In my previous blog post, I went into depth about the music video for Green Day’s song “American Idiot”. For this post, I want to focus on an alternative version of the song, as well as a more recent live version and a cover. 

“This new musical follows the exhilarating journey of a new generation of young Americans, lead by friends Johnny, Tunny and Will, as they struggle to find meaning in a post-9/11 world, borne along by Green Day’s electrifying score. When the three disgruntled men flee the constraints of their hometown for the thrills of city life, their paths are quickly estranged when Tunney enters the armed forces, Michael is called back home to attend familial responsibilities, and Johnny’s attention becomes divided by a seductive love interest and a hazardous new friendship.” –

Knowing that brief synopsis of the musical allows you to better understand the stage dynamic of the following performance. This is the cast of “American Idiot” on stage at the 2010 Tony Awards, introduced by songwriter himself, Billie Joe Armstrong. 

Though a highly theatrical performance of a pop-punk song, many elements of the original genre stay the same throughout. The guitar riff stays the same, though during the solo there is a dance break. Everyone on the stage is wearing regular street clothes of the early 2000s. The dancing, headbanging, and jumping around the stage is a more literal interpretation of the lyrics and the anger that the songwriter, Armstrong, was feeling when writing the hit. You can see through the manic movements and the dramatic facial expressions that the actors are very in character and truly embracing the angst of “American Idiot”.

Next up is a 2019 live performance of “American Idiot” by Green Day themselves on The Howard Stern Show. This is a significant change from the original music video as the band is now nearly 20 years older, and changing up the lyrics a little bit. 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 former leader of the country. With different struggles than the wars of the early 2000s and 9/11, the United States had a similar amount of stress and disagreements between its citizens in regard to 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. 

The final version of “American Idiot” that I am going to analyze is a cover by the Australian band 5 Seconds of Summer. This performance is also from The Howard Stern Show, but the band has been known to perform this live in concert as well. (I chose this version because it was the clearest way to hear the performance without the audience screaming.) Similar to the Green Day performance of this song the band plays the song at full speed and volume, even adding their own spin on things. During the chorus, there are multiple harmonies from the three singing members. Towards the bridge, each member of the band gets a solo on their own instrument. These are two very different additions from the original. The importance of this performance by an Australian group is the impact that Green Day had on them. A song that is by Americans, for Americans is performed and re-popularized by a group that was born at least 20 years after the members of Green Day were. That just shows the power and longevity of a song that has a strong message and timeless values.