Open main menu

"21st Century Breakdown" is a song by the American punk rock band Green Day from their album of the same name. Billie Joe Armstrong composed the song, which is mainly based on his personal life and musical influences. The song was released as the fourth single from the album on December 21, 2009.

"21st Century Breakdown"
Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown single cover.jpg
Single by Green Day
from the album 21st Century Breakdown
ReleasedDecember 21, 2009
Recorded2008–2009 at Ocean Way Recording, Hollywood, California; Studio 880, Oakland, California; Jel Studios, Newport Beach, California; Costa Mesa Studios, Costa Mesa, California
GenrePop punk, alternative rock
Length5:09 (album)
4:41 (radio/video)
Songwriter(s)Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool
Producer(s)Butch Vig and Green Day
Green Day singles chronology
"East Jesus Nowhere"
"21st Century Breakdown"
"Last of the American Girls"
Audio sample


Background and compositionEdit

Much of the song was written about the personal life of its writer, Armstrong. According to David Fricke of Rolling Stone, its opening lyrics "Born into Nixon, I was raised in hell" refer to Armstrong's birth year of 1972, while "We are the class of the class of '13" references his eldest son Joseph's high school graduation year of 2013.[1] Later in the song, lyrics begin to reference the song's musical influences: "Last one born / but first one to run" is an allusion to Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run,[2] while "I never made it as a working class hero" is a reference to the John Lennon song "Working Class Hero", which the band had previously released a cover of.[3]

Spin suggested that the song's guitar usage is similar to that of The Edge.[4]

Release and receptionEdit

On September 10, 2009, Green Day's official site announced that the song would be the band's next single.[5] However, on September 25, Green Day instead said that "East Jesus Nowhere" would be released as the next single and offered a release date of October 19.[6] On October 21, the band again asserted that "21st Century Breakdown" would be released as a single and gave a release date of December 21.[7]

Reception to the song has been mainly positive. Spin thought that it was "Green Day's most epic song yet".[4] AbsolutePunk stated that the song "bursts forth with resilient aplomb".[2] Adam Downer of Sputnikmusic called the track "heavily indebted to The Who [and] Queen".[8]

Music videoEdit

The music video for "21st Century Breakdown" was directed by Marc Webb.[5] It premiered on-air and online October 19, 2009 on MTV and a number of its subsidiary websites. It starts off with a wall with the spray-painted woman and man from the album art of 21st Century Breakdown. After they kiss, the first chord strikes. The video is animated in graffiti until the final thirty seconds, when the graffiti version of Armstrong transitions into the real Armstrong and the video concludes in live action.[9]

Track listingEdit

All lyrics written by Billie Joe Armstrong; all music composed by Green Day.

1."21st Century Breakdown"5:09
2."Last of the American Girls" (live)3:54
Total length:9:03




  1. ^ Fricke, David (May 28, 2009). "Green Day Fights On". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media.
  2. ^ a b Fallon, Chris (May 14, 2009). "Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown - Album Review". AbsolutePunk. Archived from the original on 2012-03-31. Retrieved May 25, 2009.
  3. ^ "Green Day Quote John Lennon On New Album". Gigwise. 2009-02-18. Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2013-03-22.
  4. ^ a b Goodman, William (February 13, 2009). "First Listen: Green Day's '21st Century Breakdown'". Spin. Archived from the original on 2015-11-05. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
  5. ^ a b "21st Century Breakdown". September 3, 2009. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
  6. ^ "Green Day Single News "East Jesus Nowhere" due". September 25, 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-10-06. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
  7. ^ "Green Day - New Single "21st Century Breakdown" released on December 21st". Altsounds. October 21, 2009. Archived from the original on 26 October 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2009.
  8. ^ Downer, Adam (May 11, 2009). "Green Day 21st Century Breakdown". Sputnikmusic. Archived from the original on 2009-05-19. Retrieved October 21, 2009.
  9. ^ "21st Century Breakdown Video Premiere Monday". October 18, 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-10-21. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
  10. ^ "Tops : Edward Maya et Black Eyed Peas, n°1" (in French). (Chartsinfrance). Archived from the original on 2 February 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
  11. ^ "Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown". Archived from the original on 2012-08-28. Retrieved October 22, 2009.

External linksEdit