American Idiot (song)

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"American Idiot"
Single by Green Day
from the album American Idiot
Released August 31, 2004
Format CD single, DVD
Recorded February 2004
Genre Punk rock, pop punk
Length 2:54
Label Warner Bros./Reprise
Writer(s) Billie Joe Armstrong / Green Day
Producer(s) Rob Cavallo, Green Day
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Green Day singles chronology
"I Fought the Law"
"American Idiot"
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams"
Audio sample
file info · help

"American Idiot" is a song by the American punk rock band Green Day. It is the title track from the album American Idiot (2004) and released as the first single from it. The song received mostly positive reviews by critics and was nominated for four Grammy Awards; Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Rock Song, Best Short Form Music Video and Record of the Year. It is considered as one of the band's signature songs.

Background and composition[edit]

Being classified as a punk rock[1] and pop punk[2] song, it heavily criticizes the state of the United States circa 2004, with lines referencing the danger of the "new, biased media."[3] Billie Joe Armstrong was inspired to write the song after hearing the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "That's How I Like It" on his car radio. Said Armstrong, "It was like, 'I'm proud to be a redneck' and I was like, 'oh my God, why would you be proud of something like that?' This is exactly what I'm against."[3]

In a 2004 interview with Q Magazine, the three members of Green Day discussed the idea of flag desecration in relation to their song, with Armstrong and Dirnt being the most supportive, noting that, "It means nothing to me. Let's burn the fucking thing."[4]


Released in 2004, the single peaked at number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Green Day's first Billboard Hot 100 chart entry.[5] All of Green Day's other hits had only managed to chart on the Hot 100 Airplay chart or the Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart.[5] However, the appearance of "American Idiot" on the US singles charts occurred just prior to Billboard's inclusion of Internet download purchases into their Billboard Hot 100 chart data, which would have made a significant difference in the song's peak had it benefited from the new chart tabulation system.[6] "American Idiot" became Green Day's first Top 5 single in the United Kingdom, peaking at number 3 and at number 7 in Australia. It debuted at number 1 in Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, holding onto the zenith position for five weeks and staying at the top in South Africa and New Zealand for 7 and 10 weeks respectively. In Australia, the song was ranked number 22 on Triple J's Hottest 100 of 2004. Green Day performed the song at the 2005 Grammy Awards.[3] "American Idiot" has sold 1,371,000 copies as of July 2010.[7]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "American Idiot" features the band playing in a warehouse against a green American flag (a reference to the name of the band). In the middle of the video, the band is seen playing at different speeds (fast or slow-motion). During the bridge, the stripes of the flag melt onto the floor. The band is then sprayed by a green liquid from amplifiers next to the flag. At the end, the band drops their instruments and leaves.[8] The song's video was directed by Samuel Bayer.

Other appearances[edit]

The song was featured in the trailer for the 2005 film Wedding Crashers. An edited version of the song is featured on the soundtrack of the American football video game Madden NFL 2005.[9] It was featured as the closing theme song for the first season of The Andy Milonakis Show. "Weird Al" Yankovic parodied the song on his album Straight Outta Lynwood as "Canadian Idiot".[10] Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine covered this song into a lounge style on their 2005 album Aperitif for Destruction. The guitar riffs of the song were sampled for the theme for Johnny Test and multiple episodes of the show. A live rendition of the song recorded in Montreal, Canada on the 21st Century Breakdown World Tour featuring an extended guitar solo was featured on the CD portion of the band's 2011 live album Awesome as Fuck. The song was performed by the American metal band Metallica during the Vodoo Festival in 2012 when they filled in for Green Day who cancelled the show due to Armstrong's time in rehab. Avril Lavigne and All Time Low have covered the song as well. Australian pop rock band 5 Seconds of Summer covered this song for Kerrang Magazine's tribute to American Idiot album[11] and put it on their Amnesia EP.

A version of the song is played on an organ in The Simpsons Movie due to the band's fictional death when they fall into Lake Springfield, after playing a gig there on a barge. The camera zooms into the sheet music where it says "American Idiot: Funeral Version."


"American Idiot" was ranked the number 13 Single of the Decade by Rolling Stone magazine in 2009. VH1 also placed the song at number 13 on its Top 100 Songs of the 2000s in 2011.[12] Rolling Stone ranked it number 432 of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2010, the only Green Day song on the list.[13] The song is certified Silver in the United Kingdom for sales of 200,000.[14]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Billie Joe Armstrong, except where noted, all music composed by Green Day.

Promo CD single
No. Title Length
1. "American Idiot" (Radio edit) 2:54
2. "American Idiot" (Album version) 2:54
3. "Favorite Son"   2:14
Europe single (CD 1)
No. Title Length
1. "American Idiot"   2:54
2. "Too Much Too Soon"   3:33
Europe single (CD 2)
No. Title Length
1. "American Idiot"   2:54
2. "Shoplifter"   1:52
3. "Governator" (lyrics written by Mike Dirnt) 2:31

7" picture disc

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "American Idiot"   2:54
Side B
No. Title Length
1. "Too Much Too Soon"   3:33
DVD Single
No. Title Length
1. "American Idiot" (music video) 3:02
2. "American Idiot" (live at the Grammy Awards in 2005) 3:17



Chart positions[edit]

Chart (2004) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[15] 7
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[16] 18
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[17] 1
Germany (Media Control)[18] 28
Ireland (IRMA)[19] 12
Italy (FIMI)[20] 13
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[21] 37
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[22] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[23] 18
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[24] 75
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[25] 3
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[26] 61
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[26] 1
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks[26] 5


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[27] Gold 35,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[28] Gold 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[29] Gold 7,500*
United Kingdom (BPI)[30] Silver 200,000^
United States (RIAA)[31] Gold 1,371,000[7]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ "United States of Rage and Love: Green Day's 'American Idiot' - Introduction and "American Idiot"". PopMatters. Retrieved April 29, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Billboard August 28, 2004". Retrieved April 29, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "American Idiot". Archived from the original on April 16, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2009. 
  4. ^ Bored of the USA Green Day Authority Archived April 13, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b "Chart Beat Bonus". Billboard. Retrieved December 3, 2011. 
  6. ^ Mayfield, Geoff (August 4, 2007). "Billboard Hot 100 To Include Digital Streams". Billboard magazine. Archived from the original on June 14, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2007. 
  7. ^ a b Grein, Paul. "Week Ending July 25, 2010: It’s Every Rapper For Himself". Yahoo! Music. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved December 3, 2011. Green Day fan: American Idiot (the song) has sold 1,371,000. Jesus Of Suburbia: 204K Holiday 1,452,000 
  8. ^ "Green Day - American Idiot [OFFICIAL VIDEO]". YouTube. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "Madden NFL 2005: Soundtrack Revealed - Xbox". July 1, 2004. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. Retrieved August 17, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Parodies & Polkas". "Weird Al" Yanvokic. Archived from the original on January 13, 2007. Retrieved February 7, 2007. 
  11. ^ Carter, Emily (June 9, 2014). "Kerrang! Does Green Day’s American Idiot Tribute Album". Retrieved June 12, 2014. 
  12. ^ "VH1 100 Greatest Songs Of The ’00s". VH1. Archived from the original on March 4, 2014. Retrieved December 3, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Rolling Stone Updates "500 Greatest Songs" List". CBS. June 2010. Archived from the original on June 1, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2010. 
  14. ^ Certified Awards Archived 6 February 2013 at WebCite
  15. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  16. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  17. ^ "Green Day > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". allmusic. Archived from the original on October 16, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Chartverfolgung, Green Day, Single". Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. 
  19. ^ Jaclyn Ward - Fireball Media Group - "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved May 7, 2013. 
  20. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot". Top Digital Download.
  21. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  22. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot". Top 40 Singles.
  23. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot". Singles Top 60.
  24. ^ " – Green Day – American Idiot". Swiss Singles Chart.
  25. ^ "Chart Stats - Green Day". Chartstats. Archived from the original on July 1, 2012. 
  26. ^ a b c "Green day Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved December 3, 2011. 
  27. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2004 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. 
  28. ^ "Single Certification List - January 2014" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Latest Gold / Platinum Singles". Radioscope. 17 July 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. 
  30. ^ "British single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter American Idiot in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  31. ^ "American single certifications – Green Day – American Idiot". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
Preceded by
"Breaking the Habit" by Linkin Park
Billboard Modern Rock Tracks number-one single
September 25 – October 30, 2004
Succeeded by
"Vertigo" by U2