Between the Grooves: Green Day – ‘American Idiot’

Part social commentary and part fictional narrative, Green Day's American Idiot came out of nowhere and impressed with its biting political subversion, exploration of teenage angst, love, and uncertainty, and perhaps most importantly, brilliant structures, transitions, and overall cohesion.

American Idiot
Green Day
21 September 2004

5. “Are We the Waiting”

Thus far in American Idiot, Jesus of Suburbia has left his hometown, abandoned everything he thought he knew and set out alone to find the truth. However, as we saw in “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, this newfound purpose and solidarity have left him isolated, lonely, and scared, all the while questioning if he’s really on the right path. With the next two songs in the sequence—”Are We the Waiting” and “St. Jimmy”—we see him band together with others who are also going through the same search for introspection and morality, as well create a whole new personality with which he can lead them.

The former song is a downtempo ballad at heart. It consists mostly of anthemic percussion over simple guitar arpeggios. Billie Joe Armstrong’s verse melody isn’t as sorrowful as it was on the last track, but it’s in the same vein. Lyrically, he continues to lament the hopelessness he feels now that he’s become alienated from the world yet still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. Sentiments like “Are we, we are / Are we, we are the waiting unknown / This dirty town was burning down in my dreams / Lost and found, city-bound in my dreams” and “Forget-me-nots / And second thoughts life in isolation / Heads or tails / And fairy tales in my mind” pinpoint this mental state. In addition, it suggests further social commentary, as many Americans felt lost and confused in the wake of September 11th, 2001 and the ensuing war with the Middle East. Interestingly, the chorus finds Armstrong backed with other voices, who repeatedly sing the title as he interjects “and screaming!” This addition implies that he’s found others to join his plight; in essence, he’s become their leader.