A look back at the defining rock album of the 2000’s, American Idiot
By Austin Vicars
After releasing punk classic “Dookie” in 1994, it seemed as if Green Day had reached the pinnacle of their career. With the danger of being labeled “has beens,” Green Day released a politically charged rock opera, in post 9/11 America. Then, the fear of terrorism was in full swing and political tensions were sky high, and “American Idiot” could not have come at a more perfect time on Sept. 20, 2004.
The album takes the story of a suburban boy becoming a man and uses it as a plateau to speak out against the government. At its heart, the epic, ten minute song “Jesus Of Suburbia” tells the story of Jimmy (the Jesus of suburbia) becoming fed up and confused with his suburban life, which leads to Jimmy’s departure from home. Upon leaving, Jimmy finds this new excitement in his life told through the song “Holiday.”
But with every party comes the hangover. After his brief holiday, Jimmy finds himself depressed and wondering what’s next. As a result of being beaten down by the world, Jimmy creates an alter ego in the song “St. Jimmy,” a rougher, tougher version of Jimmy. Jimmy goes through a stunt of reckless behavior as part of his newfound self.
Dealing with poverty and depression, new anti-hero St. Jimmy falls victim to drug addiction. This addiction is told in what is possibly Green Day’s most beautiful song, “Give Me Novacaine.”
Despite heavy drug usage, Jimmy falls in love with a girl who is referred to as “Whatsername” throughout the album. The next two songs on the record “She’s a Rebel” and “Extraordinary Girl” are dedicated to Jimmy’s love for Whatsername. Jimmy’s luck runs dry quickly though, and in the next song “Letterbomb” Whatsername leaves him. Jimmy can’t seem to catch a break and falls deeper into depression than ever before in the song “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”
Green Day front man, Billie Joe Armstrong, initially wrote the song about his dad passing away, but the song ties into Jimmy’s story as well. Many also believe the song is in reference to the tragic events of 9/11.
In terms of Jimmy’s story, it’s a time of mourning and sadness. The next song “Homecoming” clocks in just over nine minutes tells the return of St. Jimmy back to his hometown where he feels as if his life is wasting away. As part of his new boring life, Jimmy kills his alter ego St. Jimmy when Armstrong sings, “Jimmy died today…He blew his brains out into the bay…In the state of mind it’s my own private suicide.”
Jimmy now has cut ties with his former self and is living a life he never wanted. It appears everyone has left him and is doing better without him, so Jimmy ultimately comes to the conclusion to come back home. The song “Homecoming” has a bittersweet feeling.
The album ends on the closer “Whatsername” as Jimmy is left recalling his memories and times with Whatsername as Armstrong sings, “I’ll never turn back time…Forgetting you, but now the time.” “American Idiot” isn’t only an album with a collection of good songs; it’s a story, told through a collection of great songs. It isn’t just the story of Jimmy and his struggles; it’s a story of a generation and their struggles.