay the holiday season is, we know it’s not that simple – and Goo Goo Dolls’ “This Is Christmas” is a reminder that it’s okay for Christmas to be hard. Nobody’s life is a Hallmark card, but we’re doing our best and that’s enough.
ATWOOD MAGAZINE: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE “THIS IS CHRISTMAS”?
John Rzeznik: Honestly, it was pretty simple, it was like, “We should write a couple of originals.” There’s great new Christmas songs. There’s some great ones. I mean, Mariah Carey’s song, that’s the biggest Christmas song ever. And it’s a great song. It’s very traditional in the Phil Spector kind of way. You know what I mean? And she did it so well. But I just wanted to write something that was kind of reflective and it’s sort of what I was envisioning was me driving up to see my family in Buffalo ’cause on Christmas morning, my wife and I drive with our daughter up to Buffalo to see my family, we do Christmas with them too. And it’s just… And I thought about how weird it was gonna be this year, but we’re still gonna do it and I just… Just something like… I mean that’s what Christmas is about. And the line that gets me in that song is, “Sing with me softly my dear, ’cause it’s all I can give you this year.” We’re all broke, everybody is broke. It’s like, this is where people might discover the real meaning of Christmas. I don’t know, because it’s like, “Look what I made for you,” or, “Hey, I drove 1000 miles to come see you and I don’t have any gifts, but I just wanna be here with you.”
HOW DOES THIS SONG CAPTURE THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT OR SEASON, FOR YOU?
John Rzeznik: Well, I mean I think… I mean it’s obviously, it’s a melancholy-type thing. And I mean I think that that’s a big part of Christmas, because there is inevitably nostalgia attached to every Christmas because… And you think back, and you think about… I think about, excuse me, I think about Christmas as good ones from the past and ones that weren’t so good, and a couple that were very lonely, but that’s something that I think it’s good to reflect on. I think it’s good to reflect on the good and the bad, and… But to be teachable in those moments and learn like, well, how can I make it better? How can I make it better? That’s all I want, I just wanna make things better. I just wanna do something, and it can be… It can be ignored by the general public, I don’t care, but I just wanna know that I did me. That’s it, it’s all I got. That’s all I want.
WITH SO MUCH HOLIDAY MUSIC OUT THERE, WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOUR NEW HOLIDAY ALBUM BRINGS TO THE TABLE?
John Rzeznik: Well, I think it’s got some authenticity to it. I think the tongue is firmly planted in the cheek, it’s very tongue-in-cheek in a lot of spots and as it should be. But I also thought it was something that was gonna be useful this year. See because my whole theme in my life, and the question that I ask people, is like, “What did you do during the pandemic to try and help people out or to make things better?” We’ve all but been abandoned by our government, looks like it might change, but we were all forced to fend for ourselves, but more importantly than fending for yourself is looking out for your neighbor. Just something as simple as knocking on the door, “Hey, I haven’t seen you in a few days. How you doing? You all right? Good. Do you need anything?” I do a lot of these little three-song concerts, trying to raise money to help out wherever I can because there’s a lot of people in a lot of need. And there’s a big food drive initiative that we’re doing locally in the town I live in. And so we’re gonna do silent auctions and raffles for stuff, and because there’s an enormous jump in food insecurity, and this is in New Jersey, too.