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

6. “St. Jimmy”

Considering this, it’s not surprising that “Are We the Waiting” takes place on Easter Sunday, as the song also represents the protagonist’s rebirth. Contemplating who and what he wants to be, he realizes that everything he’s been thus far was pointless, so he sees this moment as a chance to start over anew. He sings, “The rage and love / The story of my life / The Jesus of Suburbia is a lie,” making the religious connotations quite palpable. He’s fed up with being who he is, so he decides to try a new persona as his following grows. Enter: St. Jimmy.

The previous song actually gets interrupted by “St. Jimmy”; its outro is still going when a punky frenzy cuts it off, allowing St. Jimmy to take over. Both symbolically and musically, then, this new façade takes over before Jesus even knows what’s happening. Expectedly (given its theme), it’s a faster, angrier, and all-around more rebellious track, with clashing rhythms, biting guitar chords, and boisterous vocals. In a way, it’s as anarchistic yet catchy as anything else on American Idiot. St. Jimmy is the cool new kid that someone may become when he or she moves to a new school or neighborhood; his disciples have only just met him, so why shouldn’t he reinvent himself for the occasion?

His legendary stature is suggested from the very start, with observers noting, “St. Jimmy’s coming down across the alleyway / Upon the boulevard like a zip gun on parade / Light of a silhouette / He’s insubordinate / Coming at you on the count of 1, 2, 3, 4”. He then introduces himself with fiery proclamations: “My name is Jimmy and you better not wear it out / Suicide commando that your momma talked about / King of the 40 thieves and I’m here to represent / The needle in the vein of the establishment / I’m the patron saint of the denial / With an angel face and a taste for suicidal”.

He goes on to call himself “the product of war and fear that we’ve been victimized” and “the resident leader of the lost and found”, both of which further explains how different he is from Jesus, as well as why he’s the man to make change and shake things up. To make a comparison, if Jesus is like the narrator (superego) of Fight Club, St. Jimmy is like the Tyler Durden (id) of American Idiot. He storms into the scene without warning, demanding everyone’s attention and loyalty without question.

These two tracks represent a turning point in the narrative of American Idiot, as the man we thought was our hero finds himself unworthy of the position. So he transforms himself into a more disruptive and selfish being so he can deal with what the future holds. It’s the sort of makeover that many people try out in, say, high school or college to impress anyone who will come along for the ride, and as we’ll eventually see, this winds up having both positive and negative connotations and results.