American Idiot is the seventh studio album by the American punk rock band Green Day. It was released on September 21, 2004 through Reprise Records and was produced by longtime collaborator Rob Cavallo. In mid-2003, the band began recording songs for an album titled Cigarettes and Valentines, but the master tracks were stolen, and the band decided to start recording a new album rather than re-record Cigarettes and Valentines.
Green Day decided to produce a rock opera, inspired by the work of The Who and several musicals. The album follows the life of Jesus of Suburbia, a character with "anti-hero" image created by Billie Joe Armstrong. Following early recording at Studio 880 in Oakland, California, the band finished the album at Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood.
The album achieved success worldwide, charting in 27 countries and peaking at number one in 19 of them, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Since its release, American Idiot has sold over 14 million copies worldwide, over 6 million copies of which were in the United States alone, including 267,000 in its opening week. The album spawned five successful singles, including the international hits "American Idiot", "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "Holiday", and "Wake Me Up When September Ends"; all of which received Platinum certification by the RIAA
Background and recording
In 2000, Green Day released the folk-influenced album Warning. The record was considered to be a commercial disappointment, and the band decided to take a break from music after co-headlining the Pop Disaster Tour with Blink-182. Hoping to clear his head and develop new ideas for songs, vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong traveled to New York City alone for a few weeks, renting a small apartment in the East Village ofManhattan. He spent much of this time taking long walks and participating in jam sessions in the basement of Hi-Fi, a bar in Manhattan.
In mid-2003, Green Day convened at Studio 880 in Oakland, California, and recorded about 20 songs for an album titled Cigarettes and Valentines. However, the master tracks were stolen.The band consulted producer Rob Cavallo about what to do next. Cavallo told the members to ask themselves if the missing tracks represented the group's best work. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong said that the band members "couldn't honestly look at ourselves and say, 'That was the best thing we've ever done.' So we decided to move on and do something completely new."The band members agreed to spend the next three months writing new material.
One day, bassist Mike Dirnt was in the studio recording a 30-second song by himself. Armstrong decided he wanted to do the same, and drummer Tré Cool followed suit. Armstrong recalled, "It started getting more serious as we tried to outdo one another. We kept connecting these little half-minute bits until we had something." This musical suite became "Homecoming", and the group subsequently wrote another suite, "Jesus of Suburbia". The band followed concept records by The Who, as well as musicals such as West Side Story and Jesus Christ Superstar. During the group's sessions at Studio 880, the members of Green Day spent their days writing material and would stay up late, drinking and discussing music. The band set up a pirate radio station from which it would broadcast jam sessions, along with occasional prank calls.
With demos completed, Green Day relocated to Los Angeles to continue work on the album. The group first recorded at Ocean Way Recording, then moved to Capitol Studios to complete the album. Armstrong said, "As a songwriter, I get so deep into what I'm writing about, it's almost like I have to stir up shit to write about it." The band admitted to partying during the L.A. sessions; Armstrong had to schedule vocal recording sessions around his hangovers. Armstrong described the environment, "For the first time, we separated from our pasts, from how we were supposed to behave as Green Day. For the first time, we fully accepted the fact that we're rock stars."
American Idiot is a concept album that describes the story of a central character named Jesus of Suburbia. Frontman Armstrong said, "As soon as you abandon the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge song structure ... it opens up your mind to this different way of writing, where there really are no rules." He also added that "the band aimed to be ambitious, which he felt many contemporary rock bands were not."
The band used more loud guitar sounds for the record. Armstrong said "we were like, 'Let's just go balls-out on the guitar sound—plug in the Les Pauls and Marshalls and let it rip'". Armstrong added tracks of acoustic guitar-playing throughout the record to augment his electric guitar rhythms and Cool's drumming. American Idiot has been described as punk rock, pop punk and alternative rock
The album follows the life of Jesus of Suburbia, a character with anti-hero image created by Billie Joe Armstrong. Jesus of Suburbia hates his town and those close to him, so he leaves for the city. As the album progresses the characters St. Jimmy and Whatsername are introduced. St. Jimmy is a punk rock freedom fighter. Whatsername, inspired by the Bikini Kill song "Rebel Girl", is a "Mother Revolution" figure that Armstrong described as "kind of St. Jimmy's nemesis in a lot of ways". Both characters illustrate the "rage vs. love" theme of the album, in that "you can go with the blind rebellion of self-destruction, where Saint Jimmy is. But there's a more love-driven side to that, which is following your beliefs and ethics. And that's where Jesus of Suburbia really wants to go", according to Armstrong. Near the end of the story, St. Jimmy commits suicide. While the singer did not want to give away the details of the story's resolution, he said the intention is for the listener to ultimately realize that Jesus of Suburbia is really St. Jimmy, and Jimmy is "part of the main character that pretty much dies". In the album's final song, "Whatsername", Jesus of Suburbia loses his connection with Whatsername as well
|2.||"Jesus of Suburbia"|
I. "Jesus of Suburbia"
II. "City of the Damned"
III. "I Don't Care"
IV. "Dearly Beloved"
V. "Tales of Another Broken Home"
|4.||"Boulevard of Broken Dreams"||4:20|
|5.||"Are We the Waiting"||2:42|
|7.||"Give Me Novacaine"||3:25|
|8.||"She's a Rebel"||2:00|
|11.||"Wake Me Up When September Ends"||4:45|
I. "The Death of St. Jimmy"
II. "East 12th St."
III. "Nobody Likes You" (lyrics written by Mike Dirnt)
IV. "Rock and Roll Girlfriend" (lyrics written by Tré Cool)
V. "We're Coming Home Again"