"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,  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" or "Arms of the Angel".
"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", 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. 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." 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 22, 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 death on 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.
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.
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. 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 But Climbed down the charts to number 3 after the success of the City of Angels Movie.Mandy Pickering of Christchurch won the Stars in there eyes finale performing the song in the Grand Finale.
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. 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.
Certifications and sales
- Pianist/New Age artist George Winston recorded an instrumental cover of the song for his 1999 album Plains.
- Canadian country music group Lace covered the song on their self-titled debut album in 1999, from which it was released as the album's sixth single in 2001.
- Irish boy band Westlife included a rendition of the song on their album World of Our Own in 2001.
- Slovenian duo Platin covered the song (in English, as "Angel (Zate, Marjan...)") on their 2004 album Stay Forever.
- American Idol performer Kelly Clarkson covered this song as an early demo.
- Irish pianist/composer/record producer Phil Coulter recorded an instrumental version which featured on his 2006 Country Serenity album.
- Mexican singer Yuridia covered the song for her 2006 second album Habla El Corazón in a Spanish version entitled "Estar Junto a Tí", in memory of her late brother.
- Angelis covered this song in 2006 on their album Angelis.
- John Barrowman covered the song on his 2008 album Music, Music, Music.
- David Phelps, an American gospel singer, covered the song on his 2008 album The Voice.
- Joe Sample & Randy Crawford feature this song on their No Regrets album (2008).
- Japanese singer Aoi Teshima covered the song on her second cover album La vie en rose: I Love Cinemas, released in 2009.
- The song was covered by Belgian singer Lara Fabian on her 2009 album Every Woman in Me, and performed on her tour and TV show.
- Welsh classical singer Katherine Jenkins covered the song on her 2009 album Believe.
- British a cappella vocal ensemble The King's Singers covered the song on their 2010 album Swimming over London.
- The song was covered for an unreleased acoustic solo album by the late singer Midnight of prog-metal band, Crimson Glory.
- This song was covered by Jackie Evancho in 2011 for her album Dream With Me and subsequent PBS special and concert tour.
- Marti Pellow covered this on his album Love to Love in 2011.
- In 2011, Jill Johnson recorded the song for her Christmas album Välkommen jul.
- In 2012, Sanna Nielsen recorded the song for her Christmas album Vinternatten.
- American Idol runner-up David Archuleta covered this song on his 2012 album Begin.
- The teenaged pop-opera Italian trio Il Volo performed this song for their 2nd PBS TV Special, We Are Love in 2013.
- In 2013, Jacquie Lee sang this song in the fifth season of The Voice.
- In 2013, Jonathan and Charlotte included this song as a duet on their second album, "Perhaps Love".
- In 2014, Daniel Evans, X Factor (UK) finalist, covered this on his album Emotions and on his YouTube channel.
- In 2014, Nicholas McDonald, the runner-up on the UK X Factor tenth series, recorded the song on his debut album In the Arms of an Angel.
- In 2014, Vine released a statement that the song was used in over 2,000 vines, with more than 174,000 likes in total.
- In 2014, Scottish singer Susan Boyle recorded her version of the song and published it on her album Hope. She also stated: "I had a huge input in music suggestions and finally have been able to record one of my all time favourites, "Angel," originally by Sarah McLachlan."
- In 2016, Jeneve Rose Mitchell plays the harp performance on American Idol.
- In 2016, Brendan Fletcher performed the song on The Voice.
- In 2016, a cover by Devon Welsh was used in the end credits for The OA episode Invisible Self.
- In January 2017, a cover by Caitlin Canty was recorded for and used in the closing scenes of the Code Black season 2 episode "Fallen Angels".
Live cover performances
- 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. The studio version peaked at number 64 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- 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 16 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.
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