Written By: GeekStinkBreath.net
Note: Adapted from the song meanings authored by GeekStinkBreath and presented here to provide an interesting take on the story from the American Idiot album.
The title of the song is referring to the author’s opinion that these days politicians and the media are telling us what to do, what to buy, what to believe in. We are constantly being subliminally mind-fucked by commercials, campaigns and reality TV. They turn us into idiots with no individuality. In this song, the narrator is saying that he doesn’t want his nation to be turned into complete idiots, he doesn’t want his country to be led by a redneck president (“I’m not a part of a redneck agenda”), doesn’t want people to be convinced that it’s right to hate someone because of their sexual preferences (“maybe I’m the faggot America”), doesn’t want the nation to be isolated and detested because of stupid decisions that the government makes (“Welcome to a new kind of tension, all across the alienation”).
This song is an overview of the album’s most important ideas, as well as a sort of a warning calling out to the people across the country: don’t let them take away your personality, don’t let them turn you into Idiot America.
Jesus Of Suburbia
Jesus of Suburbia
This is the introduction of the album’s leading character. He describes himself as “the son of rage and love”, living on a “steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin” and “doing someone else’s cocaine”. He sarcastically mentions that this messed up life he’s living is completely normal for him: “there’s nothing wrong with me, this is how I’m supposed to be”, and goes on with his story about the “land of make-believe” that he lives in.
City of the Damned
The motto says “Home is where your heart is”, but it doesn’t mean that this works for everyone; some people just don’t fit in. Jesus points out that people don’t really care about anyone but themselves these days (“Lost children with dirty faces today no one really seems to care”), and surrounded by this indifference he states that now he doesn’t care either.
I Don’t Care
Jesus gives his opinion on the world – “everyone is so full of shit, born and raised by hypocrites”. He says that if no one cares about him, there is no reason for him to care about anyone else (“I don’t care if you don’t”). He’s tired of this “land of make-believe” that doesn’t believe in him.
This part shows the softer side of Jesus’ personality. His disguise of sarcasm covers his cry for help (“Oh therapy, can you please fill the void?”). He’s tired of being alone and rejected, of not fitting in. He wants to break free.
Tales of Another Broken Home
Jesus states that he’s not living, he’s just existing – “to live and not to breathe is to die in tragedy”. And he decided to run away and try to find something worth living for. He doesn’t want to walk that same line anymore, doesn’t want to keep living a life that he has no faith in. He feels no shame for leaving – “running away from pain when you’ve been victimized”. He doesn’t know what’s waiting for him, he just wants to start a new life.
Many famous seers have suggested a prediction that the end of the world will come after or during World War III. So, the line “Hear the sound of the falling rain, coming down like an Armageddon flame” could mean that the war Bush has started might cause unfixable damage to the world. “The shame, the ones who died without a name” is referring to everyone who’s fallen victim of the political battles that the power-hungry country leaders pull us into. All the soldiers, all the victims of the terrorist attacks – they all “died without a name”. Starting a war is never the right answer (“Trials by fire setting fire…”).
Holiday could be considered an anti-Bush song to a certain extent. The author shows his disgust towards the power-hungry president who will destroy anything that confronts him “Pulverize the Eiffel towers who criticize your government. Bang, bang! goes the broken glass, kill all the fags that don’t agree”). Another issue might be the number of vacations the president is taking – the current state of international politics is “the dawning of the rest of our lives”, and the president is always on holiday.
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Coming after Holiday this song describes the feeling of loneliness that Jesus of Suburbia has to face after the party is over. After finally breaking free and entering the City, Jesus was excited and filled with expectations. But now the holiday is over, the confetti landed on the floor and the intoxication is wearing off – he looks around and finds himself alone on the street of the heartless city, empty in the morning darkness. Everything around him seems lifeless and only his vital signs prove that he’s not dead as well. He’s all alone…The phrase “I’m walking down the line that divides me somewhere in my mind” could be considered the beginning of St. Jimmy’s appearance – Jesus doesn’t want to be weak and vulnerable anymore, he wants to change.
Of course, there is more to this song than just Jesus’ emotional hangover. Walking a lonely road is not only a one-time realization of your loneliness. Going through life on your own you get so used to the solitude that this lonely road becomes your home and your actual life. Most songs about loneliness are a scream for help, an expression of despair and fear of being alone. Boulevard is different – the narrator accepts his life the way it is, he’s used to it, no matter how horrible it might get or seem, this loneliness is his way. Only sometimes does he dream of someone finding him and saving him from his aloneness, but so far he doesn’t know any better and is patiently waiting for a change.
Are We The Waiting
Are We the Waiting continues expressing the feelings that began during the hangover in Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Jesus hated his hometown and was dreaming of life in the city, of the skyscrapers and neon lights – something he considered to be the real life. But now he’s finally in the City, and he doesn’t fit it, doesn’t belong. Is that what he was waiting for? But it’s too late now, he’s made his choice and second thoughts will do nothing but cause regrets and insecurity. Jesus decides that all his Jingletown philosophy is a lie and he needs a drastic change in himself to be accepted by the City. That’s when St. Jimmy comes into the scene.
The song is also believed to have certain political overtones. It is quite possible that the frustration in Are We the Waiting is related not only to Jesus’ feelings but also to the author’s attitude towards the current situation in world politics. When the president started the war a lot of countries turned their backs on the US and the nation was isolated. And now second thoughts and doubts about what should have been done and what shouldn’t have are not going to change anything. Now, all we can do is wait and see what happens. What are we waiting for? Unknown.
Have you ever noticed how a shy little boy suddenly starts acting all cool and dangerous after changing schools? When you come to some new place where no one knows you, you get a chance to put on an act so everyone thinks you’re cooler than you actually are…So, after entering the City and realizing his own loneliness and vulnerability, Jesus decides to create a new self, a whole new person, a true rebel, a cold-blooded city resident – one that Jesus has never been.
From the first words of the introduction of Jimmy, he’s being described as this awesome son of a bitch shining with coolness – the kind of guy easily impressible teenage boys would want to be. Confident as hell and self-sufficient, Jimmy claims to be the “patron saint of the denial” and therefore refers to himself as “St. Jimmy”. In his attempts to be accepted by the new environment, Jesus suppresses all kinds of love in himself and turns into a reflection of rage that’s been brewing inside of him. There’s no more “son of rage and love” – now there’s a product of the victimized society, the martyr of war and fear, St. Jimmy.
Give Me Novacaine
There are two meanings to the song. One is the song’s significance in the story line, and the other one is some message that the author expresses through the words of the song.
So, as a part of the plot Give Me Novacaine is describing the insecurity and fear that Jesus of Suburbia is experiencing when he enters his new life. He’s tired of being weak, and so he fully surrenders to his alter ego, St. Jimmy. Now he’s doing what Jimmy tells him to.
If you look at this song apart from the album, it has a meaning of its own. In simple words, it’s about feeling shitty and not wanting to feel shitty. When the weight of emotional baggage is bringing you down and natural intelligence makes you realize things you might not really want to know that gives you a “bittersweet migraine” – you can’t take it anymore and just want to numb yourself and make the pain go away. Basically, Novacaine is not an intoxicant, it’s more of a pain-killer. So, the song is not as much about experiments with drugs, as just about the desire to get rid of the pain.
She’s A Rebel
The idea of the album cover is based on a line from this song (“she’s holding on my heart like a hand grenade”). The song is an introduction of Whatsername. After the despair and loneliness in Give Me Novacaine, She’s a Rebel reflects the infatuation that Jesus/Jimmy experiences when he meets Whatsername. He describes her as a rebel, vigilante, everything he’s ever dreamed of. “She sings the revolution, the dawning of our lives” is obviously connected to a line in Holiday (“This is the dawning of the rest of our lives”), which shows that everything Jesus expected from his life in the City is now in front of him, reflected in his new addiction – Whatsername. She gives him hope of a life he’s always wanted.
Since the album is highly political, there is an opinion that She’s a Rebel is a song about America. In certain ways, the country is considered to be a rebel, has always been the one able to start a revolution and bring liberty. However, as the album flows, we’ll see that this rebel isn’t always completely successful or happy and sometimes has to go through some hard times.
This song describes the difficulties that a romantic relationship is going through after the infatuation subsides and partners face the day-to-day routine of each other’s lives. They realize that love is not just enjoying the good sides of each other, but also compromising and accepting everything in your loved one. Alas, that doesn’t always work out the way it should.
Coming after the wildness of falling in love in She’s a Rebel, Extraordinary Girl is a calm and sad story of the next stage of the relationship between Jimmy and Whatsername – dating. This song gives a deeper introduction of Whatsername’s character and why the relationship between her and Jesus/Jimmy is doomed to fall apart. She is a true rebel – she doesn’t rebel just for the sake of being cool or to attract attention. This is her true nature and she’s not faking anything. Whereas Jesus is only pretending to be a rebel, and the war inside of him, the insecurities caused by living someone else’s life eventually lead to his inability to satisfy Whatsername’s needs in their relationship. He realizes that he’s failing, but no matter how he tries – he is not Jimmy. This whole relationship is based on lies and it crumbles leaving Jesus all alone again.
Another theory about this song says that “she” in this song is not only Whatsername but also America. Her lonely tears symbolize the political isolation that the US had to endure because of the war that the president started. In this case the line “She sees a mirror of herself, an image she wants to sell to anyone willing to buy” could be interpreted as a reference to the fact that the American culture is spread all around the world.
Then there is a theory that the song represents the world’s attitude to women and how they are supposed to be perfect and match the standards of beauty (“She sees a mirror of herself, an image she wants to sell to anyone willing to buy”) – some women would do anything to look like a cover girl, overlooking their inner beauty – the one thing that truly makes them extraordinary.
Opinions about the meaning of this song range from a call for revolution (“Where have all the riots gone?”) to the nearing end of the world (“Where will we all go when it’s too late?”), and probably there is a little bit of everything in this song, going along one of the most important turns in the story of the album.
The song begins with a female voice singing the lines that will later recur: “nobody likes you, everyone left you…” This might be Whatsername pointing out Jesus’ failure to have a decent social life, but it just as well might be his subconsciousness playing a cruel joke on him and making him feel worthless and insecure. Everything around him seems so fake – nothing is stable, nothing is forever. No one wants to fight for their beliefs anymore (“Where have all the riots gone? As your city’s motto gets pulverized”). Jesus failed to be a rebel, his life in the city was a sand castle built on lies and pretence – and it fell apart. He didn’t want to be Jesus of Suburbia, but he couldn’t handle being Jimmy – and now he’s neither (“You’re not the Jesus of Suburbia. The St. Jimmy is a figment of your father’s rage and your mother’s love…”). His war with himself led to a crash of his relationship with Whatsername. His fake personality wasn’t enough to keep her by his side and she leaves the City and Jesus behind. “It’s not over till you’re underground” ‒ she still has a chance to try and start a new life somewhere else. Which she does.
Wake Me Up When September Ends
Wake Me Up When September Ends is believed to be the most detached song of the album because it mostly portrays the author’s personal feelings and is barely linked to the story of the album. However, the song could be perceived as a part of the plot if we assume that the words of the song come from Jesus of Suburbia and this is him looking back on his childhood, his family and maybe his own father’s death. He’s recalling the better times he had in his past and realizing that his life in the City is really bringing him down. This gradually leads him to his decision to go back home.
Also, the song portrays Jesus’ loss of innocence. He entered the City with excitement, but after everything that’s happened to him, he sees that the freedom that he longed for is now hurting him. It all seemed so new to him at first, he thought he was discovering the world, his perception was enthusiastic and bright (“Hear the sound of the falling rain – coming down like an Armageddon flame”), and now everything lost its color (“Here comes the rain again, falling from the stars – drenched in my pain again…”). Complete loss of innocence – Jesus is growing up, Jimmy is dying.
East 12th Street
Supposedly, East 12th Street is where Armstrong was filling out his papers after getting arrested for DUI. So, the line “Jesus filling out paperwork now, at the facility on East 12th Street” probably means that he’s either planning to do community service for whatever crime he got caught for, or he got himself a desk job and is trying to have a “normal” life. But it all makes no sense to him, he wants to go back to his usual activities with “the underbelly”, nothing works out – he just wants to be free, wants to get out of this life-like dream. Anxiety fills his mind and he realizes that everything he’s doing is wrong.
Nobody Likes You
This song is a little abstract. Jesus is talking to himself, realizing he’s lost so much time waiting for something to happen and now he’s left with nothing. Whatsername left him, everyone left him, and he shouldn’t have come here in the first place.
Rock and Roll Girlfriend
This is a postcard from Tunny, one of the members of the underbelly. He describes his rock’n’roll life and says he’s pretty much doing great. Now while Tunny is living his dream, Jesus is stuck with his dead-end job, because Tunny is a true rebel like everyone else in the underbelly, while Jesus was only acting like a rebel. Therefore, his fake rebellion gets him nowhere…
We’re Coming Home Again
…and he decides to go home. Jesus calms down, takes a sober look at the world and realizes that there isn’t much he can do to change it, nor does he want to. Running away from his boring Jingletown life he’s made a full circle and is now coming back home. Home is a safety net that’s always there for you if your independent life goes haywire. Jesus leaves the ruins of his life-like dream behind and goes back home.
This song reflects the narrator’s feelings about a long lost love, a relationship that has ended a long time ago leaving only regretful memories in his mind. He was obviously hurt by the break-up and “made a point to burn all of the photographs”, however, he still remembers her face even though the name’s been erased by the time that passed.
Whatsername comes as the last track on the album but doesn’t give us a clear answer about what exactly the ending of the album is. We don’t know whether Jesus came back home or went to jail, or wound up somewhere else. It might be anything and the listeners can make up their own ending. But whatever happened to Jesus and however long it’s been since Whatsername left him – he still remembers her, and wonders how she’s been. “Forgetting you but not the time” – he’s already forgotten her name, one day he will forget her face, but the memory of the past will always dwell, no matter what.
Listening to the story of Jesus’ adventures in the City, we believe that Whatsername is the name of his girlfriend that he met on the streets and fell in love with. But when the story comes to its conclusion in the final song, we suddenly realize that the told story is Jesus’ memories about what happened. And since it was all a long time ago, he can’t remember the actual name of the girl he was in love with, and so he calls her “Whatsername”, while her real name remains unknown.