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New Green Day Album Plays It Safe On Two Fronts

by Fiona Farrell

[originally published Spring 2020]


The implacable pop-punk sellout act known as Green Day released their thirteenth studio album last week. It is eloquently titled “Father of All Motherfuckers”. You might have missed it — I know I surely almost did.

Both content and aesthetic-wise, the album is about what you’d expect from a man who would name his child Jakob Danger. Its cover sports the band’s name in crimson chicken-scratch hovering over a bare cartoon shin and heel that seem to be flailing in the air for no apparent reason. A seriously faded-looking unicorn conveniently snorts a viscous rainbow substance onto the album’s profane sector.

Musically speaking, the work is not entirely intolerable; it is perfectly suitable for the listener who prefers an hour of jaded rockers playing it safe. The result is not awful, but redundant and unremarkable. These qualities permeate down to the song’s titles themselves; sadly, the few creative or satirical liberties taken in their naming fall dismally flat, into glaringly mundane innovations like “Take the Money and Crawl”.

Beyond their chosen art of music, Green Day has also been turning some heads for rather tactless behavior in the social sphere. It derives from the same general refusal to abandon the ways of the old and adapt to change.

On February 6th, Billie Joe Armstrong, the band’s frontman, gave an interview with USA Today, in which he primarily discussed the band’s upcoming album, among an assortment of other miscellaneous topics. One of these miscellaneous topics happened to be that of the Grammys, which Armstrong analogized to a “bad prom”.

The interviewer was curious as to Armstrong’s take on Billie Eilish’s incredible (five-award) sweep, noting that the two had posed for the cover of Rolling Stone together last year. Naturally, Amrstrong took the opportunity to commend Eilish on her remarkable achievement, declaring “It’s insanely well-deserved. Their music is very real, and you can tell it all comes from them.” So far, so good - until Amrstrong then inserted the addendum “It’s not even comparable to think about what she does compared to someone like Ariana Grande. She’s the real deal.”

Regardless as to what the reader’s opinions might be over what constitutes the “real deal”, it is hardly arguable that this remark was in extremely poor taste. Instead of applauding Eilish’s talent and diligence on a purely individual scale, as she undoubtedly deserves to be evaluated, Armstrong found it necessary to place her on a pedestal by deriding other women of the industry. Not only is this rude and insulting on Grande’s behalf, considering the great efforts which she puts forth into her own career, but it highlights, once again, Armstrong’s concerning inability to adapt to change that does not - or that he feels does not - impact his music directly. Only this time, unfortunately, he is not alone; he is but one of scores of men who find it acceptable to venerate one woman by denigrating the other.

This toxic practice, when infiltrating the omnipotent music industry, serves to harm women in both overt and covert fashions. The pure contents of the remark suggest that women are to compete with each other for ultimate approval by whatever man happens to oversee their frivolous practice. The conversational nonchalance with which the remark was delivered suggests that its contents are perfectly excusable - and, therefore, “normal”. Not only should women be expected to compete with one another, but they should understand that this is, plain and simple, the natural order of things. An incontrovertible truth of the world and how it was designed (by whom, I wonder?) to be.

It is unclear what will happen if we allow seemingly offhand remarks like this one to slip under our collective radar. Yet, one thing seems for certain: if we willfully turn a blind eye to them, we are all but constructing a platform in which their existence is permitted. And, just as Green Day’s music beats to death the same three chords it has been using since 1994, so too will they continue to perpetuate the problematic ideology of an era we are working hard to designate as bygone. So long as “playing it safe” - on every front possible - remains an option, they will remain comfortably rooted on the outskirts of genuine raucous, triumph, and progress, believing that it is better to be on the outside wishing you were in than on the inside wishing you were out.

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