Now that the trilogy is out I thought I might reflect a little on this whole project. We learned of this whole thing back in April with a tweet from Billie Joe announcing they'd be releasing 3 albums over several months toward the end of 2012 and into early 2013. Most fans were elated, the idea that we would get so much new music from our favorite band is pretty damn exciting. There were naysayers, but I'm pretty sure that with every Green Day album since Dookie there have been people bitching about it.
I think many of us did feel this undercurrent of worry, however small, that this might be a mistake. The idea of any band releasing 37 songs across three albums separated by only a few weeks and the attention span of our internet-fried "give-me-everything-now" culture, lends itself to worry. It's different, most musicians don't do it, it could fail, and none of us want to see anything fail that Green Day does. At the same time, it was bold, different, and interesting.
We've always known Green Day writes a tremendous amount of music between albums. After American Idiot they had written some 60 songs, which eventually got whittled down into the 18 featured on 21st Century Breakdown. There are dozens, if not hundreds of songs that Billie Joe, Mike, and Tre have written that we'll never hear. So with a plan to release 3 albums it introduced the idea that finally we might get to hear more of that stuff that would otherwise be thrown out. Of course this is exciting for most of us, but some people saw it as an egocentric move by Green Day. "Do they really think that all the music they write is so good that none of it should be edited down?" Well...yeah.
The beauty of technology in our era is that we can connect to people through the internet that we never had the chance to before. Green Day can write a song that will appeal to someone out there. Should the goal of a musician be to only write music that will be popular or be required to have mainstream appeal? This is why I've always disregarded this idiotic argument about whether Green Day "sold out" or not. Green Day has always written music for themselves. They write what they feel about, what they care about, whether it's girls and masturbation back in the day, politics and the state of our culture, or reflection and growing up. They've never written a song because they felt they had to. The meaning of a song isn't defined by who will appreciate it or whether a majority of anonymous commenters on Ultimate Guitar or Punk News thought it was worthy.
The interesting thing about Green Day, as I wrote in a blog post, is that people ascribe a certain sound to them. Some people want them to write music that all sounds like Dookie or all like American Idiot - but why should they? Both of those albums are amazing, but they've already done it. Why shouldn't they move on to write the music and lyrics that they are interested in?
I kind of understand the intent behind people bitching, I just think it's misguided. I think musicians should always release the music they feel like creating - everyone else can think it's crap, but someone out there will dig it, and at least then you were true to yourself.
Now that we've heard all 37 songs on this trilogy we can look over it and reflect a bit on how it's turned out.
As I tweeted yesterday, I think with this trilogy Green Day has released some of the best music of their career. There are songs on each album that I think will be highlights of their career for some time to come. Much of the music across ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tre! comes off as deceptively simple. They aren't the crazy 10 minute rock operas of last decade, they don't have the lyrical poetry of Warning, but they aren't any less meaningful to me. A lot of songs call back to the simpler days of 1039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk, but they still have the matured sound of a band that has been playing for 25 years.
One of my favorite songs off the trilogy is Lazy Bones. There's nothing complex about it. The lyrics are straightforward, the music is nothing crazy, but it's a damn good song. It's catchy, it's fun to listen to and sing along with, and the lyrics send me a message about burning out that I can relate to and appreciate. What more could I ask of in a song?
You can listen to a song like Lazy Bones or the even slower tune of Brutal Love and find a band passionate about what they're creating. I love Billie Joe's singing in Brutal Love - it's incredibly strong and I compared it to something Elvis-like. They're writing music they've never done before. Even if some feel familiar to other Green Day songs, they present them in a way that's new.
Then they also have new stuff all together, like Nightlife, something totally different from anything Green Day has ever done. While I personally didn't like the song, some did, and that's perfectly fine. They also released Fuck Time,formerly a Foxboro Hot Tubs song but never released on a record, and I think that again is something in a really different direction from anything they've released in their past. A lot of songs on Dos and Tre invoke the sound of the more classic rock n' roll from the 60's and 70's. I grew up listening to bands my parents liked such as The Beatles, CCR and Elvis - so hearing Green Day's music touch the boundaries of that sound were more than welcome to my ears.
I do think it's entirely possible that Green Day could have cherry-picked the top 4 or 5 songs on each album and released an incredibly strong record that I'm sure would have topped the charts. That said, I'm glad they didn't. I'm glad they decided to do something new, and I'm not sure they would have picked the songs that I think would have been most successful.
Our poll asking for your favorite songs from Uno and Dos showed that the majority of our users didn't prefer the songs picked as singles. In the case of the first single, Oh Love, it actually got the fewest votes from the entire album. I think over the last decade there have been some pretty questionable single choices. For both American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, I thought the first singles (American Idiot and Know Your Enemy respectively) were the weakest songs on those albums. In the most generic sense Green Day's appeal is to the alternative rock scene, people who are looking for a song to relate to, something catchy, kick ass, and has attitude behind it. I think picking the right first single would go a long way in how people perceive an album. Imagine Green Day introducing the world to 21st Century Breakdown with "East Jesus Nowhere" in all their television appearances and radio debuts. I think its appeal would have been much higher and widespread. Think if Green Day had introduced the trilogy with Stay The Night or Nuclear Family - something fast and catchy - more people would be paying attention.
Stray Heart was a solid single, but I think Lazy Bones would have been alright as well. With the final album I think 8th Avenue Serenade or Dirty Rotten Bastards would have been great.
Of course promotion for these albums were stopped prematurely with Billie Joe's decision to attend rehab. It came right as promotion for Uno was just kicking off and it looked like we'd have a solid 3 months of seeing Green Day on every magazine, television show, and music site. It's something that couldn't be avoided though. Hindsight is 20/20 and I'm sure Green Day themselves wish things were going differently. But the only other outcome from all that happened in late September, would have been for them to ignore those issues and plow forward as they planned. Not only would that have been a mistake, but also unhealthy for Billie Joe and the band. Clearly he had some demons to deal with, and it's best he did that when it needed to happen, regardless with how much it fucked up their tour and promotion.
I'm pretty sure that sometime after the new year, once Green Day gets back on their feet, they'll be making those rounds on television and magazines. Of course the whole world wants to talk to them about everything that led up to Billie Joe going to rehab, but I expect the attention will lend itself to helping promote the music - which is far more important in my opinion.
I haven't had a chance to talk to Green Day about the future, but here's my expectations. I think sometime in the next few months they'll start doing promotion themselves for this trilogy as I mentioned above: television, radio, magazines, the whole deal. During that time they'll probably announce their plans to reschedule the tour dates they've had to be postponed from this year and early next year. There's no doubt in my mind that the guys want to get back out on the road and in front of an audience. The last time we saw them, September, none of us knew what the whole trilogy sounded like. Now we know about it and can get really invested in the music as they perform. Those shows are gonna be pretty damn amazing.
I also can't help but wonder what kind of music we're going to hear come from this time. I can only assume that Billie Joe has continued writing, and I'm curious what kind of inspiration he's found in music dealing with all that's he has dealt with over the last 3 months. I don't expect them to release anything soon, but I'm still very curious.
It's going to take me some time to listen to the full trilogy and see how the whole thing sums up. How I look back on American Idiot and Warning is different today than how I felt when they came out. There's a lot of songs that I absolutely love on this trilogy, and just as Homecoming and Minority stick with me all these years later, I see that potential in many of these new songs.
I'm glad Green Day did something different and took a risk in releasing 37 songs across 3 albums. They shared some incredible music that we wouldn't have heard otherwise and they explored some styles we haven't heard them take. It's refreshing to have a band I admire so much doing something to break out of the mold others have casted.
The albums have sold alright. Being in the Billboard top 10 for the first two is nothing to scoff at - many bands releasing a single album didn't break into the top 10 on their debut. Yes, we would all love to see the band conquering every corner of the music market, because I think deep down we feel it validates our interests. But let's remember what's actually important - we have new music to listen to and explore, and whether it sells a thousand copies or a million - it doesn't change how this new music will affect each of us individually.
Green Day has given us 37 songs to let sink into our soul. They will be the soundtrack to parts of our lives, and in ten years we'll hear a song come on from this trilogy and it will remind us of something special yet to come. That's the power of music, and I'm glad we have over 120 minutes of new music to experience that with.