Jesse Jarnow

“boulevard of broken dreams” – green day

week of February 19, 2005
#3 this week, #4 last week, 13 weeks on chart

1.) A guitar song. This is probably the only second one that has come up in the weeks I’ve been doing this (the other being “This Love” by Maroon5). I have a hard time thinking about it on the same terms as Ciara and Mario and Lil Jon, because its form is familiar, less exotic, though it does sound contemporary (especially the intro, which sounds like it could include some kinda spoken-word tag-line).

Mostly, I feel like I’m at a family gathering and have been introduced to a distant cousin that I will undoubtedly get along with because we share common ground in some wholly unspecific interest, like music. “This song has guitars. You like guitars.”

2.) The title seems hackneyed to me, like a shitty lyric off of a latter-day Allman Brothers album. I know I’ve heard the expression before, but it’s one that’s lost a specific meaning. Is it a reference to something older? Google searching, the popularity of the Green Day tune has overwhelmed and obscured other bits. In the first 10 pages, we get: a vinyl-only 1985 Joy Division bootleg, a celebrity studded parody of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” a graphic novel, Final Fantasy fan fiction, and a 1933 song by Al Dubin and Harry Warren (along with an instrumental MIDI file that automatically fired up inside Explorer and played atonally along with the Green Day song streaming through my iTunes). This, I suspect, will be the oldest reference to be found Googling.

The very diversity of results goes to show just how well the expression has melted into common usage. I still don’t like it much.

3.) Pirates of the Caribbean has circulated around my building recently, so I’ve watched various bits of it here and there. I saw it in the theater and – for a big budget Disney movie – I quite enjoyed it. There’s something to be said for a picture that’s accessible without being excessively stupid, that keeps the viewer locked in through a nice pace of swash-buckling sequences, chases, cannon fire, bawdy “family” humor, and the high seas. The Aviator does this, too, in its own way.
And Green Day’s American Idiot is a musical version of that: a Pirates of the Caribbean for us rockist savages. But there’s a difference between Pirates and AI, at least for me: listening to popular music is very different from seeing a popular movie, the latter being such a forcibly immersive experience, compared to the flexibility of songs and the ways we listen to them. Unless it is an artist I am intimately familiar with, it is rare that I sacrifice myself to a piece of music the way I automatically do if I go to the movies (or even watch one at home). All of which is to say that I dig “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” for what it is, but it’s not likely to make any of my playlists anytime soon.

4.) I like the brief, wordless verse that begins at the 1:15 mark. I can imagine this becoming a big sing-along at an arena show. It is for this reason that I like this song ideologically. It means that, at least while it’s popular, kids will still wanna go to big-ass rock concerts and do things like sing along. Hey, I think guitar-based pop music is a form worth preserving beyond the future equivalent of contemporary jazz clubs.

5.) That main riff is familiar, the melody kinda haunting, like it’s lifted from a Dire Straits record or something else I can’t place. The phrasing certainly helps — methodical, assured, sweet as candy.