Music Journal: A Few Words In Defense Of Green Day

When people ask me what my favorite band is, I’m always a little hesitant.  Do I tell them what would seem like a reasonable answer for the kind of music I listen to, like Ryan Adams or Wilco?  Or do I tell them the band that is truly my favorite, the one that I have grown up with and went through many ups and downs of my life with their music as a source of guidance and power?  Do I really tell them that my favorite band is Green Day?

Yes, Green Day is my favorite band.

Now I’m guessing that after reading the above sentence you either smiled or cringed.  When I tell people Green Day is my favorite band I get more of the latter, followed by many statements attacking the band’s legitimacy as a “punk-rock band”.  When I try to express my love for this band I am usually shut down rather quickly, and my credentials for having good music taste are written off.

All this hate really makes me wonder: Why do so many people hate Green Day so much?

I think it’s simple: they’re extremely popular.

Green Day’s third album Dookie became one of the biggest albums of 1994, and they became one of America’s biggest bands in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. 2004’s American Idiot only made them bigger, and many people discovered, and rediscovered, the band.  They have fans all over the world and have won many music awards.  But with success comes a price.  Many fans were turned off by the band’s huge popularity, and music snobs all over the world raised their noises at the band for “selling out”.  I reject this notion that Green Day ever sold out, and the bickering of the band’s pop-disguised-as-punk sound is unnecessary.

So why should you give Green Day a chance?  I’ll tell you, but first a little back story.

When I was eleven my sister gave me her copy of Dookie and I really liked it.  I listened to that CD nonstop in my portable CD player (man weren’t those the days?) and I had found my first favorite band.  Everything about the band I loved – The attitude, the sound, and their look.  For the eleven-year-old me, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool were the coolest guys alive.

Then on my twelfth birthday – as if it were destiny – American Idiot was released, and my life was never the same.  I will always remember the first time I saw the music video for “American Idiot”, and I will always remember the first time hearing the word fuck on MTV.

I knew then that this wasn’t just another album – this was special.  The album spoke of chaos and fear on a national political scale, but I related it to the chaos and fear of a shy twelve-year-old kid growing into adolescence and trying to find his place in the world.  The album was a source of comfort for me, and I owe a lot to this band for creating something that I care about so much.

So obviously I’m biased towards this band.  I love all of their albums – shout out to Nimrod especially – and I will always support whatever the band is doing (though I hope their next album isn’t another concept album).  You may not have the kind of history with the band as I do, but I guarantee you have some opinion on the band.

So here are some key points we should keep in mind when it comes to Green Day.

1. You probably grew up with Dookie.

And you loved it!  For a lot of us, Dookie was the first album we bought or listened to.  It’s fast, furious, and sometimes really funny (wait till the final hidden track and you’ll see).  The band may have never sounded like The Sex Pistols, but they sure talked like them.  With songs full of getting high, masturbation, and achieving as a underachiever, this is as punk as it can get without its political side – The Clash these guys are not.  After seventeen years this album still kicks ass.

2. American Idiot is better than most of you will ever admit.

This album got huge MTV air time and was very popular, and just because of that many fans were turned off.  For me this album perfectly summed up what it was like living in the hectic early years of the 21st century, and can anyone disagree?  Yes it’s very likely your mom knows some of the words to “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, but the album has incredible depth.  Two nine minute songs that don’t suck, no weak tracks, and “Letterbomb”, arguably the album’s best song that stacks up with the band’s best songs.  If you can get over yourself, you’ll find this to be a strong album.

3. Green Day is one of the last big rock bands, and Billie Joe Armstrong could very well be one of the last rock stars.

This is a pretty bold statement I know, but I’m going with it anyways.  Why are there no more Pete Townsends in popular music?  Why is it that Rolling Stone magazine only have Bruce Springsteen, Bono, and Mick Jagger on its covers and no one born after 1970?  Probably because rock bands, and rock stars, are a dying breed.  Indie rock has done many things to music, but mainly it has challenged them to be underachievers and to dismiss any popular music as crap.  There are a few bands remaining that are as universally popular as Green Day, and Billie is the closest thing to my generation’s Pete Townsend (I’m talking about American Idiot era, not Dookie era).  He’s outspoken, a great live performer, and a talented songwriter that actually cares about the music.

4. Green Day are a POP-punk band – they have never claimed to be anything else.

If you listen to the band’s first album and compare it to their newer stuff – ok maybe not including 21st Century Breakdown – you’ll find that the music is still similar.  1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hour and Kerplunk! might be rougher, but the music is still poppy.  They have never said they were at any time better than The Clash, The Sex Pistols, or The Ramones.  To call these guys sellouts is redundant, is any band guilty of selling out if they write great music and gather new fans because of it?

5. The band has six other awesome albums.

Dookie and American Idiot are their most successful albums, but the band has a great track record with all their albums.  American Idiot is more meaningful to me, but I probably listened to Nimrod more, and Warning is a unique album for this band to make (a mexican shuffle in a song about getting high?).  I’m not even including two great live albums, a fantastic greatest hits complication, and an album full of B-sides that don’t suck.

No matter what is said about the band I will still love them.  American Idiot will always be my favorite album, and I owe a lot to this band for my passion of music.  I’m not telling you that you should love this band, but I am saying that you shouldn’t be surprised when ten or twenty years from now we’ll be putting up American Idiot as one of the best albums of the noughties.  Give me a call when these guys are inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame – it should be coming up soon.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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3 Comments

  1. Cringe-tastic article, Brady!!!

    Music is what people make it to be. Does it mean something to you? Then good. Don’t listen to the haters, they only hate because they are insecure about their music taste.

    I choose not to listen to Nickelback because I think it’s really bad stuff, but I am not going to go out of my way to make sure their fans no my opinion.

    I think a lot of people are turned off by Green Day because of the way they got famous. Which was on the coat tails of the so-called grunge explosion. It’s the same reason why Stone Temple Pilots will never be considered “rock gods.”

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