One of the most mainstream punk bands since the new millennium, Green Day has faced criticism for selling out ever since releasing 2004's American Idiot — some would say as far back as after the release of 1994's Dookie.
Fuck that. They didn't sell out. In fact, songs on American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown resonate just as deeply as those on Dookie.
Their connection with the audience is especially evident when performing “Holiday” live in 2005 on their Bullet In a Bible documentary. What 99 percenter remains unmoved as Billie Joe Armstrong proclaims the song stands for a “'Fuck You!' to all the politicians”? How can some of you punk lovers suppress your inner activist and not pump fists to the anthem?
When it comes to staying true to punk's roots, Green Day is less detached than you might think. “The Saints are coming,” was actually a cover of a single by '70s punk band The Skids.
Have they become commercialized? Well, yes. They became MTV favorites. They covered The Simpsons movie opening. They graced the cover of the Rock Band video game. They inspired a Broadway musical called American Idiot named after their 2004 chart-topping album of the same name. And they even played alongside grandiose rockers U2 on Monday Night Football. Listeners will likely hear a ballad on both American Idiot and their 2009 album 21st Century Breakdown.
But don't dismiss them for nabbing two Kids Choice Awards in 2006 on Nickelodeon, after being pitted against pop stars including Backstreet Boys and Black Eyed Peas. When Armstrong accepted the award, he demanded in true punk fashion that the young audience “Stick it to the man!”
They showed their strong political stance by appearing on 2004's Rock Against Bush Vol. 2 compilation, joining forces with a slew of other punk bands including
local punk veterans Rancid and Bad Religion. They poke fun at disgraced former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bonus track on American Idiot. The song's title? “Governator.”
They continued to flex their punk muscle even more recently. In 2009, they ripped though a live version of “American Idiot” on Good Day America before a Central Park audience. The band ignited a mosh pit and got the rollicking crowd to chant some of their profane lyrics. Green Day basically gave the finger to sanitized morning TV! At the Tony Awards the following year, they performed “Holiday” alongside the cast of American Idiot, the play, and brimmed with just as much energy as the “old” Green Day.
The Berkeley trio has had an almost 24-year career, and it's been nearly eight years since American Idiot. Credit them for landing their brazen, politically charged songs on MTV and other mainstream networks. Recognize them for keeping their forceful, in-your-face approach to performing no matter the setting. Green Day's songs have changed a little, but remain as subversive as the band itself.