"American Idiot" is a protest song[2] by the American rock band Green Day. The first single released from the album American Idiot, the song received positive reviews by critics and was nominated for four 2005 Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Rock Song, and Best Music Video. It is considered one of the band's signature songs.

"American Idiot"
Single by Green Day
from the album American Idiot
B-side"Too Much Too Soon"
ReleasedAugust 6, 2004 (2004-08-06)[1]
Composer(s)Green Day
Lyricist(s)Billie Joe Armstrong
Green Day singles chronology
"American Idiot"
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams"
Music video
"American Idiot" on YouTube

Background edit

One of the two explicitly political songs on the album (the other being fellow single "Holiday"),[3] "American Idiot" says that mass media has orchestrated paranoia and idiocy among the public. Citing cable news coverage of the Iraq War, Billie Joe Armstrong recalled, "They had all these Geraldo-like journalists in the tanks with the soldiers, getting the play-by-play." He felt with that, American news crossed the line from journalism to reality television, showcasing violent footage intercut with advertisements.[4] Armstrong went on to write the song after hearing the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "That's How I Like It" on his car radio.[5] "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."[6] Songwriter Mike Dirnt felt many people would be insulted by the track until they realized that, rather than it being a finger-pointing song of anger, it could be viewed as a "call for individuality".[7] The song emphasizes strong language, juxtaposing the words "faggot" and "America", to create what he imagined would be a voice for the disenfranchised.[8]

In a 2004 interview with Q Magazine, the three members of Green Day discussed the idea of flag desecration in relation to their song, with Armstrong and Dirnt being the most supportive: "It means nothing to me. Let's burn the fucking thing."[9]

Composition edit

"American Idiot" was written in the key of A major. The song is composed of four chords, the I-IV-VII-IV-I-VII progression, while the chorus and solo share the IV-I-V-I progression.[10] The song is classified as a punk rock[11][2][12] and pop-punk song.[13] The musical style of the song has been cited as a mix of the melodic punk of Social Distortion and the hard rock of Joan Jett.[14] Armstrong plays a 1956 Les Paul Junior on the song, switching to a reissued 1959 flame-top Les Paul for the double-tracked guitar solo. Armstrong was initially reluctant to pursue recording a solo, fearing it to be corny. He eventually decided against this, as he hoped for the album to be "about being 15 and rocking out in front of a mirror."[4] The song's format and cadence was influenced by the Midnight Oil song "US Forces", which Armstrong was introduced to through his wife.[5]

Release edit

Billie Joe Armstrong touches on the idea that mainstream media has caused paranoia among the American public in a post-9/11 world. Armstrong also suggests that these same media outlets are brainwashing their viewers through propaganda and subliminal messaging.[15][16][17]

Released in 2004, the single peaked at number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Green Day's first Billboard Hot 100 chart entry.[18] All of Green Day's other hits had only managed to chart on the Hot 100 Airplay chart or the Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart.[18] However, the appearance of "American Idiot" on the US singles charts occurred just prior to Billboard's inclusion of Internet download purchases into their Billboard Hot 100 chart data, which would have made a significant difference in the song's peak had it benefited from the new chart tabulation system.[19] "American Idiot" became Green Day's first top-five single in the United Kingdom, peaking at number 3, and it debuted at number 1 in Canada. In Australia, the song reached number 7 was ranked number 22 on Triple J's Hottest 100 of 2004. Green Day performed the song at the 2005 Grammy Awards.[citation needed] "American Idiot" has sold 1,371,000 copies as of July 2010.[20]

Ian Winwood of Kerrang! said that "Green Day did for their generation, and their country, what the Sex Pistols did for the United Kingdom in 1977, for a nation sick with love for a parasitical royal family."[3]

"Weird Al" Yankovic released a parody of American Idiot on his 2006 album Straight Outta Lynwood under the name Canadian Idiot. The lyrics make fun of Canada and are about Canadian stereotypes.

Music video edit

The music video for "American Idiot" shows the band playing in a warehouse against a green American flag (a reference to the name of the band), which only has 48 stars. In the middle of the video, the band is seen playing at different speeds (fast, slow-motion, and normal speed). During the bridge, the stripes of the flag melt onto the floor. The band is then sprayed by a green liquid from amplifiers next to the flag. At the end, the band drop their instruments and leave.[21] The song's video was directed by Samuel Bayer. The video won the Viewer's Choice Award and also nominated as Best Art Direction.[22]

Live version edit

Green Day's 2011 live album Awesome as Fuck contained a live rendition of the song, featuring an extended guitar solo, recorded in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on the 21st Century Breakdown World Tour. It was also featured in their 2005 live album Bullet in a Bible, set at Milton Keynes Bowl.

Accolades edit

"American Idiot" was ranked the number 13 Single of the Decade by Rolling Stone magazine in 2009. VH1 also placed the song at number 13 on its Top 100 Songs of the 2000s in 2011.[23] Rolling Stone ranked it number 432 of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2010, the only Green Day song on the list.[24] The song is certified Gold in the United Kingdom for sales of 400,000.[25]

Use as a protest song edit

In advance of Donald Trump's visit to the UK in July 2018, a campaign to get "American Idiot" to the top of the UK song charts was launched.[26] On the Official UK Charts dated 13 July 2018, the song re-entered the UK Singles Chart at 25 and the UK Singles Downloads Chart at number 2.[27]

In 2019, Billie Joe Armstrong began changing the lyric "I'm not a part of a redneck agenda" to "I'm not a part of a MAGA agenda" during live performances. Armstrong has been strongly critical of Donald Trump, comparing him to Adolf Hitler.[28][29]

Track listings edit

Europe single (CD 1)
1."American Idiot"2:54
2."Too Much Too Soon"3:33
Europe single (CD 2)
1."American Idiot"2:54
3."Governator" (lyrics written by Mike Dirnt)2:31

7-inch picture disc

Side A
1."American Idiot"2:54
Side B
1."Too Much Too Soon"3:33
DVD Single
1."American Idiot" (music video)3:02
2."American Idiot" (live at the Grammy Awards in 2005)3:17

Personnel edit

Personnel adapted from American Idiot single liner notes[30]


Charts and certifications edit

Release history edit

Release dates and formats for "American Idiot"
Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
United States August 6, 2004 Reprise [65]
Digital download [1]
Germany [66]
United Kingdom [67]
September 13, 2004 CD [68]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "American single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot". Recording Industry Association of America.
  2. ^ a b Ensminger, David (July 4, 2020). "The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th". PopMatters. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Ian Winwood (May 9, 2012). "The Secrets Behind The Songs: "American Idiot"". Kerrang!. London: Bauer Media Group (1414). ISSN 0262-6624.
  4. ^ a b DiPerna 2005, p. 24.
  5. ^ a b Winwood 2010, p. 50.
  6. ^ "Viva La Revolution!". Q. May 2009. Archived from the original on July 13, 2014. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  7. ^ "International Superhits". Kerrang!. London: Bauer Media Group (1061): 52–53. June 18, 2005. ISSN 0262-6624.
  8. ^ Lanham 2004, p. 122.
  9. ^ "Bored of the USA". www.greendayauthority.com. December 1, 2004. Archived from the original on April 13, 2014. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  10. ^ "Learn to Play: Green Day - American Idiot". Total Guitar. London: Future plc: 42–44. October 2004. ISSN 1355-5049.
  11. ^ "Every Green Day album ranked". AltPress. April 7, 2022. Retrieved December 22, 2022.
  12. ^ "United States of Rage and Love: Green Day's 'American Idiot' - Introduction and "American Idiot"". PopMatters. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  13. ^ "Billboard August 28, 2004". August 28, 2004. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  14. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon. "Green Day Album Preview: Politics, Dynamics And A Rock Opera". MTV. Retrieved December 22, 2022.
  15. ^ Hopper, Alex (August 10, 2022). "Behind The Meaning of Green Day's Protest Song "American Idiot"". American Songwriter. Retrieved December 26, 2022.
  16. ^ "Green Day's "American Idiot" Lyrics Meaning". Song Meanings and Facts. August 10, 2020. Retrieved December 26, 2022.
  17. ^ "Green Day - American Idiot Lyrics Meaning". Lyric Interpretations. Retrieved December 26, 2022.
  18. ^ a b "Chart Beat Bonus". Billboard. March 23, 2001. Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  19. ^ Mayfield, Geoff (August 4, 2007). "Billboard Hot 100 To Include Digital Streams". Billboard magazine. Archived from the original on June 14, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2007.
  20. ^ Grein, Paul. "Week Ending July 25, 2010: It's Every Rapper For Himself". Yahoo! Music. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved December 3, 2011. Green Day fan: American Idiot (the song) has sold 1,371,000. Jesus Of Suburbia: 204K Holiday 1,452,000
  21. ^ "Green Day - American Idiot [OFFICIAL VIDEO]". www.youtube.com. YouTube. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  22. ^ "Green Day Dominates MTV Video Music Awards". Billboard. August 29, 2005. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  23. ^ "VH1 100 Greatest Songs Of The '00s". VH1. September 29, 2011. Archived from the original on March 4, 2014. Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  24. ^ "Rolling Stone Updates "500 Greatest Songs" List". CBS. June 2010. Archived from the original on June 1, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  25. ^ Certified Awards - Web Citation, February 6, 2013
  26. ^ Roisin O'Connor (July 10, 2018). "American Idiot by Green Day hits UK charts ahead of Trump visit". The Independent. Archived from the original on July 10, 2018. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  27. ^ Myers, Justin (July 13, 2018). "Green Day's American Idiot back in the Top 40 as President Trump visits UK". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  28. ^ Atkinson, Katie (September 20, 2019). "Green Day Take Aim at Trump With Some New 'American Idiot' Lyrics at 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival". Billboard. Retrieved July 9, 2023.
  29. ^ "American idiots are completely missing the point of Green Day's American Idiot". Louder. January 20, 2021. Retrieved July 9, 2023.
  30. ^ American Idiot (CD single liner notes). Green Day. Reprise. 2004.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  31. ^ "Green Day – American Idiot". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  32. ^ "Green Day – American Idiot" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  33. ^ "Green Day Chart History (Canadian Digital Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  34. ^ "R&R Canada Rock Top 30" (PDF). Radio & Records. No. 1575. October 1, 2004. p. 62. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  35. ^ "HR Top 20 Lista". Croatian Radiotelevision. Archived from the original on October 10, 2004. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  36. ^ "Oficiální Česká Hitparáda – Pro týden 4/2005" (in Czech). IFPI ČR. Archived from the original on February 4, 2005. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  37. ^ "Hits of the World – Eurocharts" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 116, no. 40. October 2, 2004. p. 39. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  38. ^ "Green Day – American Idiot" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  39. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – American Idiot". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  40. ^ "Green Day – American Idiot". Top Digital Download.
  41. ^ "Green Day – American Idiot" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved June 6, 2022.
  42. ^ "Green Day – American Idiot" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  43. ^ "Green Day – American Idiot". Top 40 Singles.
  44. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  45. ^ "Green Day – American Idiot". Singles Top 100.
  46. ^ "Green Day – American Idiot". Swiss Singles Chart.
  47. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  48. ^ "Official Rock & Metal Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  49. ^ "Green Day Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  50. ^ "Green Day Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard.
  51. ^ "Green Day Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard.
  52. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  53. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  54. ^ "Official Rock & Metal Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  55. ^ "Green Day Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved October 7, 2023.
  56. ^ "ARIA Top 100 Singles for 2004". ARIA. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  57. ^ "The Official UK Singles Chart 2004" (PDF). UKChartsPlus. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  58. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2004 Singles" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association.
  59. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot". Music Canada. Retrieved October 18, 2023.
  60. ^ "Danish single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  61. ^ "Italian single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  62. ^ "Japanese digital single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. Retrieved September 6, 2014. Select 2014年1月 on the drop-down menu
  63. ^ "Latest Gold / Platinum Singles". Radioscope. August 21, 2011. Archived from the original on August 31, 2011.
  64. ^ "British single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved August 19, 2022.
  65. ^ "Going for Adds" (PDF). Radio & Records. No. 1567. August 6, 2004. p. 23. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  66. ^ "American Idiot [Explicit]". Amazon. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  67. ^ "American Idiot [Explicit]". Amazon. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  68. ^ "New Releases: Singles". Music Week. September 11, 2004. p. 27.