For my listening posts, I am choosing to analyze the song “American Idiot” by Green Day. This song was released on September 20, 2004, as a form of protest against the media coverage of the Iraq War and the Bush Administration. 

“Don’t want a nation under the new media”

In the years leading up to the release of this song, the United States was experiencing many historical events. George W. Bush was inaugurated as president in January 2001, and a few months later the attacks on the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and Flight 93 occurred. This led to the deaths of thousands of Americans including many first responders running to the aid of the people within the fallen buildings. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush called to hold those who took credit for the terror attacks accountable. The years following 9/11 showed lots of media coverage showing the United States’ presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. Allowing reporters to get up close and personal with soldiers doing their jobs. Throughout the years, the publicity of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was common on many stations, becoming a staple of American news for many years. During this time George W. Bush was re-elected as President of the United States for another term. 

“Can you hear the sounds of hysteria?”

The genre of Green Day’s music allows them to make such an impactful political record for that time period. Being categorized as pop-punk and punk rock allow them to have more open creative liberties when it comes to releasing music. From the lyrics to the actual musicality of the song, there is room within the genres to experiment with new things. The concept album of “American Idiot” has two distinctly political songs, with the rest following characters living in modern America of the time. In the case of the title track “American Idiot” the lead singer of the band, Billie Joe Armstrong, wrote the song himself. In multiple interviews he cites his anger towards the culture of the country at the time, referencing hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That’s How I Like It” on the radio in the car as his tipping point to writing the hit song. 

Armstrong told Alternative Press when the album was released that many of the themes that were included in the song were from his own confusion about the current state of the country. The sense of divide was difficult for him to navigate let alone explain to his then 9 and 5-year-old sons. Many of the lines in the song mention the media whether it is “don’t want to be controlled by the media” or “one nation under the new media”. It makes the point that Armstrong struggles with the new culture of “in-your-face marketing” by brands, which is exactly what Green Day does when executing this song. There is also a lot of explicit language used throughout the song. The one line that undoubtedly stands out from the rest is “Well maybe I’m the f***** America”. The use of such a controversial word in company with the name of his own country shows the juxtaposition of his emotions. Armstrong is telling the world that he feels like an outsider in his own country because of all of the chaos that is happening within it. Overall this song is a way for the band to provide an unpopular opinion of the state of the nation while giving the disenfranchised a voice at the same time.