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Celebrating the 15th Anniversary of Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’

by Grace Giamo

You’ve probably thought nothing more of “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” other than the fact that it perfectly describes how you feel due to the pressure and stress at the start of the new semester. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? However, the message is not that simple.

Often referred to as some of the pioneers of emo and punk rock, Green Day has blessed us with their hard-hitting anthems, lyrical genius and unequivocal cool factor. They are no strangers to telling the world how they feel about social and political issues, especially if those opinions are controversial.

On Sept. 20, 2004, Green Day’s concept album “American Idiot” was released, featuring mega hits such as “Holiday,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

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The members of Green Day looking rebellious yet effortlessly cool. Photo courtesy of Billboard.

Despite heavy radio play, these songs contain some of the most brilliant lyrics of the early 2000s, containing messages that are often overlooked due to Billie Joe Armstrong’s mesmerizing vocals and the band’s famous guitar riffs. What most people don’t know is that American Idiot was written with a sense of anger during Bush’s presidency and their frustrations with media portrayal. 15 years later, Green Day’s semi-autobiographical album can be applied to fuel the anger that those today are experiencing in the wake of Trump’s presidency.

Let’s take a look at the meaning behind the band’s title track, “American Idiot.” When it came out in 2004, it was nominated for record of the year, and with good reason. This song is representative of the opinions and feelings experienced during Bush’s re-election and how the American people are controlled by biased media outlets. Armstrong sings, “don’t wanna be an American idiot, one nation controlled by the media,” sung with his famous angsty delivery. His lyrics are fueled with discontent and anger, further expressing how he didn’t want the nation to be run by those with harsh and conservative “redneck” values.

The outrage that we have been experiencing in our country during Trump’s presidency makes this track more relevant now than ever. It’s arguable that our current president could be deemed an “American Idiot” by a large amount of people. This song has a new sense of importance with a message that remains universal. In the Trump era, the significance of this song is heightened, as an overwhelming amount of people despise our president, fighting for a better figure to run our country in the coming election.

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The famous trio (Mike Dirnt, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Tre Cool). Photo courtesy of Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Though many songs on the album are open to interpretation for the listener, each song was written with clear intent and meaning, contributing to the punk rock opera that one experiences while listening to this album.

The song “Holiday,” which talks about the wars in Iraq and Bush’s power-hungry mindset, contains overlapping references to one of the albums’ characters, “Jimmy,” who breaks free from “idiot America” to go enjoy his holiday. This is just one of the sophisticated storylines that the album features. American Idiot also features a character named “Whatshername,” a girl Jimmy falls in love with because of her rebellious nature.

In short, each song on the album contributes to the narrative, focusing on the fictional character, Jimmy, and his life. Every song alludes personal issues, opinions and beliefs that the band members have dealt with in their own lives.

That being said, this album is timeless and extremely relatable. It’s only fair to celebrate a masterpiece bursting with lyrical sophistication that is simple, yet effective and catchy. Anyone can relate to Green Day’s sense of oppression toward social and political issues to this day. This album is truly a period piece that will evolve and continue to adapt to current happenings in the world, even 15 years from now.

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