June 11, 2015

What Green Day Taught Me About Music.

billy joe armstrong green day

I belong to the millennial generation (barely), having been born in 1992. There’s nothing to be done about this.

I’d prefer not to belong to this tech savvy generation, but I can’t help having been born when I was. I’m right there on the cusp, actually—I remember “Slime Time Live,” but I never got attached to a video game device.

What I really had going for me was music. I loved to hear it, sing it and perform it myself. Music was my thing. My teenage years changed that, and I got lost in the hipsterdom that’s defiling the mainstream music industry for a long time. Luckily, I still have good taste in music.

This was probably because my mom and dad had great taste in music. My dad loved classic rock and punk, while my mom loved really folk music and 90s pop. I had great music coming at me from all angles, from Pink Floyd to Pat Benatar.

Fleetwood Mac sung me to sleep as a child, and I had rocked out with my diaper out to The Ramones, but one of my earliest memories of listening to No Doubt and Green Day in my mom’s car on the way to, well, virtually anywhere. Jimmy Buffett often blared out of the speakers as well, with my sister, brother and I replacing bad words to sing along: “Oh, why don’t we get hmm and hmm.”

My point here is that music was just music to me for a long time. I hadn’t started reading Rolling Stone yet, none of my peers were old enough to have their own opinion on music either and I hadn’t yet spent hours in my sister’s room with her listening to the alternative channel, stopping and starting the tape recorder every time she heard a song that she liked or was popular.

I liked Green Day. I really liked Green Day. I listened to Pink, No Doubt and Madonna on my Walkman, and the only other CDs I had in my possession were musical theater (Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest hits—best CD of all time) and Green Day.

Up until the early 2000s, when Green Day released “American Idiot,” it was okay to like them. They pioneered the pop-punk scene, they killed the alternative channels, they were on MTV wearing eyeliner and answering questions with vague responses. Everybody knew the words to “Basket Case”; every kid with a guitar could play “Good Riddance.”

The last three albums have all been two-CD box sets. They’re rock operas. “American Idiot” made it to Broadway. These albums have all been successful. They may not have spoken to the earlier fans, who abandoned them after “American Idiot,” but these albums have a flow in the way that records used to. Putting taste aside, they have all been successful; they are really famous.

This, of course, makes them uncool. For a long time during and after high school, I wouldn’t admit to liking Green Day. Nobody did. They sold out. They weren’t even that good to begin with, and then they tried too hard. I thought their music blew.

I didn’t actually believe this, but I had to survive! The groups I hung out with listened to heavy metal, and I guess that’s okay music if you don’t mind blown-out eardrums and not being able to understand what the “singer” is saying. I listened to my favorite albums secretly in my room away from my friends, so that I wasn’t seen as a complete loser.

It took me years to stop being such a goddamn hipster. My generation is full of them! So what, a band gets famous and starts actually making money, and suddenly they’re not cool anymore?

I don’t know why the popularity of a band matters. Is it because they radio plays the band’s music too often? Do you know that the first time that band heard themselves on the radio they probably threw a huge party? Sure, you liked them before they were cool—I get it—but why aren’t they still cool? Why can’t you be supportive instead of angsty?

I am not completely cured. I still think that everything Green Day has put out after American Idiot isn’t very good. I still listen to new albums of my favorite bands and get a little mad if they’ve changed their sound, but they’re artists! They should be growing. They should be doing their thing.

What you think is cool, is cool. What you think is uncool is uncool. Appreciate the music. Appreciate albums. And appreciate singular points in time when you heard a song for the first time and thought: “Man, this is what music should be.” Stop listening to these crappy underground bands; you know they aren’t that good. Your friends are saying this band is “so obscure” and they’ve got a real “Muse meets Bollywood” vibe. The Lumineers put out a great album—you know you still like it, and you have to stop condemning them for “Hey! Ho!” playing on the radio one too many times. Get over it. It’s good music.

Don’t judge music by how popular it is, judge it by how it speaks to your soul, the way the hippies did before us. Do you think Jimi Hendrix cared what the crowd thought about his jacked-up guitar? Do you think Bob Dylan cared if his audience thought he couldn’t sing? No, they didn’t, and neither did their fans.

This is what made them legends: their fans. So stop it. You’re smoking pot in your dorm room, sitting on a bean bag chair. If you really love the music, don’t mock their success, support them. Make them legends too. Don’t worry about other people’s musical tastes. It’s okay to still like Green Day. Go listen to the music that makes your insides glow.



8 Songs about Rebellion to Fuel our Inner Fire.


Author: Jazz Unruh

Editor: Evan Yerburgh

Image: Flickr

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