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Angel (Sarah McLachlan song)

"Angel" is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan about the heroin overdose death of Jonathan Melvoin (1961–1996), the Smashing Pumpkins touring keyboard player,[1] as McLachlan explained on VH1 Storytellers. The song first appeared on Surfacing, the Canadian singer's 1997 album. It is sometimes mistitled as "In the Arms of an Angel"[2] or "Arms of the Angel".

Single by Sarah McLachlan
from the album Surfacing and City of Angels
ReleasedNovember 24, 1998 (1998-11-24)
FormatCD single
Length4:30 (album version)
4:00 (radio edit)
LabelNettwerk (Canada)
Arista (US)
Warner Bros. (US)
Songwriter(s)Sarah McLachlan
Producer(s)Pierre Marchand
Sarah McLachlan singles chronology
"I Will Remember You"

"Angel" was McLachlan's second consecutive top-five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number four and remaining in the top ten for nineteen weeks. In McLachlan's native Canada, the song reached number seven on the RPM Top Singles Chart and was the forty-eighth best-selling single of the year. Outside North America, the song has charted in several countries in the years following its release, including reaching number seven in Ireland (in 2002) and number nine in Norway (in 2008).


"Angel" was one of the first songs written for Surfacing. McLachlan said that writing it was easy, "a real joyous occasion",[3] and that "the bulk of it came in about three hours." It was inspired by articles that she read in Rolling Stone about musicians turning to heroin to cope with the pressures of the music industry and subsequently overdosing.[4][3][5] She said that she identified with the feelings that might lead someone to use heroin: "I've been in that place where you've messed up and you're so lost that you don't know who you are anymore, and you're miserable—and here's this escape route. I've never done heroin, but I've done plenty of other things to escape."[3] She said that the song is about "trying not to take responsibility for other people's problems and trying to love yourself at the same time".


The song has a sparse arrangement—mostly McLachlan at the piano, with subtle upright bass played by Jim Creeggan of Barenaked Ladies. It was recorded in the key of D-flat major.[6] For live performances, it is transposed up one half-step to D major, the key it was originally written in, and played without the bass.

Chart performanceEdit

Released as a single in 1998, "Angel" peaked at number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 on February 22, 1999[7] and number one on three Billboard charts: the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart,[8] the Adult Top 40 chart,[9] and the Top 40 Tracks chart.[10] It was the United States' eighteenth highest-selling song of 1999.[11] In McLachlan's native Canada, "Angel" peaked at number seven in February 1999.[12] It ended the year as Canada's forty-eighth most successful single.[13]

In the years following its release, "Angel" has charted in a large number of countries. In January 2002, a dance remix of the song peaked at number seven in Ireland and number 36 in the United Kingdom.[14][15] In 2008, "Angel" charted in Norway and peaked at number nine for two weeks.[16] The following year, it made a brief appearance on the New Zealand Singles Chart, debuting and peaking at number 36 in July.[17] The song has charted in Austria and Switzerland on several occasions, peaking at number 17 in both counties,[18][19] and it also reached number 57 in Germany in October 2012.[20] The following month, it debuted and peaked at number 77 in France.[21] During its original release, "Angel" peaked at number 99 on the Dutch Single Top 100, but it reached a new peak of number 31 in February 2014.[22]

Live performancesEdit

On July 2, 2005, McLachlan performed this song at Live 8 Philadelphia with Josh Groban. She also performed the song during the "Concert for Linda," dedicating it to the memory of Linda McCartney. On September 10, 2011, McLachlan performed the song to close the ceremonies at the dedication of the Flight 93 Memorial in Stonycreek Township, commemorating the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 who fought the hijackers and brought down their airplane in the September 11 attacks. On Sunday, November 23, 2008, Sarah McLachlan performed "Angel" at the American Music Awards with artist Pink. On May 21, 2019, McLachlan sang "Angel" on the sixteenth season of the US competition series The Voice as a duet with the eventual winner of the show, Maelyn Jarmon.


The song has had enduring popularity. It is often used to highlight emotional scenes on television shows, and has been featured in a number of soundtracks (including the film City of Angels and TV's Alias, As the World Turns, Cold Case, Dawson's Creek, Early Edition, Felicity, General Hospital, Providence, Strong Medicine, and The Pretender). In addition, it is also used as a song of comfort and healing, most often following tragic events such as the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in August 1997, the April 1999 Columbine High School massacre and the September 11, 2001 attacks. Furthermore, a large number of video tributes to loved ones uploaded by YouTube users have been set to this song.

Musician Darryl McDaniels, otherwise known as D.M.C. of the hip-hop band Run-D.M.C., has said that the song saved his life.[23]


Since 2007, "Angel" has been included in an advertisement for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in which McLachlan serves as the spokesperson. The song is played over video of dogs and cats in an animal shelter and is credited with helping raise millions of dollars for the ASPCA.[24] This ad was later parodied numerous times on the internet and inspired many memes.

The song was also donated by McLachlan for Tribe of Heart's movie The Witness which depicts the awakening of consciousness of a New York City construction worker with respect to the treatment of animals.[25]

Charts and certificationsEdit

Covers and other versionsEdit

Live cover performancesEdit

  • In 2004, Australian Idol contestant Hayley Jensen performed this song in the first week of the semi-finals of the second season and was voted through to the Final 12 the following night. Jensen eventually recorded a cover for that season's Finalist Cast Album.
  • In 2005, Idol winner Jorun Stiansen performed this song on the Top 9 show of the third season.
  • In 2006, Angel was performed on the fourth season of Canadian Idol in the first week of the semi-finals by eventual winner Eva Avila. Avila recorded a cover of the song for that season's Top 10 Cast Album.
  • Singer Beyoncé Knowles covered the song in a medley with her own "Ave Maria" on her 2008-2009 I Am... Tour and in her live performance at the BET Awards 2009.
  • In 2009, Eesti otsib superstaari winner Ott Lepland performed this song on the sixth week of the finals of the third season.
  • The song was performed by Katherine Jenkins at the opening ceremony of the 38th Ryder Cup in Wales, on the 30th of September 2010, in front of an estimated TV audience of over 600 million. She also performed the song as a part of a tribute to Sports Personalities who had died in 2010 at The 2010 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Ceremony on the 19th of December 2010, at The LG Arena in Birmingham.
  • Prince covered "Angel" during the European "20Ten" Tour in July 2010, and during the Welcome 2 America Tour Jan 2011.
  • On June 14, 2011, the American The Voice contestant and eventual winner Javier Colon performed it in the first season of the show.[42] The studio version peaked at number 64 on the Billboard Hot 100.[43]
  • On November 22, 2011, the American X Factor first season contestant LeRoy Bell performed it in the fifth week of the show.
  • On November 29, 2011, the German X Factor second season contestant and eventual winner David Pfeffer performed it in the semi final of the show.
  • On November 13, 2012, Bella Ferraro performed the song as her bottom two song in the semi-final of the fourth season of the Australian The X Factor.
  • On May 6, 2013, the American The Voice contestant Sarah Simmons performed it in the Live Playoffs.
  • On June 22, 2013, The Voice of the Philippines contestant Lee Grane performed the song during her blind auditions. The performance trended world-wide on the micro-blogging site Twitter and received a million views on YouTube.
  • On July 14, 2013, the New Zealand X Factor first season contestant and eventual winner Jackie Thomas performed it in the semi final of the show.
  • On October 26, 2013, the UK X Factor tenth series contestant Nicholas McDonald performed it in week 3 of the show. On December 15, 2013, he performed it again in the final results show, where he finished as eventual runner-up.
  • On December 9, 2013, the American The Voice contestant Jacquie Lee performed it in the semi-finals of the show.
  • On January 11, 2016, Megan McKenna a contestant on series 17 of Celebrity Big Brother performed a flawless, pitch perfect version of it in the housemate talent contest. Megan received rave reviews from all areas of the media and from celebrities and the public alike on social media. Despite not being chosen as the winner of the contest by her fellow housemates, Megan won the 'most talented performance' poll on the Big Brother app which is voted for by the general public.

In popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ "Drugs in Songs". Fun Trivia. Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  2. ^ Ebony - Oct 2007 - Page 194 "He decided against killing himself while back in the United States after hearing on the radio Sarah McLachlan's song "In the Arms of an Angel." " and other examples
  3. ^ a b c Reighley, Kurt B. (August 1997), "Sarah McLachlan In The Garden", CMJ New Music Monthly, College Media Inc., pp. 21–25, retrieved 2010-05-12
  4. ^ Sarah McLachlan explaining her inspiration to write 'Angel' (interview discussing Surfacing CD, posted to YouTube on Dec 9, 2008)
  5. ^ McDonnell, Evelyn (September 1997), "Lilith Fair", Spin, Spin Media LLC, p. 64, retrieved 2010-05-12
  6. ^ Sarah, McLachlan,. "Sarah McLachlan "Angel" Sheet Music in Db Major (transposable) - Download & Print". Retrieved 4 August 2018.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  7. ^ a b "Sarah McLachlan Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Sarah McLachlan Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Sarah McLachlan Chart History (Adult Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Sarah McLachlan Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 30 December 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "1999: The Year in Music" (PDF). Billboard. 26 December 1998. pp. 48–100. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  12. ^ a b "RPM 100 Hit Tracks – February 22, 1999" (PDF). RPM. Vol. 68 no. 18. 22 February 1999. p. 2. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  13. ^ a b "RPM 1999 Top 100 Hit Tracks". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  14. ^ a b "Chart Track: Week 10, 2002". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  15. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  16. ^ a b " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel". VG-lista. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  17. ^ a b " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  18. ^ a b " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  19. ^ a b " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  20. ^ a b " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  21. ^ a b " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  22. ^ a b " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  23. ^ "DMC: Saved By An Angel - How Sarah McLachlan thwarted the legendary MC's suicidal tendencies". IGN. 2006-02-24. Archived from the original on 2008-10-25.
  24. ^ "Ad Featuring Singer Proves Bonanza for the A.S.P.C.A." The New York Times. 2008-12-25.
  25. ^ LaVeck, James; Stein, Jenny. "Sarah McLachlan, Angel and The Witness". Tribe of Heart. Retrieved 2012-12-31.
  26. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  27. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 6986." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  28. ^ "Top 10 Dance Singles, Week Ending 28 March 2002". GfK Chart-Track. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  29. ^ "Charts: Luxembourg Digital Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  30. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  31. ^ "Official Dance Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  32. ^ "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  33. ^ "Sarah McLachlan Chart History (Adult Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  34. ^ "Sarah McLachlan Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  35. ^ "RPM 1999 Top 100 Adult Contemporary". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  36. ^ "British single certifications – Sarah McLachlan – Angel". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Angel in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  37. ^ "American single certifications – Sarah Mc Lachlan – Angel". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  38. ^ "Westlife - Angel (Single)". Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  39. ^ "Välkommen jul" (in Swedish). Svensk mediedatabas. 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  40. ^ "Vinternatten" (in Swedish). Svensk mediedatabas. 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  41. ^ "Susan Boyle announces sixth new album in five years Hope". Digital Spy. 15 September 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  42. ^ "'The Voice's' Javier Colon: I Had To Fight Hard To Sing 'Angel', Adam Levine Didn't Want Me To!". 17 June 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  43. ^ "The Billboard Hot 100 Week of July 02, 2011". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2012-09-13.

External linksEdit