a (very belated) American Idiot Track Analysis

American Idiot, turning 10 years old on this 4/20. Track by Track music analysis of the OBCR with your pal Sandy.

This and my last cast recording analysis share one trait: Rebecca Naomi Jones.

Tom Kitt gets so many props over the years of his masterful sound world-building aka orchestrations! And to me this is among his finest.

  1. American Idiot (the eponymous/titular song). Frankly of the songs, in the show this one is the closest to its original counterpart. Lays out the tone.
  2. Jesus of Suburbia is a nine-minute number, but, honestly, so is Ragtime’s prologue, and that’s my number one favorite opening number of all time. Jesus of Suburbia starts out true to the original, but the transition between sections II and III (City of the Damned and I Don’t Care) is when we start to get the benefit of mixed gender voicing and a much larger sized ensemble than the voices on the original album. Finally, when we get to Tales from Another Broken Home, we start getting some major string action
  3. Holiday- the instrumentation in this one is quite similar to the album but there are some really nice added vocal harmonies.
  4. Boulevard of Broken Dreams is the first real solo that mirrors the actual vocal style on the original album, but the violin line sets it apart firmly as musical theatre rather than a pure rock concert.
  5. Favorite Son is presented with women on backup vocals giving it a new sound, but the frontman Josh Henry and the instrumentation stick to the original- that is, of course, until the key change and the added riffs towards the end, and the direct transition into-
  6. Are We the Waiting, which sounds quite a bit like it does on the original album.
  7. St. Jimmy is the first song on the album that makes a really good case for why American Idiot needed to be a musical. It’s a great character introduction song. We meet the antagonist- his name is St. Jimmy, and don’t wear it out!
  8. Give Me Novocaine, you guessed it, is similar to its original context and voicing in instruments and vocals, but then, what’s this?
  9. Last of the American Girls/She’s A Rebel. We start pulling from the other Green Day canon and it gets mashed up with a song from American Idiot (plus a recapitulation of St. Jimmy). Here’s where Green Day’s music starts being interwoven and put into character development without changing the words.
  10. Last Night on Earth is a TOTAL overhaul of the original version on 21st Century Breakdown and became one of my favorites in the whole show. Key changes, different instrumentation for different characters — — this is why arrangements and orchestrations are also part of storytelling!
  11. Too Much Too Soon, while instrumentally unchanged from the original, lets us hear more of the power of the women’s ensemble.
  12. Before the Lobotomy goes in a totally similar direction as the original on 21st Century Breakdown with a little bit more vocal texture and interwoven motifs from…
  13. Extraordinary Girl! Which much like She’s A Rebel puts one of the supporting women and one of the supporting men head to head vocally for character development.
  14. Before the Lobotomy (Reprise) comes back in afterward, keeping that thread together.
  15. When it’s Time does the powerful thing of playing the opening notes of Wake Me Up When September Ends to give a sneak peek of what’s coming and then is completely bare and acoustic.
  16. Know Your Enemy is another 21st Century Breakdown song. And it calls back to one of the motifs Jesus of Suburbia! Love a callback.
  17. 21 Guns is another one that prominently features the women, and builds a wall of voices- the song goes through so many different configurations of instrument and singer voicing in the first minute and a half, followed by another 3:15 closer to the original, led by the guys, with continued back and forth with/resurgence of Rebecca Naomi Jones.
  18. Letterbomb. Rebecca Naomi Jones then finally gets her big solo moment with the women backing her up, with a very traditional tight rock formation of instruments.
  19. Wake Me Up When September Ends is fairly true to the original until the vocals and strings at the end.
  20. Homecoming, all 9:40 of it, is super plot-heavy, and while it sounds good on the album, looks best onstage.
  21. Whatsername. Remember when I said Last Night on Earth was almost my favorite? Yeah, this is why. It is not at all like the original, and it holds up. It starts as a solo piano/vocal, cello comes in, and it builds and builds from there.


22. Billie Joe’s version of When it’s Time. Nice touch!



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