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"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is a song by American punk rock band Green Day, from their seventh studio album, American Idiot. The song was written by Green Day, with lyrics by lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong; it was co-produced by the band and Rob Cavallo. It was released as the album's second single on November 29, 2004; the single peaked at number two in the United States.
The song speaks from the point of view of American Idiot's "main character", Jesus of Suburbia, and is a moderate midtempo song characterized by sombre and bleak lyrics. This is in contrast to the previous track on the album, "Holiday", which illustrates Jesus of Suburbia's "high" of being in The City. MTV's Green Day Makes a Video described "Holiday" as a party, and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" as the subsequent hangover.
Influences and coversEdit
Noel Gallagher of Oasis critised Green Day in late 2006, saying, "They should have the decency to wait until I am dead [before stealing my songs]. I, at least, pay the people I steal from that courtesy", referencing the fact that "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" uses the same chord progression as Oasis' hit single "Wonderwall". Gallagher's reaction may have partly been due to the emergence of "Boulevard of Broken Songs", a popular mash-up mixed by San Francisco DJ and producer Party Ben in late 2004. The mix consisted of elements from "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "Wonderwall", Travis' "Writing to Reach You" and Aerosmith's "Dream On" (another remix by Party Ben featured this, "Wonderwall" and Kanye West's "Flashing Lights").
This song was covered by Japanese pop singer Hikaru Utada acoustically with a guitar during an internet broadcast in December 2005. A video of it can be found. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is sung first and then fades into Passion (After the Battle version) from the Kingdom Hearts II original soundtrack.
Billie Joe Armstrong wrote the song while he was in his son Joey's bedroom.
In the 2005 VH1 Storytellers program featuring Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong stated that the title of the song was "nicked" from the famous Gottfried Helnwein painting of the same title, which features James Dean. Four earlier songs also have the same title: an old Harry Warren song, a Hanoi Rocks song, a Marianne Faithfull song, and a song by Brian Setzer from his 1986 album The Knife Feels Like Justice.
Lyrics from the song bear some resemblance to the Aaron Cometbus-penned track "I Walk Alone," recorded by Pinhead Gunpowder, a band in which Billie Joe Armstrong also sings. It appeared on their 1997 album, Goodbye Ellston Avenue. The song also shares some lyrics with the Whitesnake song "Here I Go Again"; the words "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" can be found in the lyrics of the Elvis Costello song "Brilliant Mistake", the Allman Brothers Band song "End of the Line", and the Deadsy song "The Key To Gramercy Park". The phrase "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" also appears in punk/new wave band Blondie's 1982 minor UK-hit single Island Of Lost Souls
A live version of this song can be found on Bullet in a Bible, a live album of Green Day performing at the Milton Keynes National Bowl.
Bluegrass band Honeywagon did a cover of the song on their tribute album to Green Day Pickin' on Green Day, while the German choir Gregorian did a cover, on their Masters of Chant Chapter V album, in the style of a Gregorian Chant.
The award-winning music video for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", which was directed by Samuel Bayer, depicts the band members after their car has stalled in the desert, and they begin a melancholy walk down a dusty road. Some clips show Tre looking like he's about to cry and Mike comforting him. Scenes are interspersed with video footage, taken from around Los Angeles, of homeless people and other miserable sights. The video also features performance footage of the band playing the song in an abandoned warehouse.
The music videos for "Holiday" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" were filmed with a single, continuous storyline — the video for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" picks up where "Holiday"'s left off, with the last few seconds of "Holiday" audible at the start of the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" video.
The video features a 1968 green Mercury Monterey convertible that was modified for filming in the "Holiday" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" videos. The car features a hood ornament in the shape of the hand and heart grenade image from the American Idiot album cover, which was also used in the video for "Holiday". But the "iron fist" was actually used in the video for "Walking Contradiction", when the band members meet at a car towards the end of the video. The band's name is also on the front of the hood in silver letters. The band rode this car to the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards ceremony.
As shown in an MTV Making the Video special, director Samuel Bayer used unorthodox techniques to achieve the aged look of the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" video, including physical damage to the film: scratching the film with razor blades, pouring coffee on it, and smudging cigarettes on it.
The video of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" won six awards at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2005, most notably for Video of the Year. It also won Best Group Video, Best Rock Video, Best Direction, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" was named "Record of the Year" at the Grammy Awards of 2006. The song's broad appeal was demonstrated by its performance on several less-publicized Billboard singles charts: it spent 14 weeks at #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks, 16 weeks at #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks, and was also successful on the Adult Top 40 charts.
In response to Hurricane Katrina and the popularity of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", Green Day donated all of the iTunes proceeds from this song for the year to the American Red Cross for Katrina aid efforts.