Green Day – ‘American Idiot’

A pop punk classic that propelled Green Day into 21st century stardom

More stories from Parker Reed


Typically, when a band strays drastically away from their signature sound it is career suicide. However, Green Day transcended that stereotype.

Green Day is a pop punk band from Oakland, California that formed in the late 1980s. The first half of their career is defined by multi-platinum albums “Dookie,” “Nimrod” and “Insomniac.”

Songs such as “Basket Case,” “When I Come Around,” “Brain Stew” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” dominated rock radio airwaves throughout the 1990s, but that effect began to wear off in the early 2000s.

After releasing the average commercial success, “Warning!” in 2000 and having master tapes for a rumored 2002 follow-up record stolen from the studio, the band was at a crossroads.

Either stay true to your roots and your current fanbase, or try something new and innovative. They chose the latter.

In 2004 Green Day released the anthemic rock opera “American Idiot.” The album follows the story of a man named St. Jimmy and his struggles going through life in poverty.

The 13-song album reached the top spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart as well as selling millions of copies around the globe. The band was venturing into new musical territory.  

Starting off the album is the rock radio darling “American Idiot.” Its guitar fueled aggression toward then-United States President George Bush has found refueled popularity in the modern day frustration toward President Donald Trump.

Taking the second slot on the record is the musical revelation “Jesus of Suburbia.” Consisting of five movements, the song clocks in at over eight minutes long. It consists of standard rock parts, others laced with piano and some containing enough gang vocals to incite an entire stadium to sing along.

Following “Jesus of Suburbia” are two more songs that have developed into live concert and rock radio staples. “Holiday” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” are responsible for propelling Green Day into the pop radio mainstream, an area they haven’t been invited into before.

A criticism of this album is that the band “sold out.” They were now dressing in similar ways to each other, having more planned stage banter and appearing on pop radio stations more and more. However, being the pop rockers at heart that they are, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool didn’t pay any attention to those complaints and delivered an album marked both with hits and gems.

“Are We The Waiting” and “St. Jimmy” follow the two hits on the album, and they both have found a home in Green Day’s live sets over the years. They remain under-the-bubble hits and continue to develop the story of St. Jimmy.

After some solid (but skippable) songs, the album cranks out more hit-worthy tracks.

“Letterbomb” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” land on the latter half of the album, and continue to be played live today. Their dealing with the topics of isolation, revolution and moving on have Green Day showing signs of age in a beautiful way — by allowing their age to refine not only their appearance but their musical maturity.

The album concludes with what I believe is the most underappreciated song in the band’s entire discography.

“Whatsername” is a track that has the main character of the album, St. Jimmy, thinking about missing a girl whose name he can’t even remember. He realizes in the end it wasn’t the girl he misses necessarily, but just the way she made him feel that has left a hole in him.

Laced with heart-aching vocal refrains and a subtle guitar attack, “Whatsername” remains a hidden gem Green Day fans continue to uncover to this day.

“American Idiot” is an album that tells a riveting story, produces a massive amount of radio hits and is also a captivating full-album listen when accompanied with lesser-known gems.

Frustration with political leaders is a struggle that has endured throughout the history of this country. As long as the struggles continue, so will the sales of “American Idiot” — an album that endures through time due to its universal message of hope and standing up to corrupt leaders.