American Idiot is the seventh studio album by Green Day, released in 2004. The album was essentially responsible for their comeback after the huge expectations that their 1994 breakout album Dookie rose remained unmatched by their next three albums, with their most recent release (Warning) reaching all-time lows in commercial sales.
An ambitious Rock Opera Concept Album, American Idiot is a Coming-of-Age Story following the Anti-Hero protagonist, Jesus of Suburbia (JOS, Johnny in the Musical), as he matures from a rebellious youth to a jaded adult.
As a teenager, JOS is cynical of society and dissatisfied with his life as an every-man in his town, desensitised by a steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin ("Jesus of Suburbia"). The song also introduces a rage vs. love theme prevalent throughout the plot.
JOS decides to leave his broken home and seek a new life for himself in the city. Here, JOS meets St. Jimmy, the son of a bitch and Edgar Allan Poe, a punk rock freedom fighter ("St. Jimmy"). St. Jimmy can be interpreted as an actual person and a bad influence on JOS, introducing him to drugs ("Give Me Novocaine"), or as an alternate personality JOS creates for himself, representing blind, self-destructive rebellion.
JOS is also introduced to Whatsername ("She's A Rebel") and they begin a romantic relationship. JOS is attracted to Whatsername's rebellious, troubled nature. However, because of the combined influence of St. Jimmy and JOS's drug addiction, Whatsername leaves JOS ("Letterbomb"). St. Jimmy commits suicide and JOS leaves the punk scene ("Homecoming"). Eventually he conforms to a normal life and forgets Whatsername, only remembering her face ("Whatsername").
The album won several awards, with the most notable ones being two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album and Record of the Year ("Boulevard of Broken Dreams"). It also received five more nominations including for Album of the Year.
Starting in 2009, Idiot received its own Broadway musical that won two 2010 Tony Awards for Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design, and was even up for the Best Musical award as well. On top of that, it won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. In turn, a documentary depicting the album's journey to Broadway was released in 2013 under the name Broadway Idiot, premiering at SXSW 2013 and later going into select theatres as well as to VOD. The movie received mixed reviews.
Also provided the basis for the mash-up album American Edit by "Dean Gray", which remixes tracks from the album with an extremely diverse range of other songs, ranging from Bryan Adams and The Offspring to The Beatles, the Bangles, Queen and the Doctor Who theme. It's surprisingly good and expands on the plot of the album. The band's label objected to the mash-up, but Billie Joe Armstrong supposedly heard it and approved.
- "American Idiot"
- "Jesus Of Suburbia" note
- "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams"
- "Are We The Waiting?"
- "St. Jimmy"
- "Give Me Novacaine"
- "She's A Rebel"
- "Extraordinary Girl"
- "Wake Me Up When September Ends"
- "Homecoming" note
Bonus Track (Japanese Release):
- "Favorite Son"
Bonus Tracks (iTunes Deluxe Edition):
- "Too Much Too Soon"
- "Jesus Of Suburbia (Music Video)"
- Billie Joe Armstrong - lead vocals, guitar
- Tré Cool - drums, percussion, backing and lead vocals
- Mike Dirnt - bass, backing and lead vocals
Boulevard of Broken Tropes:
- Adaptation Expansion: The musical adds onto the JOS plot with stories of his two best friends. There's Will, who wants to leave but has to stay home with his pregnant girlfriend, and Tunny, who initially goes to the city with JOS but then ends up joining the army.
- The musical also has many songs from the successor 21st Century Breakdown.
- All There in the Manual: A special hardcover-book edition of American Idiot contains journal entries not featured as lyrics; these served as the dialogue for the musical.
- Arc Words: Inevitable, given the storytelling aspect of the album, but a few stand out, especially in "Homecoming".
- Part 2 bears resemblance to the 'I Don't Care' part of "Jesus of Suburbia", acting a bit like Book-Ends as JOS returns home.
- Also, Whatsername's 'Nobody likes you' taunt shows up quite a bit, possibly to imply thoughts going around JOS/ Jimmy's head during the song.
- 'Rage and Love'. Originally used by JOS himself (referring to his upbringing) while introducing himself to the audience in "Jesus of Suburbia", he also mentions that it's the 'story of my life' in "Are We the Waiting", and he has the words (rephrased as 'your father's rage and your mother's love') spat back in his face as part of Whatsername's "The Reason You Suck" Speech during "Letterbomb".
- "Bang!" Flag Gun: Used in the musical version during St. Jimmy's suicide.
- Bittersweet Ending: Both the album itself, and the musical.
- The album: JOS eventually overcomes Jimmy's destructive influences and ultimately moves on with his life. However, Whatsername leaves him and disappears without a trace, which still haunts him long after the events of the album, and everything JOS tried to accomplish during his time in the city ultimately ended in failure, leaving him more or less where he started.
- The musical: Tunny loses his leg in the war but falls in love with the Extraordinary Girl. Johnny and Will have lost the women they love but are finally getting their acts together, have their friends back, and Heather is letting Will see his baby again.
- The riff used in "St. Jimmy" makes a return in "The Death of St. Jimmy".
- The drums in the intro to "Rock 'n Roll Girlfriend" from Homecoming are the same ones as in American Idiot.
- Whatsername's little song from the intro to "Letterbomb" is extended in "Nobody Likes You" from Homecoming.
- In the musical, Whatsername's last appearance, after she has left Johnny's life, happens in front of the same wall in which she first appeared and kissed him. Even the lighting is the same.
- Break-Up Bonfire: Mentioned in "Whatsername".
- Break-Up Song: "Letterbomb", which plays when Whatsername gets fed up with her and St. Jimmy/JOS's punk life and tells him that there's no point to living like this.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Who knew the punks from "Basket Case" and "Longview" were so serious!
- Coming-of-Age Story: For JOS.
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Deconstructed, as Jimmy is just nothing more than a slacker who accomplishes nothing who decides to rebel against society and still accomplishes nothing.
- Cover Drop: "She's a Rebel" ("She's a symbol of resistance, and she's holding on my heart like a hand grenade"). Interestingly enough, the line was inspired by the cover art, rather than the other way around.
- Creator Cameo: Billie Joe occasionally played St. Jimmy in the musical during its original run.
- In the "Jesus of Suburbia" video, JOS watches Green Day on TV.
- "Dear John" Letter: The premise of "Letterbomb".
- Despair Event Horizon: "Are We the Waiting" for JOS, as he starts going into Sanity Slippage and questioning who he is.The Jesus of Suburbia is a lie
- Did Not Get the Girl: "Whatsername". In the musical, this applies not only to Johnny, but to Will as well, although Heather is at least letting him be a part of his daughter's life.
- Downer Ending: The video for "Wake Me Up When September Ends". The boyfriend enlists in the army, going against his vow of never leaving his girlfriend, and dies in war.
- Dream Sequence: "Extraordinary Girl" in the musical.
- Driven to Suicide: St. Jimmy in "Homecoming".
- Epic Rocking: The two multipart tracks, "Homecoming" and "Jesus of Suburbia", are over 9 minutes long containing several movements.
- "Homecoming" actually started as the opposite: a few Miniscule Rocking tracks which were then stitched together.
- Establishing Character Moment: Each "I Am" Song (see below) on the album is dedicated to this.
- The music video features a scene of Jimmy and his mom sitting in their living room.Mom: "What's the matter with you?"Jimmy: "... Your face."
- The music video features a scene of Jimmy and his mom sitting in their living room.
- Fading into the Next Song:
- "Holiday" → "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (accompanied by the music video).
- "Are We the Waiting" → "St. Jimmy"
- "Give Me Novocaine" → "She's A Rebel"
- The static at the end of "Extraordinary Girl" transitions into "Letterbomb".
- The musical added a lot more of these, since it has a more clearly flowing story.
- "Favorite Son" → "Are We the Waiting" → "St. Jimmy"
- "She's A Rebel/Last Of The American Girls" → "Last Night On Earth"
- "Before The Lobotomy" → "Extraordinary Girl" → "Before The Lobotomy (Reprise)"
- "21 Guns" → "Letterbomb"
- Flipping the Bird: All over the place in the musical.
- Former Teen Rebel: JOS in "Homecoming"
- Freudian Trio: Jimmy is the ID, JOS is the ego, and "Whatsername" is the superego (considering that she's the only one who ever calls JOS out).
- Genre Deconstruction: Of the Punk movement as a whole. JOS becomes a self-absorbed, self-destructive rebel without a cause who ultimately accomplishes nothing and according to "Letterbomb" is the real American Idiot. This creates the interesting social commentary in that rather than (just) turning people into mindless drones, the alienation and paranoia of modern American society creates self-destructive rebellion.
- Growing Up Sucks: JOS' life is not easy.
- Hard Truth Aesop: There are some things in life you're only going to truly understand after making painful mistakes.
- "I Am" Song: This album has several tracks devoted to Establishing Character Moments. JOS has "Jesus of Suburbia" (doubles as an "I Want" Song), St. Jimmy has "St. Jimmy", and Whatsername has "She's a Rebel", which has her being described from JOS's perspective.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: A California Congressman who rants towards the end of "Holiday" makes a point of mocking President Bush's hawkish stance on Iraq by sarcastically insulting the masculinity of anyone who's a dove and using "that" instead of "who" when referring to them.Kill all the "fags" that don't agree!
- Jukebox Musical: The musical is an odd variant, given that it was based on a Rock Opera to begin with.
- "Leaving the Nest" Song: "Jesus of Suburbia Pt. IV: Tales of Another Broken Home" is about running away from the "hurricane of...lies" that the protagonist finds at home, but he also acknowledges that "there ain't nowhere you can go, running away from pain when you've been victimized." Two tracks later, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" follows up with a sobering portriat of the result of Jo S's exodus from home...
- Looped Lyrics: The chorus of "Are We the Waiting", as well as the "Nobody Likes You" section of "Homecoming".
- Loudness War: Pretty badly. Even the ballads like "Wake Me Up When September Ends" are clipped.
- Some of the HD releases of the album are a lot better, though. The HDTracks release has DR9 compared to the CD's DR5.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The first segment of "Homecoming" picks up the guitar riffs of "St. Jimmy", which generally still sounds pretty energetic, even when slowed down. Quite ironic when the lyrics describe how St. Jimmy "blew his brains out into the bay".
- Mood Whiplash: In the musical. "When It's Time" is a slow, quiet love song played on the acoustic guitar. It is immediately followed by "Know Your Enemy", a loud, uptempo rage song.
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: "American Idiot" and "Holiday" are critical of the United States' politics, especially referring to the 2003 war in Iraq.
- Named by the Adaptation: JOS is given the name "Johnny" in the musical.
- New Sound Album: Not only does it have the grandest sound of any of their albums up to that time, but it differed greatly from the Lighter and Softer near-pop rock of their previous album Warning.
- No Name Given: Whatsername. Come the end of the album, JOS has repressed her real name. The album booklet has her name scribbled over or a little note saying "Whatsername" taped over it. You can vaguely make out that her name ends with the letter "A".
- Same for the Extraordinary Girl.
- One Drink Will Kill the Baby: Played for Laughs in the musical when the visibly pregnant Heather drinks Will's beer during "Give Me Novacaine".
- OOC Is Serious Business: Not out of character, but out of concept: "Wake Me Up When September Ends" has nothing to do with the plot, but is about Billie Joe Armstrong coping with the loss of his father who died when he was only a child.
- Protest Song: "American Idiot" and "Holiday" both heavily criticize the state of America under the Bush administration.
- Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, "American Idiot" made it back into the charts.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Letterbomb" as a whole, which is directed by Whatsername towards St. Jimmy. The intro (later quoted in "Homecoming") is set to a cheery, nursery rhyme-like tune.Nobody likes youEveryone left youThey're all out without youHaving fun.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Certain songs and themes were inspired by the band's growing dissatisfaction with the George W. Bush administration and their politics regarding the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Rebellious Spirit: The protagonist is a rebel without a cause.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: St. Jimmy and JOS. "St. Jimmy" sorta references this near the end.It's comedy / and tragedy
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: The music video for Jesus of Suburbia.
- Small Town Boredom: The plot of "Jesus of Suburbia", where JOS gets bored of his suburban lifestyle and runs to the city.
- Sore Loser: In the different booklet to the limited edition vinyl re-release of the album, the lyrics to "Letterbomb" were followed by typical St. Jimmy style all capital letters:I NEVER LIKED YOU EITHER!
- Stealth Pun: "Homecoming" is about JOS coming home, not a school homecoming.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Tré Cool and Mike Dirnt sing the parts of "Homecoming" they wrote ("Rock 'n Roll Girlfriend" and "Nobody Likes You", respectively).
- Subdued Section: The "Dearly Beloved" section of "Jesus of Suburbia", "Nobody Likes You" in "Homecoming".
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Wake Me Up When September Ends". While it's not necessarily a quiet song, it's still the gentlest and most emotive song on the album, due to it being a song about Billie Joe's late father.
- When "Homecoming" starts with just an electric guitar and a voice singing a bittersweet song through what sounds like a telephone, you know the mood is about to change.
- Three Chords and the Truth: "American Idiot", "St. Jimmy," "She's A Rebel," and are on par with previous Green Day songs.
- Troubled, but Cute: Johnny, writing to Will about Whatsername: "She knows I'm full of shit but at least she thinks I'm cute."
- Tv Head Robot: The musical often has images of people with televisions for heads painted in the background.
- Wanderlust Song: The last section of Jesus of Suburbia.
- Villain Song:
- "St. Jimmy" serves as the introduction to... well, St. Jimmy, who serves as the antagonist of the story, tempting JOS to engage in destructive behavior.
- "Know Your Enemy" from the stage version as well, which culminates in St. Jimmy encouraging Johnny to kill Whatsername when she tries to stop him from doing drugs.
- War Is Hell: The video to "Wake Me Up When September Ends", which is about a soldier sent off to Iraq. In the end the girlfriend cries in despair over the news.
- Wham Line: One of the final verses in "Letterbomb":You're not the Jesus of SuburbiaThe St. Jimmy is a figment ofYour father's rage and your mother's love
Jimmy died todayHe blew his brains out into the bayIn the state of mindIt's my own private suicide
- This verse from "Homecoming":
- Why Can't I Hate You?: Hinted at in "Nobody Likes You".Everyone left youNobody likes youThey're all out without youHaving fun
- You Are What You Hate: Whatsername points this out in "Letterbomb", but the entire album deals with this. Jimmy is a lazy, hypocritical rebel without a cause, and at the end of the day, he returns home having achieved nothing. He is really just another American Idiot.Where have all the riots gone?As the city's motto gets pulverized?What's in love is now in debtOn your birth certificateSo strike the fucking match to light this fuse!
- You Won't Feel a Thing: "Give Me Novacaine":Tell me, Jimmy, I won't feel a thing...