You "Aughta" Know: Green Day, "AMERICAN IDIOT"

Monday, January 11, 2021

Typically, this is where we showcase a record from this young millennium that is celebrating an anniversary of some kind. Considering the state of this great nation, however, all bets are off. Just like a manic mob can shred America's sense of civility by literally treading all over everything we're supposed to hold sacred in our nation's capitol, we can let cool heads prevail. This is a moment that calls for something more than just some anniversary. This is a national emergency, one that Billie Joe Armstrong and Green Day warned us about all the way back in 2004.

Inspiration struck the Green Day frontman in the form of a Lynyrd Skynyrd song. From Armstrong's punk rock perspective, the song hit like a challenge: "It was like, I'm proud to be a redneck and I was like, Oh my God, why would you be proud of something like that? This is exactly what I'm against."

It was enough to inspire the rocker to put pen to paper and turn the moment into what would become the title track of Green Day's magnum opus, American Idiot. "I looked at the guys like, do you mind that I'm saying this?," he recalled to Q magazine. "And they were like, no, we agree with you. And it started the ball rolling.

"It's about the confusion of where we're at right now," Armstrong told SPIN in 2004, sounding a lot like he could be talking about 2021. "My education was punk rock - what the Dead Kennedys said, what Operation Ivy said. It was attacking America, but it was American at the same time."

Bass player and songwriter Mike Dirnt did have a moment of trepidation, concerned that some fans might find the sentient offensive. He eventually had the realization that song's "call for individuality" was the tune's true energy.

Released as a single on August 31, 2004, "American Idiot" hit modern rock radio hard, garnering countless spins across the country. The track wasn't exactly a monster on the charts, but it did mark Green Day's first tune to hit the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #61. Yes, really. Before that moment, the band's biggest hits had only appeared on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay and Bubbling Under Hot 100 charts.

The title track served as a Trojan horse, blasting open the doors of the mainstream as the American Idiot full-length marched up the Billboard 200 to peak at #1 for the week of October 9, 2004. It was toppled just one week later by Rascal Flatt's with Feels Like Today.

"American Idiot" struck a much bigger chord with the group's fans and critics, leading it to be nominated for four Grammy awards that year: Record of the Year, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Rock Song and Best Music Video. While they would go 0 for 4 in those categories, Green Day ended up taking the award for Best Rock Album for the American Idiot full-length as a pretty strong consolation prize.

One can only hope there are some young bands looking at the news, seething with anger at the insurrection and treason, furiously penning new anthems of freedom and equality to inspire a new generation to righteousness and the real American way...