One can interpret Green Day’s lyrics of “American Idiot” as offensive to America and the people living here; however, I disagree with that argument. When Billy Joe sings “I don’t wanna be an American idiot,” he is not implying that Americans are stupid. He is implying that the people of America are being corrupted or “mind-fucked” by what the media has to say about how society should live. This is apparent when he sings about propaganda and the media controlling the nation. Though the band uses usually offensive terms such as “redneck” and “faggot,” it is not their intention to offend anybody. Green Day’s purpose for performing this song is to protest the way that our country is being run and to hopefully get listeners to feel the same way.
I think an interesting aspect of Green Day’s song “American Idiot” is how it entices listeners to listen very closely to the lyrics of the song. If someone is just passively listening to the song not paying much attention, the song will come across as extremely offensive to people of America. There is lots of foul language and the chorus appears to be calling us all “idiots.” However with a much closer listen its not so apparent meaning comes to the surface. Green Day is actually cautioning us against the dangers of the media and all its propaganda that it pushes upon the people of America which in turn makes us “idiots.” Green Day is most certainly not trying to bash Americans but quite the opposite. I think it is very interesting how this song forces the listener to dig a little deeper in order to find its meaning and how it can easily be misinterpreted.
Just as in any other of their songs, Green Day criticizes American society in their song “American Idiot.” Using a musically violent genre of hard rock, Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead singer of the band, passionately expresses his criticism of America. While the song is called “American Idiot,” Green Day is not generally implying that all Americans are idiots. Their usage of the word “idiot” solely increases the harshness of the bands criticism of Americans. Rather, Green Day’s primary criticism is towards the media of our nation and the superior authority it holds over the citizens of America. Green Day criticizes the media for its grand influence over the people, and peoples’ ignorance towards the media’s falsities. Finally, the hard rock nature of the song, along with the guitar solo add to the passion that Green Day looks to show in their criticism.
I found out that the melody in the song “LAND OF THE LIVING” is very intrigue to me. Carefully examining the lyrics of the song, I realized that these words intend to present a sad and bitter world in front of the listeners: “And I said “You’re bleeding, are you okay?” “There’s death in the air but there’s life on this street” (Line 23,30). In order to interpret the mood that lyrics tends to produce, Lucy Kaplansky sings the song in a slow but melodic way. The slow and low pitch voice induce a sadness towards the world that we are living which perfectly corresponding what the lyrics tried to delineate. The coordination between the lyrics and the melody or the pitch of the song induce listeners to visualize the scene behind the song which makes the song extremely attractive to me.
In “American Idiot,” one may argue that Green Day hates America because of Green Day’s explicit lyrics dealing with America’s so called subliminal mind control. I take a more positive approach when uncovering the deeper message of “American Idiot.” I believe that Green Day cautions Americans to not fall into the the norms of a worsening American society that appears to be controlled by the media. Green Day states “we’re not the ones who’re meant to follow.” As Americans, we are called to move past the appealing media messages and become individuals, who are capable of thinking creatively and creating a bright new future for America.
The songs “American Idiot” and “Land of the Living” melodies are different from each other but both have a message to transmit to the listener. “American Idiot” by Green day is more of a punk song due to the aggressive lyrics and the way it is sung. I like how in the song people are warned from becoming “American idiot[s]” for following the propaganda of the media in a very direct way. The song “Land of the Living” by Lucy Kaplansky, on the other hand, has a slow and more peaceful melody compared to “American Idiot.” I really like how she makes us imagine the moments she’s singing about and conveys a sad tone to us of the 9/11 attacks, since the imagery of New York during a disaster is described to us in the song.
Lucy Kaplansky’s “Land of the Living” intrigued me for two reasons: first, because the subject matter was not feminine like what we have seen in other songs written by women musicians, and secondly, because the song seemed to promote unity more than protest. In the previous songs that we looked at that were written by female musicians the subject matter subtly referred to feminist issues. However, in “Land of the Living,” absolutely nothing applies strictly to women. Instead, Kaplansky refers to 9/11 to unite people using the fact that the entire nation is suffering the same tragedy. The only hint of protest I get from the song is that it unites the nation against a common enemy. Therefore, although the song is a protest song, it definitely breaks away from the model that we have been studying so far.
“American Idiot” and “Land of the Living” portray two different sides of America. Green Day describes how mass media can brainwash Americans that they begin to lose their unique identities or in other words, “one nation controlled by the media”. Lucy Kaplansky sings of the aftermath of 9/11, but sings that there is still “life on this street”. She sings of the tragedies on the streets and her uncomfortable experience in a taxi, but signifies that there is still hope. Both, sing of a nation that has lost its identity. Green Day refers to “American Idiot(s)” as those who listen to anything their “television” tells them, while Kaplansky expresses how broken- down streets, the missing family members, and hurt citizens make one nation lose its identity. One minute New York was alive and bustling, and the next moment many people and places were gone. However, Kaplansky frequently indicates that “this is the land of the living” indicating that people will recapture their identity. Green Day makes no such indication that people will achieve their own identities.
Green Days song “American Idiot” is a song of form. It relies on feel words and this song puts its emphasis on the background music. The background music is harsh and fast.This music seems to be chasing you. It makes me feel uneasy, as if I was being taken over by the media of America. Although there are few lyrics, the ones it uses are very powerful, yet, they are fairly repetitive. It goes, “don’t wana be an American Idiot”(Green Day). This is a powerful statement since Americans think they are the pinnacle of knowledge, and they want to avoid not being thought of as smart people. However, this song is saying by using all this media which is the basis of our knowledge we are becoming a nation who can’t think on its own. Or becoming American Idiots.
Lucy Kaplansky’s song, Land of Living sings about the 9·11. The whole song is in a rueful mood. The rhythm was slow and the melody is repeating throughout the song. There is no doubt that “Land of The Living” is a beautiful song. Its euphonic melody makes people calm down quickly. And the lyrics is the lament for the people died in the 9·11. Kaplansky does not portray the victims directly. However, she focuses on the peoples mourning and the firemen. In the third verse, Kaplansky sings that “I think they’re praying for us all today. And the stories that fell from the sky that day”. “The story that fell from the sky” refers to the World Trade Twin Towers which collapsed in the catastrophe. Although the song is in a sad emotion, Kaplansky does not give up the hope. In the chorus, the lyrics say that “This is the land of living…. She’s still holding onto that torch life”. The “she” is the Statue of Liberty, which is the symbol of New York, even the USA. And the “land of living” is the America. Though the tragedy happened, Americans must be strong and hopeful. Because she believe that the USA is the land of living, and the Statue of Liberty will always protect the USA.
In the song “American Idiot” by Green Day, the lyrics explicitly state the intentions of the song: Americans, who weren’t meant to be followers, are slowly falling into the deceiving controls of mass media and television. However, in the second song, Lucy Kaplansky sings of American as a land of constant hope and second chances, a land of the living. It is interesting how she chose downtown Manhattan to show the land of the living (I would think she would have chosen somewhere in the countryside with easy and satisfactory living conditions). She goes further to emphasize in detail the worst aspects of Manhattan: “taxi drivers are kneeling down, beneath the concrete sky.” But all the while, her chorus states: “This is the land of the living, This is the land that’s mine, She still watches over Manhattan, She’s still holding onto that torch for life.” Reiterating time and time again, Kaplansky implies that America, both as individual citizens and as a nation, still has hope for redevelopment and ultimate success.
“Land of the Living” by Lucy Kaplansky intrigues me a lot. I found out that it was produced after the tragedy of 9/11. Instead of protesting like most of the songs we heard and talked about before, this song has nothing to do with protest and called for unity. She described the despair and uncomfortable mood of the country but pointed out that there was still hope existed. I found the line “She still watches over Manhattan/ She’s still holding onto that torch for life” about the Statue of Liberty especially moving. For the melody of the song, it is in a very slow and peaceful way that Kaplansky tried the appease the sadness of American people and give them hope which make the song very attactive.
Though it may sound like a loud mess of screaming a nonsense, “American Idiot,” by Green Day. Green day does bring a good point about the transition of the nation from simple media of radios and only a few channels on the television. To a complex socitey were media controls our lives. I believe that when Green Day refers to “american idiot,” they mean how people react and learn from the media and don’t fully understand a situation. For example, when people bring up blind voting and how many people are uneducated on the issues.
The meaning buried in lyrics of “Land of the Living” truly engross me at first. It vividly describes a busy and depressed life style in New York City, as stated in lyrics “tar and asphalt, exhaust and fumes”(6). Then, “there’s death in the air but there’s life on this street”(29) is my favorite sentence in this song. It expresses people’s desperate while optimistic attitudes toward life. After having felt frustrated once and once again in their lives, they still choose to stay in the city because they believe that they can change destiny and make life better. Also, the depressed atmosphere can be interpreted from the words “ back home fire’s still burning, I can see it in the air” (17). Moreover, by simply sitting down and playing a guitar, Lucy Kaplansk performs the harmonious song in a peaceful way.
When I used to listen to American Idiot I never thought of it as a protest song, but after taking this class and looking at the lyrics I realized that they are riddled with metaphors that take stabs at America and bush’s administration. While the song is very fast and brutal like most of their songs, it has a deep meaning that can only be seen if one really listens to what the lyrics say. The song reflects the idea that nowadays the media and politicians are telling us what to do, what to buy and how to act. We are constantly being brain-washed by television and constant ads. He stabs at George W. Bush, calling him a redneck “I’m not a part of a redneck agenda.” And even takes stabs at the anti-gay conservatives “maybe I’m the faggot America.” The song is a lot deeper than I initially thought, and actually makes many great points.
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