The Chicago Vibe


How Green Day Changed My Life

Meghan Boyles | April 2017

When I first found Green Day, I was nearing the end of my sixth grade year. 21st Century Breakdown (the 2009 follow-up to the Grammy award-winning album American Idiot) had just come out. After hearing the album at a friend’s house, I became completely obsessed with it. I would spend hours in front of my family’s chunky Windows XP desktop computer listening to it on YouTube. My obsession only escalated when I received a copy of the album for my 12th birthday two weeks later. Prior to that, my favorite artists included the Jonas Brothers, Aly & AJ, and the cast of American Idol Season 8. I didn’t know what punk was. I barely knew what music was.

21st Century Breakdown appealed to me for a number of reasons. It was unlike anything I had heard before: it was “grown up” and edgy. It tells the story of a teenage couple named Christian and Gloria, who are dealing with the pressures of growing up in the first decade of the 21st century. The album is chock-full of lyrics about “overthrowing the effigy” and political references that I was too young to understand, but felt a strange connection to. After visiting the band’s Wikipedia page, I was surprised to find that I was extremely late to the Green Day party. They had been making music since before I was born, and had already recorded seven albums in addition to 21st Century Breakdown.

The band’s sound has changed over the course of their existence, but each of their albums are (in my opinion) masterpieces in their own way. The fact that the band has consisted of the same three members for almost the entirety of their 31-year-long career is incredible, and something that very few bands can claim. Their first two albums, 39/Smooth (1990) and Kerplunk! (1991) have a more unpolished sound, while their 1994 major label debut, Dookie, is raw yet “radio friendly.” Insomniac (1995) is harder, but its successor, Nimrod (1997), contains the band’s first acoustic hit-- “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” Warning (2000) is more folk-influenced. 2004’s American Idiot is a concept album that marked a major stylistic change in the band’s sound, which most fans either love or hate. It spawned a Broadway musical and a second concept album—the one that caused me to find them.

As you can tell, my twelve-year-old self had a lot to catch up on. I spent my seventh grade year listening to Green Day and only Green Day, to the point where I was able to sing almost every line of every song in their discography, complete with guitar noises and air drumming. I had never fallen in love with anything like that before—not another artist, not a book, T.V. series, or even a sport or hobby. I completely immersed myself in Green Day and began to build my identity around them.

I eventually branched out into listening to the bands that Green Day would mention in their interviews— the Ramones, Operation Ivy, Screeching Weasel, and more. I also made friends with fellow Green Day fans who would show me what else they were listening to, which led me to fall down the rabbit hole of music discovery and never return. Right now, I listen to a lot of different artists and do not talk about Green Day nearly as much as I used to, so a lot of people are surprised when I say that they are my favorite band. Over time, Green Day has become less of an interest and more of a personality trait of mine. Not to be cheesy, but it feels as though I have absorbed their music and what it stands for to the point that I consider it a part of me. Although I have fallen in love with plenty of other bands, I have never found another band that makes feel the same way that Green Day did when I first discovered them.
To quote Billie Joe Armstrong, “I am Green Day. That is me. That is my life.” I can be into shoegaze or emo revival all I want, but my inner self will probably always want to start fires and overthrow the government like Christian and Gloria from 21st Century Breakdown. I can only hope that one day I will have the chance to meet Green Day and tell them that their music changed my life.