A recent video of a man getting emotional in his car while listening to an iconic late ’90s alternative rock song is making its rounds on TikTok and resonating with audiences in the process.
Oliver Mills (@olivermillsn) is a content creator on the digital platform with more than 208,900 followers, all of whom he serenades with his signature car-eoke videos. It’s exactly as it sounds — Mills, while driving, belts out a song and endears hundreds of thousands in the process. A video posted last week, however, packed a more somber punch.
On May 24, Mills shared a 32-second clip of himself driving while listening to “Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls. Unlike his other videos, Mills is seen with tears in his eyes. The track, written by frontman John Rzeznik for the 1998 film City of Angels, also appeared on the band’s sophomore album Dizzy Up Girl.
“When I wrote it, I was thinking about the situation of the Nicolas Cage character in the movie,” Rzeznik told Songfacts. “This guy is completely willing to give up his own immortality, just to be able to feel something very human. And I think, ‘Wow! What an amazing thing it must be like to love someone so much that you give up everything to be with them.’ That’s a pretty heavy thought.”
Mills, who’s been posting on TikTok since March of this year, evokes a vulnerability in sharing this clip of him singing “Iris,” especially given its departure from his generally more upbeat car-eoke videos on the platform.
With more than 478,600 likes and 2.4 million views, it’s clear that TikTok users were especially moved by this video. Turns out Mills isn’t the only one who gets emotional when listening to this song.
‘The amount of times I’ve cried to this song crazy’
“this song got me through my darkest moments,” @notjacob694 wrote.
“I love that the lyric was ‘i don’t want the world to see me’ yet you’re being so vulnerable here. Thanks for sharing,” @kaylaafox commented.
“crying in the car alone at night hits different,” @hannah.ontour replied.
So what exactly is the appeal of crying in your car? Well, for many, a car offers something that many spaces lack: a sense of “psychological safety.” It’s entirely yours, it’s confined, and it has a pretty strong sound barrier. Coupled with the vulnerability that results from listening to an emotionally resonant song, you’ve got a recipe for the perfect car cry.
In 2018, Paul Silvia, Lucy Spinks Keker Excellence professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, published a study that looked into the two forms of “aesthetic crying: an awe-inspired, positive kind, and a distressed, sad kind.”
Silvia found that of a sample consisting of 961 adults, 779 of them, that is, 81.06%, “reported remembering a feeling like crying experience when listening to music.” Adults in the “sad class” reported greater levels of feeling like crying when listening to music that directly “reminded them of someone or something,” as well as significantly higher feelings of helplessness than those in the awe-inspired class.
“It’s a surprisingly contemplative place,” Silvia told The Washington Post of the popularity to cry in one’s car. “When people are by themselves, they tend to break out stuff that they don’t listen to around people…People are much more likely to listen to music that’s depressing, or reminds them of personally sad experiences.”
In posting this video, Mills has shown his willingness to let his guard down — not only in his car but online and with an audience that’s similarly affected by evocative and, at times, painfully reminiscent music.
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