Looking Back: American Idiot

Photo: Felisha Tolentino

Photo: Felisha Tolentino

It’s September 20 and, a decade ago today, Green Day released their seventh album, American Idiot. Today, this record still stands as one of the most influential releases of the band, as well as of punk rock.

American Idiot is one of those albums that I don’t frequently listen to from start to finish, despite it being an album that, to truly enjoy and relish in it, one really should listen to the entire thing. Ten years ago today, I was seven years old. I wish I could say that I was one of those kids who’s parents didn’t care what music they listened to at that age, but that would be a lie. Despite being so young, this record shaped me in the years to come. There’s thousands of reviews, and thousands of opinions of this record. I’m not going to pick it apart, or go into extreme details because otherwise, it’d probably take me until the record turns twenty to hash out every bit of emotional attachment I have to each track. So, instead, I’m going to just appreciate this album as I did 10 years ago, and still do to this day.

At the time, one of my friends’ favourite band was Green Day. I don’t remember the exact moment that I first heard a Green Day song, but it was probably through him. It was never like, I heard one song and had a life changing, self realization epiphany that music was going to later become the driving force in my life. I was only a kid. It wasn’t just pinpointed to one moment, it was progressive. I wasn’t really allowed to listen to any sort of music that was about suggestive subject matter. Again, I was seven. My buddy knew that, so he burned me a disc with one Green Day song off of American Idiot; “Holiday”. I still have the CD to this day. 

Music over the past 10 years has evolved so much, especially in terms of accessibility. I didn’t know what YouTube was until probably six years ago. Kids in elementary school didn’t have an iPod. I had a Walkman, and I could only listen to whatever I could get my hands on. It would be yet another lie to say that this album was the anthem and the soundtrack to my preteen years. However, when I was probably about nine, is when I got my hands on a physical copy of the album. Two of my other friends snuck the album into my house. They slept over, and I remember listening to it. I can recall hearing the first track off the album, “American Idiot”, for the first time. I’d listened to a censored version of the song before, but to hear the cursing was somewhat of new experience to me. I’d never listened to music like this before. I grew up on classic rock, but never punk rock. The next track, the nine minute epic “Jesus of Suburbia” blew my mind. I didn’t know a song could be like that. I didn’t know it could be that long and still hold my attention. After I’d finished the album, and, to be honest, I can’t remember if I did or not, I knew that I’d found my new favourite band.

This was one of the first concept albums I’d ever been exposed to. Up until then, I didn’t really pay much attention to music. I just thought that it was something cool. It wasn’t until I first heard American Idiot that I really understood. Music has a purpose, and music can tell a story. This is one of those albums that successfully conveys a story, with a message that can resonate with everyone. Music can make you feel. American Idiot made me feel like it was okay to be angry, and that, not to sound completely cliche, that it was okay to rebel against anything that you didn’t feel was right. This record exposed me to an entire new country as well: America. I was born and raised in Canada, and I never really had any idea or concept of what America was as a society. I didn’t realize that there was a war going on, or any of the reasons behind it. As I discovered, and as I learned, this album was a battle cry. It didn’t glamourize, it didn’t bullshit anything. It was an underground epic that expressed every emotion. This record lead a revolution for all the outcasts, and people who felt like no one will ever understand who they are or listen to what they have to say. American Idiot was a stepping stone for music. A lot of times, people think they’ve heard it all; that everything blends together and there’s nothing creative or original anymore. Many people still argue that American Idiot is not, and never will be Green Day’s best album. I disagree. It completely changed the game. It inspired, pushed the boundaries, and sent a message. This was the record that Green Day needed to release. Not just for themselves, but for the world to hear. I’m proud to call this one of my favourite albums. It’s not a direct narration of my life, but it helped me to understand the world around me. Above all, it helped me understand, and really listen to the messages and meanings of music.