American Idiot (song)

"American Idiot" is a protest song[1] by the American rock band Green Day. It is the title track from their seventh studio album of the same name and released as the first single from it. 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"
Green Day - American Idiot single cover.jpg
Single by Green Day
from the album American Idiot
B-side"Too Much Too Soon"
ReleasedAugust 31, 2004
RecordedFebruary 23, 2004
Green Day singles chronology
"American Idiot"
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams"
Music video
"American Idiot" on YouTube


One of the two explicitly political songs on the album (the other being fellow single "Holiday"),[2] "American Idiot" contends 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.[3] Armstrong went on to write the song after hearing the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "That's How I Like It" on his car radio.[4] "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."[citation needed] 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."[5] The song emphasizes strong language, juxtaposing the words "faggot" and "America", to create what he imagined would be a voice for the disenfranchised.[6]

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."[7]


"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.[8] The song is classified as a punk rock[9] and pop punk song.[10] 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."[3] The song's format and cadence was influenced by the Midnight Oil song "US Forces", which Armstrong was introduced to through his wife.[4]


Released in 2004, the single peaked at number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Green Day's first Billboard Hot 100 chart entry.[11] 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.[11] 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.[12] "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.[13]

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."[2]

Music videoEdit

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 for some unknown reason 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.[14] The song's video was directed by Samuel Bayer. The video won the Viewer's Choice Award and also nominated as Best Art Direction.[15]

Live versionEdit

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.


"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.[16] Rolling Stone ranked it number 432 of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2010, the only Green Day song on the list.[17] The song is certified Gold in the United Kingdom for sales of 400,000.[18]

Use as a protest songEdit

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.[19] 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.[20]

Track listingEdit

All lyrics are written by Billie Joe Armstrong, except where noted; all music is composed by Green Day.

Promo CD single
1."American Idiot" (Radio edit)2:54
2."American Idiot" (Album version)2:54
3."Favorite Son"2:14
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



Charts and certificationsEdit


  1. ^ Ensminger, David (July 4, 2020). "The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th". PopMatters. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Ian Winwood (May 9, 2012). "The Secrets Behind The Songs: "American Idiot"". Kerrang!. London: Bauer Media Group (1414). ISSN 0262-6624.
  3. ^ a b DiPerna 2005, p. 24.
  4. ^ a b Winwood 2010, p. 50.
  5. ^ "International Superhits". Kerrang!. London: Bauer Media Group (1061): 52–53. June 18, 2005. ISSN 0262-6624.
  6. ^ Lanham 2004, p. 122.
  7. ^ "Bored of the USA". December 1, 2004. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  8. ^ "Learn to Play: Green Day - American Idiot". Total Guitar. London: Future plc: 42–44. October 2004. ISSN 1355-5049.
  9. ^ "United States of Rage and Love: Green Day's 'American Idiot' - Introduction and "American Idiot"". PopMatters. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  10. ^ "Billboard August 28, 2004". August 28, 2004. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Chart Beat Bonus". Billboard. Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ "Green Day - American Idiot [OFFICIAL VIDEO]". YouTube. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  15. ^ "Green Day Dominates MTV Video Music Awards". Billboard. August 29, 2005. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  16. ^ "VH1 100 Greatest Songs Of The '00s". VH1. Archived from the original on March 4, 2014. Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  17. ^ "Rolling Stone Updates "500 Greatest Songs" List". CBS. June 2010. Archived from the original on June 1, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  18. ^ Certified Awards - Web Citation, February 6, 2013
  19. ^ Roisin O'Connor (July 10, 2018). "American Idiot by Green Day hits UK charts ahead of Trump visit". The Independent. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  22. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
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  27. ^ "Hits of the World – Eurocharts" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 116 no. 40. October 2, 2004. p. 39. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  28. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  29. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – American Idiot". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  30. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot". Top Digital Download.
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  35. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot". Swiss Singles Chart.
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  37. ^ "Official Rock & Metal Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
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  45. ^ "The Official UK Singles Chart 2004" (PDF). UKChartsPlus. p. 1. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  46. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2004 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. Archived from the original on July 27, 2020.
  47. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot". Music Canada.
  48. ^ "Danish single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot". IFPI Denmark. Retrieved October 22, 2019. Scroll through the page-list below until year 2019 to obtain certification.
  49. ^ "Italian single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved May 14, 2018. Select "Tutti gli anni" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "American Idiot" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
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  52. ^ Myers, Justin (September 19, 2019). "Number 1 today in 2004: Eric Prydz beats Girls Aloud and Green Day to the top". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
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