“Seventeen and strung out on confusion”, Billie Joe Armstrong belts out the opening line of “Coming Clean” in a high, booming notes to immediately drive home the coming-of-age struggle the song concerns itself with. Tied to a guitar groove that emphasizes the upbeats of the rhythm, “Coming Clean” is a short track that barely makes it past the minute-and-a-half mark. Regardless of its brevity, it’s rightly considered one of the standout album cuts from Dookie, as Armstrong tackles the subject of sorting out one’s sexual identity in a concise, empowering manner.
Sure, there are no overt mentions of homosexuality in the song (the closest you get is the line “Skeletons come to life in my closet”), but Armstrong has made it clear in interviews that dealing with such desires during adolescence is what “Coming Clean” is about. Forgoing Armstrong’s typical self-effacements, “Coming Clean” is the only track on Dookie that can’t be described with the word “bratty”. The reason is simple: “Coming Clean” is intended as an affirmation, one that demands respect from others even if they unwilling to offer acceptance.