“When I Come Around” is more than just the best song off Dookie. It’s quite possibly the best tune Green Day has ever made, one of those transcendent moments in pop music where all the elements congeal to form a greater whole that’s gratifying on an almost instinctual level. Even upon a cursory listen to the track, it’s no surprise that it was a hit. In early 1995, “When I Come Around” became the third and final single from Dookie to top the Billboard Modern Rock Charts (helping the album match a number of Modern Rock chart-toppers managed previously only by U2’s Achtung Baby), acting as the capstone to a year-long breakthrough success story that included multi-million unit sales and a Grammy Award win for Best Alternative Music Performance.
“When I Come Around” is undoubtedly my favorite track from the album. It’s also one of the songs I hold dearest, by any artist. As such, it’s been somewhat difficult to write this entry in my overview of the Dookie album. If only you knew how many times I’ve rewritten this post before submitting it. I’ve loved “When I Come Around” ever since I began tuning into my local modern rock station in the late ‘90s. Even upon my first proper introduction to the song, I was keenly aware that I was somehow already familiar with the track, which mystified me, as up to that point I didn’t listen to rock music past 1980, and was only starting to get into more recent releases. My best guess is I heard it around 1995 when riding to a sixth grade field trip to the beach, an occasion during which I recall spying the unmistakable CD case for Dookie laying on the floor of the minivan I was in. Even after all this time, and all the myriad styles and artists I have encountered in the intervening years, my appreciation of the song has increased, even edging out old Dookie favorites “Welcome to Paradise” and “Basket Case”. And frustratingly, even after so many attempts to tackle the issue, I really can’t explain why I adore it so much. Sure, it was the perfect song for me to connect with when I was in high school, but that was nearly a decade ago, and I love the song even more now than I did then. I wouldn’t call “When I Come Around” my all-time favorite song (contenders for that slot change far too frequently to me to declare a winner), but it’s clear given its number one ranking on my Last.fm and iTunes playlist tallies that it’s the likeliest contender. When it comes down to it, this song is just utterly fantastic, and I don’t think I could ever get bored with it.