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Music / 21st Century Breakdown

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"21st century breakdown
I once was lost, but never was found..."

"They're playing the song of the century
Of panic and promise and prosperity
Tell me a story into that goodnight
Sing us a song for me."

21st Century Breakdown is the eighth studio album by Green Day, released in 2009. It was released as a follow-up to their comeback album American Idiot, produced by Butch Vig of Garbage and Nevermind fame, and is similarly a Rock Opera Concept Album.

The album follows two lovers named Christian and Gloria as they witness the many new trials faced by the common man in the recent years of America (mainly told in first-person from the point of Christian).

Several of the themes looked at by Christian (who is most definitely *not* a terrorist) include religion, politics, and vengeance, along with being heavily involved in his relationship with Gloria. He is very cynical about most large organizations, and feels he and Gloria must stand up for The Everyman. Gloria, meanwhile, is trying to hold onto her original beliefs while trying to help Christian as well.

The album saw the band's best chart performance to date, reaching #1 in various areas around the world such as America, the UK, and Europe. It additionally won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. Critics were generally favorable to the album, while nitpicking was common around the album's concept and its lingering sense of familiarity compared to Idiot.

Several tracks, including "Know Your Enemy" and "21 Guns", are used in the Broadway production of American Idiot.

The album is split into three acts: "Heroes and Cons" (from the title track to "Last Night On Earth"), "Charlatans and Saints" (from "East Jesus Nowhere" to "Restless Heart Syndrome"), and "Horseshoes And Handgrenades" (from "Horseshoes And Handgrenades" to "See The Light").


  1. "Song Of The Century"
  2. "21st Century Breakdown"
  3. "Know Your Enemy"
  4. "¡Viva La Gloria!"
  5. "Before The Lobotomy"
  6. "Christian's Inferno"
  7. "Last Night On Earth"
  8. "East Jesus Nowhere"
  9. "Peacemaker"
  10. "Last Of The American Girls"
  11. "Murder City"
  12. "¿Viva La Gloria? (Little Girl)"
  13. "Restless Heart Syndrome"
  14. "Horseshoes And Handgrenades"
  15. "The Static Age"
  16. "21 Guns"
  17. "American Eulogy" note 
  18. "See The Light"

Bonus Track (Japanese Edition):

  1. "Lights Out"

Bonus Tracks (iTunes Pre-Order Edition):

  1. "That's All Right"
  2. "Like A Rolling Stone"

Bonus Tracks (iTunes Deluxe Edition):

  1. "A Quick One, While He's Away"
  2. "Another State Of Mind"

Principal Members:

  • Billie Joe Armstrong - lead vocals, guitar, piano
  • Tré Cool - drums, percussion
  • Mike Dirnt - bass, backing and lead vocals

Tropes of the Century:

  • Action Girlfriend: Gloria.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: In "Last of The American Girls":
    "She's a sucker for all the criminals breaking the laws"
  • American Title: "American Eulogy".
  • Author Avatar: Word of God has confirmed that both Christian and Gloria are author avatars.
  • Ax-Crazy: Christian may or may not be this.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: As seen on the album cover. It gets re-enacted in the "21 Guns" video.
  • Book Ends: Both the opening songs are echoed in the last tracks: "Song Of The Century" is replicated in the intro to "American Eulogy", and "See the Light" revolves around the guitar intro to "21st Century Breakdown".
  • Big "YES!": After a Subdued Section, "East Jesus Nowhere" ends with all the instruments ramping up while Billie Joe shouts "YEEEEAAAAHHHH!"
  • Bowdlerise: Averted. Wal-Mart attempted to get Green Day to record a censored version of the album, as the store does not sell explicit albums. The band refused.
  • Broken Bird: Gloria, possibly. She certainly sounds like one in "¿Viva la Gloria? (Little Girl)".
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    • We get five in "Horseshoes and Handgrenades".
    • The rest of the album is pretty clean, save for one F-bomb in "Before the Lobotomy" and "The Static Age" each.
    • "American Eulogy" would be the next dirtiest song, with one F-bomb, one S-bomb and one use of "nigger", which caused screams of outrage among black Green Day fans.
    • "East Jesus Nowhere" drops one swear ("goddamn").
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Deconstructed the same way it was on American Idiot.
  • Cover Version: All the iTunes bonus tracks. "That's All Right" is an Elvis Presley cover, "Like A Rolling Stone" is a Bob Dylan cover, "A Quick One, While He's Away" is a cover of The Who (from the album A Quick One) and "Another State Of Mind" is a Social Distortion cover.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • "¿Viva La Gloria? (Little Girl)" is obviously one on "¡Viva La Gloria!"
    • "American Eulogy" for "Song of the Century".
  • Detroit: Quietly implied to take place there, as stated in "Peacemaker" ("Oh I am a killjoy, from Detroit...") and "Murder City" (a play on its most famous nickname, the Motor City).
  • Expy: Christian and Gloria can be seen as either these or a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Jesus of Suburbia and Whatsername, although there are shades of difference: Christian is smarter and more insane; Gloria is more world-weary.
  • Fading into the Next Song / Siamese Twin Songs: "Last of the American Girls" —> "Murder City", with a Morse code connecting them.
  • "I Am" Song / Image Song: Several, most obvious being the title track.
  • Ironic Echo: "Know Your Enemy," echoed near the end of "Restless Heart Syndrome."
  • Loudness War: As with American Idiot, it's really badly clipped.
  • Metal Scream:
    • "Know Your Enemy" has one:
      Well, violence is an energy, oh ay, oh ay
      Well, from here to eternity, oh ay, oh ay
      Well, violence is an energy, oh ay, oh ay
      Well, silence is the enemy
      So gimme, gimme REVOLUTION!
    • Used more so during "Horseshoes and Handgrenades."
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Last Night on Earth", "East Jesus Nowhere", "¿Viva la Gloria?", and "Restless Heart Syndrome".
  • N-Word Privileges: Gets dropped in "American Eulogy".
  • Precision F-Strike: Pretty tame compared to other Green Day albums, but still enough to warrant a Parental Advisory sticker.
  • Protest Song: Pretty much everything that's not a love song or a BSoD Song.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Mike Dirnt has speculated that Armstrong wrote "The Last of the American Girls" about his wife, Adrienne.
  • Rebellious Spirit: The narrator is clearly one of those.
  • Recurring Riff: Several, being one of the main differences between this and American Idiot (Along with the fact that several songs were written for piano). The "Song of the Century" parts, along with the guitar pattern at the beginning of "21st Century Breakdown" and "See the Light."
    • The tune to the "Restless Heart Syndrome" chorus is also played at the start of "¿Viva la Gloria? (Little Girl)", which is the song before it.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Discussed in the chorus for "Horseshoes and Handgrenades".
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Many references to "pills and alcohol," along with the following part in "Before the Lobotomy"
    I'm not stoned
    I'm just fucked-up
    I got so high
    I can't stand up
  • Shout-Out:
    • As listed in the Homage trope-page, the line "I once was lost, but never was found" is a shout-out to "Amazing Grace".
    • "Last of the American Girls" could be a shout-out to the Tom Petty song "American Girl".
    • And let's not forget the several mentions to John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" (which the guys happened to do a cover of themselves, so this one was more obvious).
    • The line "Last one born and the first one to run" is a shout-out to Bruce Springsteen, and "The Static Age" also musically references "Born to Run"'s iconic intro and chromatic solo.
    • Perhaps in 21 Guns, the line "when it's time to live and let die" is a shout out to Paul McCartney's song from the James Bond movie Live and Let Die.
    • Also, the line "My Generation is zero" that precedes "Never made it as a Working Class Hero" is a shout out to The Who's "My Generation", which they covered on their Kerplunk album.
    • In an unintentional example, NME made a blog post after the album's cover was revealed, accusing the band of plagiarising from the cover of Blur's Think Tank, which shows a couple wearing diving helmets embracing, drawn by Banksy. The cover artist denied any intentional similarities, saying that the cover was based on a photo of a couple within his social circle kissing at a party, rendered as a stencil.
    • "East Jesus Nowhere" gets its name from a phrase in the film Juno. Had Billie Joe not gone and seen it, the song would've been called "March of the Dogs".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Mike Dirnt sings lead vocals on "Modern World".
  • Subdued Section: The two "Song of the Century" sections, "21 Guns," "Last Night on Earth," the beginnings of "Restless Heart Syndrome", both versions of "Viva la Gloria", and "Before the Lobotomy."
  • Three Chords and the Truth: It's Green Day. You should expect this by this point. However, not as much as previous works.
  • Wham Line:
    • "Restless Heart Syndrome" changes Gloria's entire image with the line: "Know your enemy."
    • In "Last Night on Earth", compare the normal and final choruses.
    Normal: "My beating heart belongs to you / I walked for miles 'til I found you / I'm here to honour you / If I lose everything in the fire / I'm sending all my love to you"
    Final: "...I'm here to honour you / If I lose everything in the fire / Did I ever make it through?"

"Sing us the song of the century
That sings like American eulogy
The dawn of my love and conspiracy
Of forgotten hope and the class of 13
Tell me a story into that goodnight
Sing us a song for me."