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American Idiot (album)

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American Idiot
American idiot
Studio album by Green Day
Released September 20, 2004
Recorded April 18, 2003–March 26, 2004 at Studio 880 in Oakland and Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood
Genre Pop punk, Punk rock, Alternative rock
Length 57:12
Language English
Label Reprise
Producer Rob Cavallo, Green Day
Professional reviews
  • Allmusic Star fullStar fullStar fullStar fullStar full
  • Robert Christgau C+
  • NME 8/10
  • Q Magazine Star fullStar fullStar fullStar fullStar empty
  • Rolling Stone Star fullStar fullStar fullStar halfStar empty
Green Day chronology
American Idiot
Bullet in a Bible

"American Idiot" is the seventh studio album by American punk rock band Green Day, released on September 20, 2004 in the United States on Reprise Records. The album was produced by the band's longtime collaborator Rob Cavallo and the band itself. Recording for the album began in 2003 after the master recordings for an album named Cigarettes and Valentines were stolen.

The album is a rock opera, inspired by bands like The Who and several musicals. The album follows the character of Jesus of Suburbia, a descried "anit-hero" by Green Day's frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. Recording warped-up on March 26, 2004 at Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood.

Critical response to the album was positive and was also a commercial success; selling 267,000 in it's first week of release and charting in 27 countries and peaking at number one in 19 of them, including the US and the UK. The album remains the group's biggest selling album along with Dookie. The album spawned five successful singles, including the international hits "American Idiot", "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "Holiday", "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and "Jesus of Suburbia"; all of which received Platinum certification by the RIAA. American Idiot also won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in 2005, making it the first of two Grammy Awards to be won by Green Day. The second would be their follow-up release 21st Century Breakdown in 2009.


Green Day released Warning in 2000 which was considered to be a commercial disappointment; the band decided to take a break from music after co-headlining the Pop Disaster Tour with Blink-182. According to the band's MTV Driven episode, lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong felt anxiety over sharing his songs with the rest of the group, because of this, he felt like leaving the group and going solo. During this time, Armstrong traveled to New York City alone for a few weeks, renting a small apartment in the East Village of Manhattan. Bassist Mike Dirnt was going through a divorce with his second wife Sara and drummer Tre Cool had his second child.



Green Day recorded the album at Studio 880 (left) and Ocean Way Recordings (right).

Green Day went in to the studio to begin working on a album titled Cigarettes and Valentines, 20 tracks were recorded and finished but the master recordings were stolen. The band consulted with producer Rob Cavallo about what to do next. Even though they were about to be mastered, the group felt that the tracks weren't there best work. Instead of starting over from scratch, the group decided to write completely 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.

When the group completed the demo recordings, they relocated to Los Angeles to record 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."

Music and compositionEdit

Green Day - American Idiot OFFICIAL VIDEO03:03

Green Day - American Idiot OFFICIAL VIDEO

The album's title track and lead single of the album, sets the tone for the album that's more politically charged than the group's previous work.

American Idiot is a concept album following the life of Jesus of Suburbia, who leaves the town he lives. 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 metaphorical 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, even to the point in which he can't even remember her name, hence the title.

The album is a more politically charged than the group's previous albums. Inspired by the Bush Administration, the album features subjects like the War in Afghanistan (the song "Holiday"), the media in the United States circa 2004 (the song "American Idiot") and also talks about Billie Joe's father who died of cancer when he was a kid ("Wake Me Up When September Ends").

Each track, with exception of Wake Me Up When September Ends, all coincide with the album and tells the story.


The artwork for the album features a hand holding a hand grenade in shape of a heart bleeding. Green Day took inspiration from Chinese communist propaganda art the band saw in art galleries on Melrose Avenue, and recruited artist Chris Bilheimer, who had designed the art for the previous records Nimrod and International Superhits! to create the cover. The band aimed for the cover to be "at once uniform and powerful". After listening to the new music on his computer, Bilheimer took note of the lyric "And she's holding on my heart like a hand grenade" from "She's a Rebel". Influenced by artist Saul Bass's poster for the 1955 drama film The Man with the Golden Arm, Bilheimer created an upstretched arm holding a red heart-shaped grenade. Although he felt that red is the "most overused color in graphic design", he felt that the "immediate" qualities of the color deemed it appropriate for use on the cover, explaining: "I'm sure there's psychological theories of it being the same color of blood and therefore has the powers of life and death...And as a designer I always feel it's kind of a cop-out, so I never used it before. But there was no way you couldn't use it on this cover."


Commercial receptionEdit

Upon its release in September 2004, American Idiot peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart. The album achieved six times platinum status in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The album sold 267,000 copies in it's first week of release and went on to be sell 7 million copies.


American idiot received generally positive reviews from music critics. According to review aggregator website Metacritic, the album has an average critic review score of 79/100, based on 26 reviews. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic praised the album as either "a collection of great songs" or as a whole, writing that, "in its musical muscle and sweeping, politically charged narrative, it's something of a masterpiece". Pitchfork Media commended it as "ambitious" and successful in getting across its message, while "keep[ing] its mood and method deliberately, tenaciously, and angrily on point". NME characterized it as "an onslaught of varied and marvellously good tunes presented in an unexpectedly inventive way." Q called the album "A powerful work, noble in both intent and execution." The New York Times commended Green Day for trumping "any pretension with melody and sheer fervor".

Entertainment Weekly said that despite being based on a musical theater concept "that periodically makes no sense", Green Day "makes the journey entertaining enough". It described some of the songs as forgettable, though, arguing the album focuses more on lyrics than music. Rolling Stone said the album could have been, and was, a mess, but that the "individual tunes are tough and punchy enough to work on their own". The Guardian called American Idiot a mess—"but a vivid, splashy, even courageous mess". Uncut wrote that although the album was heavily politically focused, "slam-dancing is still possible", in a mixed review. In a negative review, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice called the album a "dud" and asserted that Armstrong's lyrics eschew "sociopolitical content" for "the emotional travails of two clueless punks—one passive, one aggressive, both projections of the auteur", adding that "there's no economics, no race, hardly any compassion." Slant Magazine described it as a "pompous, overwrought, and, quite simply, glorious concept album."


In 2005, American Idiot won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album and was nominated in four other categories including Album of the Year. The album helped Green Day win seven of the eight awards it was nominated for at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards; the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" video won six of those awards. A year later, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.



A musical adaption off the album premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in September 2009.

The American Idiot stage musical adaptation premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in September 2009. It was initially intended to run through October 11, but before the premiere, the theatre announced a three-week extension. The musical is a collaboration between Green Day and director Michael Mayer. Green Day does not appear in the production, but the show features an onstage band. According to Susan Medak, managing director of the Berkeley Repertory, the theater was part of the producing team and had been looking for work that crosses generational lines.

The production transferred to Broadway at the St. James Theatre, began previews on March 24, 2010 and officially opened on April 20, 2010. The show received mixed to positive reviews from critics, but got an all-important rave review from The New York Times. American Idiot won two 2010 Tony Awards: Best Scenic Design of a Musical for Christine Jones, and Best Lighting Design of a Musical for Kevin Adams. It also received a nomination for Best Musical.

Replacement performers included Van Hughes as Johnny, American Idol runner-up Justin Guarini as Will, David Larsen as Tunny, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong as St Jimmy, Rebecca Naomi Jones as Whatsername, Jeanna de Waal as Heather, and Libby Winters as Extraordinary Girl. The show features all of the songs from the album American Idiot, including b-sides, and songs from Green Day's follow-up album, 21st Century Breakdown.

On September 26, it was announced that Armstrong would be appearing in the Broadway production for a limited time (September 27 – October 3, 2010) as St. Jimmy while Tony Vincent attends to a family matter. Armstrong returned to the production in 2011 for a 50 performance run from January 1 through February 27. In addition, singer Melissa Etheridge assumed the role of St. Jimmy the first week of February 2011. After Etheridge left, the role of St. Jimmy was rotated through several cast members, before Armstrong retook the role on April 5, 2011, for the final weeks of the show. The Broadway production closed on April 24, 2011, after 27 previews and 421 regular performances. The first national tour started in late 2011.

On January 23, 2013, it was announced that a documentary showing Armstrong's journey from punk rock to Broadway was to be released. Calling Broadway Idiot and showing a lot of behind-the-scenes of the American Idiot musical production, the movie will be directed by Doug Hamilton, veteran television journalist for CBS News 60 Minutes and PBS documentaries like Nova, Frontline and American Masters. A trailer was released on January 30, 2013. The documentary premiered on South by Southwest Film Festival in March 15, 2013.


Shortly after the album was released, there was speculation that American Idiot might be made into a film. VH1 quoted Armstrong as saying "We've definitely been talking about someone writing a script for it, and there's been a few different names that have been thrown at us. It sounds really exciting, but for right now it's just talk." Armstrong later stated that filming would begin for American Idiot: The Motion Picture in 2006, stressing, "We want to see how it turns out first so that it doesn't suck." On June 1, 2006, Armstrong announced in an interview with that "it's definitely unfolding" and that "every single week there's more ideas about doing a film for American Idiot, and it's definitely going to happen", but the band later said, "It is gonna take a little while." In the summer of 2010, talk about creating a film adaption was brought up again, after actor Tom Hanks was interested in producing it. In an interview with Virgin Radio, when asked if the film was "true, a lie, or a mystery?" Tré Cool responded by saying that it was "a true mystery".

On April 13, 2011, the film American Idiot was confirmed. Michael Mayer, director of the Broadway musical, will be the director of the film. The film will be written by Dustin Lance Black and produced by Green Day, Pat Magnarella (Green Day's manager and producer of Bullet in a Bible and Awesome as Fuck), Playtone (Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman) and Tom Hulce.

In July 2013 at a screening of Broadway Idiot, Mayer confirmed the film was still happening, but when production would start is unknown due to "Hollywood bullshit".


051814 kerrangai

In 2014, Kerrang! released an American Idiot tribute album that features artists such as Bowling for Soup and 5 Seconds of Summer.

In 2009, Kerrang! named American Idiot the best album of the decade, NME ranked it number 60 in a similar list, and Rolling Stone ranked it 22nd. Rolling Stone also listed "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "American Idiot" among the 100 best songs of the 2000s, at number 65 and 47 respectively. In 2005, the album was ranked number 420 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time. In 2012, the album was ranked number 225 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2014, Kerrang! released a American Idiot tribute album that features covers of the songs off the album. 

Track listingEdit

All lyrics written by Billie Joe Armstrong except where noted, all music composed by Green Day.
No. Title Length
1. "American Idiot"   2:54
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"  
3. "Holiday"   3:52
4. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"   4:20
5. "Are We the Waiting"   2:42
6. "St. Jimmy"   2:56
7. "Give Me Novacaine"   3:25
8. "She's a Rebel"   2:00
9. "Extraordinary Girl"   3:33
10. "Letterbomb"   4:05
11. "Wake Me Up When September Ends"   4:45
12. "Homecoming"
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"  
13. "Whatsername"   4:14
Total length:



Additional musicians

  • Rob Cavallo – piano
  • Jason Freese – saxophone
  • Kathleen Hanna – guest vocals on "Letterbomb"


  • Rob Cavallo; Green Day – producers
  • Doug McKean – engineer
  • Brian "Dr. Vibb" Vibberts; Greg "Stimie" Burns; Jimmy Hoyson; Joe Brown; Dmitar "Dim-e" Krnjaic – assistant engineers
  • Chris Dugan; Reto Peter – additional engineering
  • Chris Lord-Alge – mixing
  • Ted Jensen – mastering
  • Chris Bilheimer – cover art

Chart positionsEdit

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Peak chart positionsEdit

Chart (2005/2009) Peak
Certifications Sales/shipments Ref.
Australian Albums Chart 1 6× Platinum 420,000 [1][2]
Austrian Albums Chart 1 2× Platinum 80,000 [2]
Argentine Albums Chart 1 2× Platinum 80,000 [2][3]
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders) 6 [4]
Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia) 8 Gold 25,000 [4]
Canadian Albums Chart 1 6× Platinum 600,000 [5][6]
Danish Albums Chart 4 2× Platinum 60,000 [2][7]
Dutch Albums Chart 3 3× Platinum 600,000 [2][8]
European Top 100 Albums 1 3× Platinum 3,000,000 [9][10]
Finnish Albums Chart 2 Gold 23,133 [2][11]
French Albums Chart 4 Gold 200,000 [2]
Germany Albums Chart 3 3× Platinum[12] 600,000 [2]
Greek Albums Chart 7 Platinum 12,000+ [13][14]
Irish Albums Chart 1 8× Platinum 120,000 [15]
Israeli Albums Chart Gold 20,000 [16]
Italian Albums Chart 5 3× Platinum 300,000 [2]
Japanese Albums Chart 3 2× Platinum 500,000+ [17][18]
Mexican Albums Chart 63 Platinum 100,000 [19][20]
New Zealand Albums Chart 2 4× Platinum 60,000 [2][21]
Norwegian Albums Chart 1 [2]
Poland Albums Chart 24 [2]
Portuguese Albums Chart 15 [2]
Spain Albums Chart 22 [2]
Swedish Albums Chart 1 Platinum 60,000 [2][22]
Swiss Albums Chart 1 2× Platinum 80,000 [2][23]
UK Albums Chart 1 6× Platinum 2,043,418 [24][25]
US Billboard 200 1 6× Platinum 6,056,000[26] [27][28]
US Billboard Catalog Albums 10 [10]
US Billboard Digital Albums 22 [10]

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Decade-end chartsEdit

Chart (2000s) Position
Australia Albums Chart[29] 22
Austria Albums Chart[30] 3
US Billboard 200[31] 30



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  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 American Idiot Chart positions. Retrieved on June 24, 2008.
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  9. Template:Cite certification
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  13. Greek Albums Chart (Both Foreign and Domestic). IFPI Greece (2005-09-24). Archived from the original on 2005-09-24. Retrieved on April 10, 2012.
  14. Greek Albums Chart (Only Foreign). IFPI Greece (2006-02-04). Retrieved on April 14, 2012.
  15. 2005 Certification Awards. Irish Charts. Retrieved on July 13, 2010. Template:Dead link
  16. גרין דיי יוציאו אלבום קונספט במאי. Retrieved on December 18, 2012.
  17. アメリカン・イディオット - グリーン・デイ/ オリコンランキング情報サービス「you大樹」 (Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved on November 12, 2010.
  18. ゴールド等認定作品一覧 2005年10月 (Japanese). RIAJ (2005-11-10). Archived from the original on 29 November 2010. Retrieved on November 11, 2010.
  19. AMPROFON Certifications. Retrieved on July 26, 2010.
  20. American Idiot Chart positions. Retrieved on July 27, 2010.
  21. RIANZ. RIANZ (November 22, 2004). Archived from the original on 17 July 2010. Retrieved on July 13, 2010.
  22. Template:Sv icon Sverige Topplistan. Archived from the original on 27 July 2010. Retrieved on July 13, 2010.
  23. The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community. Archived from the original on 29 July 2010. Retrieved on July 13, 2010.
  24. Certified Awards Search. BPI. Retrieved on July 13, 2010.
  25. British Album Chart. Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 17 June 2008. Retrieved on June 24, 2008.
  26. Grein, Paul (2012-03-16). "Chart Watch Extra: Top Albums Of Last 10 Years". Yahoo! Music. Retrieved 2014-03-21.
  27. Harding, Cortney (April 16, 2010). Green Day's American Idiot Play: The Billboard Cover Story. Billboard. Archived from the original on 22 June 2010. Retrieved on June 13, 2010.
  28. RIAA Certifications. Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved on February 6, 2013.
  29. ARIA - Decade-end Charts. Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved on November 22, 2011.
  30. Steffen Hung (2009-12-25). Bestenlisten - 00er-Album. Retrieved on July 28, 2011.
  31. Billboard - Decade-end Chards. Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved on November 22, 2011.Template:Dead link

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