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On September 11th, 2001 the biggest terrorist attack in the history of the United States occurred. Immediately after these malicious attacks were confirmed, President George W. Bush demanded action be taken against the terrorist who murdered nearly 3,000 Americans. This caused a media frenzy surrounding the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. 

In comes Green Day. An American punk-rock band from the Bay Area consisting of lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool. With their breakout hit album “Dookie” Green Day rose to success in the early 1990s. The following three albums were not as successful and in the early 2000s, Green Day took a brief break to sort their lives out. After nearly breaking up, the band came back together to write a new album. They began to reflect on the state of the country and Armstrong started writing lyrics. On the way to a writing session, Armstrong was in the car and  Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That’s How I Like It” came on.

In multiple interviews Armstrong 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 start writing. From this moment the album and hit single “American Idiot” was born. 

When speaking to NPR’s Terry Gross Armstrong shared his emotions during the time of the Bush Presidency. 

“In the beginning, you know, right after, you know, 9/11 and then watching sort of the tanks going into Iraq and everything sort of, you know, these embedded journalists, you know, going in, you know, live. It felt like a cross between – it was a cross between war and reality television.

And so I just felt this, like, great sort of confusion, and I was, like, someone needs to say something. I don’t really know – you know, I don’t know how it’s going to come out, but, you know, whatever it has to be, it’s got to be something very bold and get someone’s attention immediately. 

Just as – you know, because if you’re so distracted, you know, by what’s going on on television, you’re just watching it, it’s like, but in reality what you’re doing is you’re sitting there on the couch and just sort of seeing, you know, the world unfold and explode and lives being lost right in front of your very eyes.

So for me, it was just I kind of felt this moment of just, it was like rage and patriotism, I guess, if you’d want to call it that. And I just wanted to write something that was, you know, it just felt very – that wrote itself in probably 30 seconds.”

Punk, the brother of the rock and grunge genres takes certain elements of both to create revolutionary music. Talking about taking a stand against corporate powers, corruption, and discrimination, punk says things everyone else is too afraid to say.

The album “American Idiot” was written as a punk rock opera. That’s an album of songs that are written as a story. It was later adapted in 2008 into a hit Broadway musical of the same name. The story follows the journey of 3 young American men, struggling to find their meaning in life living in a post 9/11 world. Much like the band members of Green Day, the main characters struggle with personal things like drugs and relationships. 

The show took a theatrical turn on a traditional punk album but kept the same emotion and anger that was written into the original. Even the songs were adapted to support a multiple-part harmony and arranged to evokes an emotional connection with the audience. 

When Green Day went on The Howard Stern Show in 2019 they performed a few songs, among them was of course, “American Idiot”. This performance was a bit different. The band, now nearly 20 years older than the original recording, changed the lyrics. Instead of singing “I’m not a part of a redneck agenda” Armstrong changes the lyrics to “I’m not a part of a MAGA agenda”. This is in reference to his popularly known opposition to Donald Trump and his slogan “Make America Great Again”. The anger of this song is seemingly timeless almost two decades later as a simple word change can make this song feel more relatable than ever for that time in America.

It was another very politically tumultuous time that had many people divided into their values and views because of the country’s former leader. With different struggles than the wars of the early 2000s and 9/11, the United States had a similar amount of stress and disagreements in 2016 regarding the actions of the President. Billie Joe Armstrong once again used his voice in song to be an advocate for those who felt underrepresented in the country and in the media. American Idiot will forever be the song to represent the underrepresented voices of American history because it gives power to the feeling of being different.