Angel (Sarah McLachlan song)

For other uses, see Angel (disambiguation).
Single by Sarah McLachlan
from the album Surfacing and City of Angels
Released November 24, 1998 (1998-11-24)
Format CD single
Genre Pop
Length 4:30 (album version)
4:00 (radio edit)
Label Nettwerk (Canada)
Arista (US)
Warner Bros. (US)
Writer(s) Sarah McLachlan
Producer(s) Pierre Marchand
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Sarah McLachlan singles chronology
"I Will Remember You"
Music sample

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

"Angel" was McLachlan's second consecutive top five hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, debuting at number twelve, and then jumping to the top ten the following week, before peaking at number four. It remained at the top ten for nineteen weeks, and for twenty-nine weeks in the top 100. "Angel" was the eighteenth most successful song of 1999.


"Angel" was one of the first songs written for Surfacing. McLachlan said that writing it was easy, "a real joyous occasion."[3] 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.[3][4] 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".


Released as a single in 1998, "Angel" peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 23, 1999 (after reaching the Top 40 on December 15, 1998), #1 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart, and at #36 on the UK Singles Chart.

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 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.

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.

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.[5]

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.

A remix of the track by Dusted appears on McLachlan's 2001 album Remixed.

A live version with Emmylou Harris appears on a Lilith Fair compilation, McLachlan's own iTunes Originals collection, and her Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff Volume 2 compilation.

On Sunday, November 23, 2008, Sarah McLachlan performed "Angel" at the American Music Awards with artist Pink.

The song made its début on the New Zealand Singles Chart on 6 July 2009 at number 36. The appearance in the charts was attributed to the 2009 New Zealand Stars in Their Eyes grand finale the week before, where Mandy Pickering of Christchurch won the finale performing the song.

The song is also often played during a contestant becoming eliminated on Indonesia Mencari Bakat (Indonesian version of America's Got Talent) on Trans TV.

This song was used in the final minutes of the season finale of season 3 for The Secret Life of the American Teenager as everyone discovers that Ben and Adrian's baby is stillborn.

The 2009 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie A Dog Named Christmas used this song in one scene.

In the 2015 Korean TV Drama Yong-pal the full Westlife version was used in one of the final scenes of episode 7.


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.[7] 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.[8]

Weekly charts

Chart (1999-2012) Peak
scope="row" Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[9] 17
scope="row" Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[10] 17
scope="row" Germany (Official German Charts)[11] 57
Luxembourg (Billboard)[12] 9
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[13] 99
scope="row" Norway (VG-lista)[14] 9
scope="row" New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[15] 39
scope="row" US Billboard Hot 100[16] 4

Year-end charts

Year-end chart (1999) Position
US Billboard Hot 100[17] 18

Cover versions

Live cover performances


  1. 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
  2. "Drugs in Songs". Fun Trivia. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 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. McDonnell, Evelyn (September 1997), "Lilith Fair", Spin, Spin Media LLC, p. 64, retrieved 2010-05-12
  5. "DMC: Saved By An Angel - How Sarah McLachlan thwarted the legendary MC's suicidal tendencies.". 2006-02-24.
  7. "Ad Featuring Singer Proves Bonanza for the A.S.P.C.A.". The New York Times. 2008-12-25.
  8. LaVeck, James; Stein, Jenny. "Sarah McLachlan, Angel and The Witness". Tribe of Heart. Retrieved 2012-12-31.
  9. " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  10. " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  11. " – Sarah McLachlan Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  12. "Luxembourg Digital Songs - October 8, 2011". Billboard. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  13. "Dutch Charts Single Top 100 search". Single Top 100. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  14. " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel". VG-lista. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  15. " – Sarah McLachlan – Angel". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  16. "Sarah McLachlan – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Sarah McLachlan. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  17. "Billboard Top 100 - 1999". Archived from the original on 2009-07-09. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
  18. "Westlife - Angel (Single)". Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  19. "Välkommen jul" (in Swedish). Svensk mediedatabas. 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  20. "Vinternatten" (in Swedish). Svensk mediedatabas. 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  21. "Susan Boyle announces sixth new album in five years Hope". Digital Spy. 15 September 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  22. Hollywood Life: The Voice's' Javier Colon - I Had To Fight Hard To Sing 'Angel'
  23. "The Billboard Hot 100 Week of July 02, 2011". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2012-09-13.

External links

Preceded by
"I'm Your Angel" by R. Kelly & Celine Dion
Billboard Adult Contemporary number-one single
March 6 × May 22, 1999
Succeeded by
"You'll Be in My Heart" by Phil Collins
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