American IdiotGreen Day
Expert witness account of this album incoming. It is easy to forget how big this album was, and Green Day were after this one hit. Going into it though in 2004, popular culture had passed them by. Dookie had hit 10 years earlier and while the following Green Day albums were hits, they were never going to reach the heights their breakthrough did. At the start of the 2000s, Blink 182, Good Charlotte, Sum 41 and Simple Plan had taken what Green Day were doing in the 90s and replicated it (to lesser artistic success) and dominated the charts, MuchMusic airtime (yes I’m Canadian) and magazine covers. At the same time, a narrative had been going on in music conversations that rock and roll was dying, the pendulum had swung to pop and hip hop (very short sited and mostly perpetuated by people who only get music through TV and top 40 radio, of which I was mostly too) which had contributed to the overall decline in relevancy of guitar-bass-drum acts. By time fall 2004 had come around there already were the next generation of popular rock acts coming up (The Killers and Frank Ferdinand had hit earlier in the summer, Arcade Fire would hit mainstream this fall). So here came Green Day with a new album, and it had been a few years since they had put out new music. I think there was some level of hype, and it was known this was going to be a concept album. People forget though, Green Day had changed their image in preparation of this album. For a band that had been at the height of their relevancy 10 years earlier, the refreshed look absolutely helped their appeal, as they somehow looked cooler and ahead of the curve than the other bands that had surpassed them. This was sort of a clean entry point for new fans too as they’re visually striking at this point, sound as good as they ever have and are riding this Anti-Bush wave that’s happening right before the 2014 US election. So when the American Idiot single came out, I remember the music video had gotten a lot more play than singles from previous Green Day had been. But this album just kept growing with each successive single. Holiday, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake Me Up When September Ends we’re all massive hits and had endless radio play. This album landed like nothing else in rock had. They stayed in the public spotlight for at least 2 years off the strength of this record. I remember seeing them on the cover of Entertainment Weekly in 2016 still promoting American Idiot, and the band won the Grammy a few weeks later which kept them going. Now this album has been adapted into a Broadway show and Green Day is the only other band that got a Rock Band game besides the Beatles (AC/DC had a disc, but that was just songs, no band representation) So I say all of this because looking back at the 2000s decade because of when American Idiot hit, the case could be made Green Day was at the top of the rock pile, along with U2, RHCP, Coldplay and I suppose the Killers. So while people had this conversation that rock was dying in the 2000s we have to count ourselves pretty fucking lucky we had Green Day that rode the mainstream. You may hate this album but it’s better than most of the other slush pile the 2000s had to offer. The album itself though; it is still absolutely killer and it’s obvious why they became the biggest band in the world again because of this. There’s nothing challenging here about the music; it’s immediate, every song is catchy, lyrics are great (if dated criticism of America in the 2000s). So many of the songs have been ridden into the ground (anything released as a single) so the real winners here are the longer concept album saga songs (Jesus of Suburbia, Homecoming). What I have had to contend with doing this 1001 album project is putting into perspective when I would have been listening to this album before. American Idiot doesn’t seem like it’s that old. Im assuming this is because the songs in this have been played to death on the radio as well as movies and video games. I’ve also been thinking about Green Day lately as I listened to the excellent episode of the podcast Bandsplain did on Green Day a few months ago. But to place it, I would have been listening to this one when I started university. I would have listened to it on my 3rd Gen iPod (the one with the four red action buttons across the top and the first touch click wheel). I wouldn’t have even had a laptop yet, I would have still had my Compaq desktop PC. In terms of where this lands in Green Days legacy I have the unpopular opinion that this is their best album. Still incredible that this is a comeback on the level it was considering how they had fallen out of fashion, but listening to the album, it seems obvious. Could Green Day make another comeback? Sure. Apparently Green Day is hot with teenagers. They make music that sounds like what it’s like to be a teen. Among the best albums of this decade, deserved all of its sales and the success the band had from it.