Green Day’s “American Idiot”, from a commercial perspective, was a surprising third wind from a band that appeared to be on its last commercial legs. Even though Green Day’s chops never went away, fans generally avoided 2000’s Warning album (I liked it, for what that’s worth), and the fact that their next two albums were a greatest hits comp and a rarities set had me thinking Green Day was ready to ride into the sunset.
Then Billie, Mike and Tre Cool came roaring back with a rock-opera concept that they were improbably able to pull off. “American Idiot”’s title track is a blast of pure energy. The dads of pop-punk came back and showed the blink-182s (zero five-star songs although there are a handful of four-star ones) and the Sum 41s (no songs in my entire iTunes library) how it was supposed to be done. It’s also alarmingly prescient, considering we now live in…well, I don’t need to explain that to you and I’d rather not remind myself right now.
Billie Joe’s use of the word “faggot” kinda feels like the most powerful moment of the song. I certainly remember the days when I was newly out of the closet and thought that reading The Advocate and Out was what everyone did, so I spent five bucks a pop on new issues. Billie Joe sort of outed himself in an issue of one of those magazines (admitting to same-sex desires if not experiences). Add in the slight build and punk rock/weirdo leanings and I’d have to imagine that he’d gotten that word thrown at him a lot. Still, the way he spits it out is jarring.
American Idiot (the album, not the song) is most remembered for its political stance, although very little of the lyrical content speaks exclusively or specifically to politics. Man, remember when we thought it wouldn’t get any worse than Dubya? FUCK.