Kadyrn Guitron16 November 2017″American Idiot”AP EnglishSandersfeldPunk rock band Green Day has been notorious for always expressing their opinions and feelings throughout their songs as well as in live performances –2004 was no different. This was the era of President George W. Bush, the Iraqi war, and the age in which media influence on the average American soared. In their song “American Idiot”, Green Day felt the need to express their misrepresentation and screamed for Americans to find their own individuality without becoming a mindless idiot who followed others without hesitation.”American Idiot” overall is a fast paced song that is harmonic but is also rough with hard beats. While the music composition of the piece is simple with a drum set and (possibly 3) guitars, the mission of the song is complex. Green Day wanted to energize the audience into moving with the music and arouse a sense of rebellion and audaciousness.
The band accomplished this by keeping the drum set at a constant forte and the guitars at a fortissimo, with the exception of the non-chorus verses. During the non-chorus verses, both guitars cut out and the drum set is left playing with a consistent regular beat, thus creating emphasis on the lyrics. Lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice is also slightly altered as if he is talking through a radio or speaker -most likely a reference to the media while mimicking it- therefore creating further accentuation on the lyrics. The guitars then come back in to play for the chorus and shortly after each line of lyrics in the non-chorus, which allows the listener to ponder over the meaning of the lyrics.
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In the opening line Green Day immediately gives an overview of what the whole song will be about by saying: “Don’t wanna be an American Idiot”. Green Day is automatically separating themselves from other Americans who -just like stereotypes claim- are incredibly stupid. “It’s like, you’re trying to battle your way out of your own ignorance… like, ‘I don’t wanna be an American Idiot.’ What I want to be, I’m not sure, but I just want more. And I’m willing to take the risk to try to get out of that” (Armstrong, Fresh Air). Every American has a voice to show their own representation and that voice should be shared even if it means being labeled as something as stated in the eleventh line: “Well maybe I’m the fa**** America”. In these explicit terms Green Day is saying that if being anti-war and following their own beliefs means they are weak, then so be it.
Coincidently during the “American Idiot” video shoot, drummer Cool received a phone call from his nephew who wanted to join the war effort as a marine. Cool immediately talked his nephew out of the decision and guitarist Dirnt agreed in this judgment and said, “Maybe I’m naïve and I don’t understand how the world works, but I do know that life is precious. And my kid means a lot to me. And that means somebody else’s kid means a lot to them” (Pappademas, SPIN). The Iraqi War was approved by the President George W. Bush administration (which Green Day disliked very much) as shown in the twelfth line: “I’m not a part of a redneck agenda”. While being called a redneck is a common American stereotype, it is also an indirect reference to President George W. Bush and his plans -hence the president was born in Texas.
The term redneck was also included in the song because “Armstrong would reveal that he was partly inspired by hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘That’s How I like It’ in his car. ‘It was like, ‘I’m proud to be a redneck.’ And Armstrong was like, ‘Oh my God, why would you be proud of something like that? ‘This is exactly what I’m against'” (Loudwire). Americans come from all different backgrounds and not one particular label represents America alone as shown in the sixth line (that is also repeated in the song two more times): “All across the alien nation”.
The United States is a country with many different cultures from immigrants or “aliens”, coming from all over the world. Green Day also feels that during the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, “this a**hole of a president that they had, did not take the opportunity to join the rest of the world, he instead alienated us… …And Armstrong thinks as a country we became isolated and there was only one idea people were getting overseas or whatever they thought about America. He felt so misrepresented” (Armstrong, Roth). This could be seen from a cultural standpoint where overseas people are looking in on America and on how Americans view each other; people are just getting one idea, when there is so much more to America.
During the President George W. Bush administration, many Americans were in a disarray state and felt misrepresented. Because of this, these Americans disliked the president and felt that he was not fully representing America as a whole.
America was trying to find something to believe in and Green Day wants people to try and come out of their ignorance as shown in the third line: “And can you hear the sound of hysteria?” The Iraqi War contributed to this hysteria by showing a new side of the media where it connected emotionally to many Americans and citizens overseas. “The appearance in the news of photographs of U.S.
soldiers abusing Iraqis at HYPERLINK “https://www.britannica.com/topic/Abu-Ghraib-prison” Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad—a facility notorious for brutality under the Ba?th regime—further damaged world opinion of the United States” (Editors, Britannica).
The war hit emotionally with many people, because of the extent in which the cost –both in money and lives- became extremely high. Some people came to terms with the war while others followed the mass paranoia as shown in line fourteen: “And sing along to the age of paranoia”. Yet, this line is different from the rest of the song because the theme is to find your individuality, but within this line Green Day is conforming to the “American Idiot” they say not to be. For the Iraqi War when “violence continued and casualties mounted… …more Americans (including some who had initially supported the war) began to criticize the Bush administration for what they perceived to be the mishandling of the occupation of Iraq” (Editors, Britannica). Instead of forming their own opinion from the start, some Americans possibly switched their beliefs to fit certain morals, either for themselves or for others. This uneasiness to fit certain morals and formulate your own opinions helped contribute to the rising tension such as in line five (and repeated two more times): “Welcome to a new kind of tension” and in line four: “The subliminal mind-fu** America”. Naturally the nation will be divided on certain issues because of the wide range of backgrounds in which people came from. However both the war and the media are creating new unnecessary tension throughout the country as a whole.
“Armstrong feels like the government is trying to create a culture war between us in a lot of ways. They’re trying to get between your average citizens based on red and blue… …For me it’s important to get back to fundamentally what it feels like to be an American” (Gracie, FUSE). What is feels like to be an American is different for every citizen. Many feel the need to fit into groups and feel accepted within society. Those that don’t fit in feel devastated and feel as if their life from then on will become a disaster. Green Day is trying to assure Americans that are trying to find their way that they will not become a failure as shown in line seven (and repeated two more times): “Where everything isn’t meant to be okay”.
Some immigrants overseas have the belief that America is perfect and if you come here, everything will be okay. However reality disregards that belief and things can and will happen. Even the infamous Green Day once felt like this: “I was completely confused and scared. And I think after 9/11, I remember it just seemed like the country shut down. Everyone felt paralyzed. No one really knew what to do ’cause America –something that’s never really happened to us before” (Armstrong, MTV). America was in disarray and many citizens were completely bewildered on what to believe in and who they should follow.
The media helped increase this mass confusion because both the TV and the internet is a vast stream of endless information as shown in line twenty-three: “Information Age of hysteria”. Even in 2003, “…the Internet became a major source of news in America. In September 2003, over half of the people in the United States – 150 million – went online, a record for Web use. And half to two-thirds of those who go online use it at least some of the time to get news”(Shedden, Poynter). Americans not only embraced this new platform of information –they emerged themselves in it.The media is everywhere in an endless stream of information. Many Americans are just following what they see on the news, internet, and other media platforms while believing it to be the truth as shown in line twenty-two: “One nation controlled by the media” and line two: “Don’t want a nation under the new media”. Americans are utilizing the different media platforms and providers in order to fulfill their news needs.
Even if one does not like one news provider, that person could easily go elsewhere to find information that does fit their needs and beliefs. “Nearly one in five Americans now say the internet is a main source of their political news and information. Television is substantially ahead of other media as a primary source for campaign news for Americans. Fully 79% of all Americans – internet and non-internet users alike – said that television was the place where they got most of their news about the campaign” (Rainie, Pew). Even though these different media platforms are being utilized more than ever by the average American, some of it is not for the right reasons. Part of it is that there is a large amount of fake things on the internet and television and Green Day just can’t believe it. People are changing themselves in order to fit in with the norms and not expressing their own individuality as shown in line thirteen: “Now everybody do the propaganda”. and line eight (which is repeated two more times): “Television dreams of tomorrow”.
Everyone is following the media and the lies that they could be spreading blindly. In some cases the media is trying to make America sound like a dream and just full of positivity but only if you believe in particularly one thing. However that is not always the case because “significant numbers of Americans are turning to the Internet for news coverage and images they cannot find in the mainstream media. Over the last few months, war images have begun appearing online that were deemed too graphic and disturbing to be carried by the mainstream press. A significant number of Internet users, many of whom have explicitly gone looking for them, have seen these images online” (Shedden, Poynter). By using the method of stacking the deck, reality and news television shows creates a fantasy that people want to become a part of, which is expressed in line nineteen: “We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow”. America is meant to be a leader, a symbol of power and hope, and set standards for other nations because Americans are held in such high regards. But if the majority of our nation is under the influence of the media, Americans then become the followers, not the leaders.
“We were in the studio and watching the journalists embedded with the troops, and it was the worst version of reality television. Switch the channel, and its Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. Switch, and it’s Fear Factor. Switch, and people are having surgery to look like Brad Pitt. We’re surrounded by all of this bullsh**..
. …It’s a sign of the times” (Armstrong, Loudwire). Unpretentiously, if the media can grab the attention of a simpleton, then it has accomplished their goal of influencing someone which is shown in line twenty-four: “It’s calling out to idiot America”. This is a reference back to the overall theme of the song: finding your individuality in the mist of the media, war, and politics.
America is not meant to be a nation of mindless idiots, but a country that isn’t afraid to express themselves. “You just hope that people, in the same way that we are screaming out for individuality, people would declare themselves in opposition to something that they feel is not right. As opposed to saying ‘Well I kinda don’t think that’s cool.’ It’s like no, put your foot down” (Dirnt, HardMusicTV).If new ideas and forms of individuality aren’t established soon, then mass groups of people are going to start losing their identity. The most crucial aspect of one’s uniqueness will become someone else’s, then that aspect will no longer be special. Green Day wants to stop America from becoming imitations of one another. And just in case if the message didn’t quite reach a listener, Green Day ends “American Idiot” with: “For that’s enough to argue”.
This lyric provokes the thoughts and ideas that were implemented in the song throughout its entirety: something needs to change in the country, find your individuality, fight for what you believe in and Americans are leaders, and not blind followers. “It was attacking America, but it was American at the same time. Patriotism isn’t about being pro-anything… …
It’s about what you stand for and what you think America represents” (Armstrong, SPIN).Works CitedArmstrong, Billie Joe. Roth, Jordan. Youtube. Fora TV, Apr 19, 2011, Video. HYPERLINK “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWKObT_6Tuc” https://www.
youtube.com/watch?v=PWKObT_6TucChilders, Chad. “13 Years Ago: Green Day Release ‘American Idiot’.” Loudwire, 21 Sept. 2017, loudwire.com/green-day-american-idiot-album-anniversary/The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica.
“Iraq War.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 20 July 2016, www.britannica.com/event/Iraq-WarFresh Air.
“Billie Joe Armstrong, From Green Day To Broadway.” NPR, 27 May 2010, 12:00 PM ET, www.npr.org/2010/05/27/126395459/billie-joe-armstrong-from-green-day-to-broadway.Gracie, Bianca. “Green Day Recalls How Much Donald Trump Loved Their ‘American Idiot’ Musical.” Fuse, 27 Mar. 2017, www.
fuse.tv/2017/03/green-day-donald-trump-american-idiot-musical-broadway.Montgomery, James. “Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ Musical Is Political And Personal.
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org/2005/03/06/the-internet-and-campaign-2004/Shearer, Jim. Green Day. HardMusicTV.
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