Green Day was originally part of the punk scene at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California. The band's early releases for independent record labelLookout! Records earned it a grassroots fanbase. Nevertheless, its major label debut Dookie (1994) became a breakout success and eventually sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. and 15 million worldwide. As a result, Green Day was widely credited, alongside fellow California punk bands The Offspring and Rancid, with reviving mainstream interest in and popularizing punk rock in the United States. Green Day's three follow-up albums, Insomniac, Nimrod and Warning did not achieve the massive success of Dookie, but they were still successful, reaching double platinum, double platinum, and gold status respectively. Green Day's 2004 rock operaAmerican Idiot reignited the band's popularity with a younger generation, selling five million copies in the U.S. The band's eighth studio album, 21st Century Breakdown, was released in 2009.
21st Century Breakdown was released through Reprise Records on May 15, 2009. Armstrong has described the album as a "snapshot of the era in which we live as we question and try to make sense of the selfish manipulation going on around us, whether it be the government, religion, media or frankly any form of authority". The singles, "Know Your Enemy" and "21 Guns" exemplify the themes of alienation and politically-motivated anger present in the record.
Critical response to 21st Century Breakdown was generally positive. Critics praising the album considered the composition and Armstrong's lyrics a success; skeptical reviewers were critical of the album's concept, describing it as vague and directionless. The record achieved Green Day's best chart performance to date by reaching number one on the album charts of various countries, including the United States Billboard 200, the European Top 100 Albums, and the United Kingdom Albums Chart. It was awarded the Grammy for Best Rock Album at the 52nd Grammy Awards held on January 31, 2010.