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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
Reprise
21 September 2004

8. “She’s a Rebel”

Fortunately, “She’s a Rebel” is very much the yang to the ying of “St. Jimmy”, as it’s very similar in both structure and purpose. In fact, it interrupts the previous song, just as “St. Jimmy” did to “Are We the Waiting”. Another anthemic punk rock gem, its verse sections burst with hostility, as the guitar riffs are crunchy and thick, the rhythms are hypnotic, and the vocals are layered and authoritative. There’s also a start/stop rhythmic pattern that keeps listeners enticed and on edge. On the other hand, the chorus is as charming as anything else on American Idiot, as Armstrong sings an optimistic melody, backed by subtle harmonies. It’s not as multifaceted as its predecessor, but it’s still a kickass moment.

As for its sentiments, this song is clearly written from the perspective of St. Jimmy as he first notices (and becomes infatuated with) this new teenager from the wrong side of the tracks. He eventually tells us that she’s called “Whatshername” (which symbolizes the universality of their connection, as just about every heterosexual teenage male has had his own Whatshername at some point, be she a delinquent, an artist, a geek, etc.) Much like the description Jesus had for St. Jimmy, St. Jimmy tells us that “She’s a rebel / She’s a Saint / She’s the salt of the earth and she’s dangerous”.

Interestingly, this song is also the inspiration for the album’s iconic cover, as he adds, “She’s the symbol of resistance / And she’s holding on my heart like a hand grenade”. There’s no doubt that St. Jimmy views her as both the love of his life and the missing piece of his rebellious mission. In this moment, he confesses that she’s essentially his soul mate: “Is she trouble? / Like I’m trouble? / Make it a double twist of fate / Or a melody that / She sings the revolution / The dawning of our lives / She brings this liberation / That I just can’t define”.

This dedication makes sense, though, when one considers how vulnerable, naïve, and desperate for validation and love St. Jimmy is. He’s essentially found a new woman for himself (as a new man), and he’s eager to solidify the partnership and start the revolution. Of course, love and lofty, grandiose ambitions rarely come to satisfactory fruition, so things won’t go as well as he thinks. She may be an extraordinary girl, but she’s also a ticking letter bomb waiting to go off.

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