Today marks the 10th anniversary of the United States release of Green Day's 'American Idiot,' the GRAMMY® Award-winning multi-platinum 2004 album.
I'm going to attempt to paint a picture of American Idiot, Green Day's now decade-old landmark album, that you won't find amidst the other reviews coming out to mark the anniversary of its release. Rolling Stone, Billboard, and other music news outlets are commemorating the record by showering it with praise, and rightly so. They lovingly detail the album's format, the enigmatic yet mischievous characters of St. Jimmy and Whatsername, and the sheer brilliance of the all-out musical assault that drives each track. Of course, no one will dispute that these aspects of American Idiot do indeed contribute to our devotion. Still, with firsthand knowledge of the undying passion that Green Day fans have for their band, I find yet another facet of the album's success to be the most captivating.
I was eight years old (an elementary school student) when American Idiot came out. I remember being hooked in by the radio standards like "Holiday," "Wake Me Up When September Ends," and of course, the kick-drum-fueled first single, "American Idiot." I found my way to a store to buy the album, which was promptly confiscated by my parents. Like so many other protective parents around the world, they were understandably off-put by the black and white "Parental Advisory" sticker plastered onto the front cover of each copy. I took to iTunes and bought the five or six tracks that I had already grown to love.
Amongst all of my other peers in the third grade, the album was a smash hit. I distinctly recall the morning after Green Day's tour stop in my city, when at least a third of my class ranted about how great the show was, and I was left wishing I'd been able to attend. When a girl brought the album booklet to school and flaunted her knowledge of some of the more indecent lyrics, I overheard. We spent multiple recess periods loudly chanting the bridge of "Holiday," and became friends... she remains my best friend to this day, after ten years.
Mind you, these personal remembrances and anecdotes are not, by any means, meant to convince you of the album's measureless charm. When casual music-listeners are asked what they think of Green Day, many will say something like, "Oh, man, 'American Idiot'...that really takes me back to [insert phase of speaker's life here]." It really is utterly phenomenal when you step back to think about the vast section of the populous that American Idiot not only reached but, ultimately, captivated and touched. An album that, first, gets enough popular attention to reach the masses and, second, is meaningful and deep enough to have an emotional effect on each listener is a bona fide rarity. There are many people who will solemnly reveal that the album saved their lives -- it allowed them to better internalize the unfortunate parts of existence that had previously tormented them, and to empathize with the triumphs and downfalls of Whatsername and the infamous St. Jimmy.
The simple point is that American Idiot is undoubtedly far more than the sum of its parts. The thirteen songs that brought Green Day back into the ears of the mainstream made fans out of everyone from soccer moms to lawyers and doctors, and avid devotees out of casual fans. Billie Joe Armstrong has often attested to the fact that, following the release of musical mainstays like Dookie and American Idiot, the album ceases to belong to the band, and is taken in by each fan who embraces it. The songs he wrote are now intertwined within the lives, memories, and minds of the audience. This attribute is what separates good albums from monumental albums, and is the reason that we still sing the praises of American Idiot today.