The Election of 2016 may have come to end, but for many it seems to be just the start. Donald Trump is to be the president of the United States after an intense year campaigning and debating against Hillary Clinton, and many are not happy about this. In perhaps what is the most negative reception to a president ever, there are actual protests going on in the streets and many are saying that Trump "is not their president."
There's a new wave of rebellion rising in the United States, but for some, this may be similar to something they've heard before. In 2004, Green Day predicted, almost word-for-word, the disillusioned feelings many Americans are feeling in their rock opera American Idiot. The album follows the story of a man who just can't come to terms with his place in society and runs away in search of clarity.
The album is lead in by the iconic title track 'American Idiot,' what may perhaps be the most relevant track on the record to this year's election. It's no mystery that the media was one of, if not the most influential element of the election. As hindsight kicks in, we've begun dissecting what happened this election for it to come out with such unexpected results. Turns out we don't need to, since Green Day had summed it up twelve years ago. The DNC shoved a candidate we just didn't want? 'American Idiot' chants "Can you hear the sound of hysteria? / The subliminal mind fuck America." The media sought to, for lack of a better term, sabotage the election in favor of Clinton? The chorus sings of the "Television dreams of tomorrow." Our soon-to-be president is a bigot? The chorus is brought in by "Welcome to a new kind of tension / All across the alien nation." This track hit on more issues in 2004 than what is affecting us now in 2016 that we choose to believe.
Beyond the foreshadowed messages comes the rebellious and uplifting instrumental, complete with the melodic guitar solo and punchy riffs. This is only one key sound that reprises itself throughout the record. The story of the record starts falling into the place as the main character, the 'Jesus Of Suburbia' is introduced. Billie Joe Armstrong's vision of a futuristic 'Bohemian Rhapsody' becomes a modern tale as the song goes through five distinct parts: part one, where the drug addicted Jesus Of Suburbia (JOS, as we'll refer to him as) claims he does not want to become another 'American Idiot,' part two where he makes confessions about his own broken hometown and his own loneliness, part three where he gives up hope, part four in which he questions if what he's experiencing is normal, and the final part five where he runs away in search of finding a new life. It's an introduction that really sets the mood of self-absorption evolving into self-hate and a need for something new.
'Holiday' has two sentiments: for the JOS, it's hard living life on the streets. It's a crazy living, making him wonder why he left the simplicity of his home and, furthermore, if he's ready to handle this lifestyle. On a grander scale, however, 'Holiday' is an anti-war song. It treads away from the story of the record and instead goes straight into a political bashing, the chorus chanting "I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies / This is the dawning of the rest of our lives," as if to say we should be free from political brainwashing and be free to have our own opinions before there's nothing left of our own ideas.
The only other song on the record that treads away from the story is the iconic 'Wake Me Up When September Ends,' an emotional song not only for the listener but also for Armstrong. It's a somber track about the loss of his father to cancer on September 1, 1982. Armstrong ran home from his father's funeral and when his mother came home to console him, he cried "wake me up when September ends," which served as inspiration for this song. It gives the record some humanity, ultimately supplying a relatable sense to the record amongst the politically charged the themes throughout the record.
The album's story carries on from 'Holiday' in the hit 'Boulevard Of Broken Dreams,' the ultra-popular hit resonating on an equally as relatable level as 'September.' It elaborates and the lost and confused feelings the JOS is having as he travels away from home in search of his new life. The song's mood gives it a powerful and emotional vibe that is probably the same feeling that many others are having in the face of the election's results. America is lost, perhaps even scared, of the future ahead of us. What's important about this song is that in its climax, it almost brings together all of the lost souls into one emotional burst as if to say you're never really alone. We're all scared and confused, but together we can find comfort and achieve what we want.
The album starts to move ahead beyond the JOS's travels. 'Are We The Waiting' slows down the pacing of the record from the pop-rock tempos of the previous tracks. The group vocals and anthemic drums sound powerfully but almost dejectedly below arpeggiated guitar chords as hte JOS loses what's left of his sanity. In the empty shell of himself, he forms an alter ego in 'St. Jimmy,' the image of everything he wishes he could be. The track segues seamlessly from 'Waiting' in true rock opera fashion, the fast punk blistering forward in a punchy manner. He begins asking Jimmy for justification for a drug-ridden life in 'Give Me Novocaine' which agains slows down the pacing. The sweeter track sounds something like you'd hear in a paradise setting (perhaps influenced by all the drugs he's taking), the carefree nature of the track picking up some energy with powerful distorted guitars in its choruses.
As many will say, love (and time) heals all wounds. The JOS meets a girl known as Whatsername in 'She's A Rebel,' a punk girl with her own set of problems that helps free him from his own problems. In the nature of the modern day, this might as well be Hillary Clinton (though she never really goes away, so I doubt we'll be forgetting her name any time soon). The Indian vibes of 'Extraordinary Girl' tells of their relationship starting to crumble, as her problems - some of which may be the result of the JOS - start becoming too much, sadly summed up in the chorus: "She's all alone again / Wiping the tears from her eyes / Some days he feels like dying / She gets so sick of crying." It all comes to an end in 'Letterbomb,' where Whatsername leaves him over his melodramatic nature. The blistering punk rock vibes from the earlier tracks on the record returns in the track, bringing the edginess back into the picture.
The journey of the JOS comes to an end in the second 'Bohemian Rhapsody' of the record, 'Homecoming.' It's another track with five distinct parts, but in a less self-deprecating way. Instead, he comes to terms with himself and society: in part one, St. Jimmy dies (figuratively, in his mind) and the JOS realizes he has gained nothing from this experience, against his original mindset, and in part two he gets a job and accepts conformity. With that acceptance, though, he begins to feel empty again, waiting for Whatsername to return to no avail. Part three is sung by bassist Mike Dirnt, giving the song a little change in timbre. Drummer Tré Cool takes over vocals in part four, taking up the character Tunny, someone the JOS met on his time in the street. Tunny brags about his luxurious life as a rebel, making the JOS a bit jealous and empty. Part five, however, sees him coming to terms with everything: himself, society, etc. He's not quite sure about who he is or how he's doing, but he has come to terms with it all. He is himself.
The album's conclusion is 'Whatsername' - even though he has come to terms with his own life, there's one thing that alludes him: love. The emotional conclusion of the record brings anthemic, melodic leads in both the vocals and guitars as it builds to one final climax of energy. The JOS regrets losing Whatsername, and can ponders over where she is and why he ever left her. The second verse says it all: "Seems that she disappeared without a trace / Did she ever marry old Whatshisface? I made a point to burn all of the photographs / She went away and then I took a different path / I remember the face but I can't recall the name / Now I wonder how Whatsername has been." The song then hits an emotional bridge with driven guitars and harmonies in the vocals. The song ends in quietly and understatedly, as the JOS's story concludes by trying to get the memories of Whatsername out of his mind.
American Idiot is more than just a story about a rebel. It's the emotion of feeling like an outsider, as someone who doesn't feel like they belong to a society. That's what a good half of America is feeling right now - alienation as a result of a new leader. They band's newest effort Revolution Radio is almost like a sequel to this record, with more of a sense of where the world is currently at, but it's the uncertainty of American Idiot that really sells it as a foreshadowing of the United States today.
This album doesn't tell us that there's no hope, though. It reminds us that there are those just like us feeling the same way, and furthermore, that we have things to cling onto when everything seems lost. Green Day predicted the future in the most unfortunate of ways, but it also provided a lesson for us in case it did ever come true. If you're someone who feels that way, just remember that there is hope for the future; that's because we are the future.
Favorite Tracks: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, Holiday, American Idiot, Whatsername
Least Favorite Track: Are We The Waiting
Rating: 91 / 100