The title refers to the state of the United States at that point in time. It speaks of a nation controlled by the new, biased media, and how the singer is not part of a "Redneck Agenda" discontent with how things are going. It was released during the 2004 presidential campaign, where George W. Bush was re-elected.
Green Day performed this at the 2005 Grammy awards, where the album won for Best Rock Album. It was also nominated for Album of the Year, but lost to Ray Charles' posthumously released album, Genius Loves Company.
The title track was nominated for Record of the Year, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, Best Rock Song, and Best Music Video Short Form, but didn't take home any of the prizes.
Weird Al Yankovic parodied this song as "Canadian Idiot
" on his 2006 album, Straight Outta Lynwood
On the Nickelodeon TV show All That, they make fun of the TV show American Idol with a sketch called American Idiot.
This is one of three Green Day songs that is also the name of the album it comes from. The others are "Warning
" and "Revolution Radio
Billie Joe Armstrong was inspired to write this after hearing a jingoistic Lynyrd Skynyrd song being played on his car radio, whilst driving to the studio. He told Q magazine May 2009: "It was like, I'm proud to be a redneck and I was like, Oh my God, why would you be proud of something like that? This is exactly what I'm against. When he got to the studio, Armstrong furiously penned this song. He said: "I looked at the guys like, Do you mind that I'm saying this? And they were like, No, we agree with you. And it started the ball rolling."
Billie Joe Armstrong told Spin magazine in November 2004 regarding the American Idiot album: "It's about the confusion of where we're at right now. My education was punk rock - what the Dead Kennedys said, what Operation Ivy said. It was attacking America, but it was American at the same time."
When asked by an VH1 Storytellers' audience member if anyone who voted for George W. Bush was an "American Idiot," Billie Joe Armstrong replied: "No, just a misinformed idiot."
The band's longtime producer Rob Cavallo wasn't certain they could pull off the American Idiot album. He told MTV: "The truth is, when they started making American Idiot, they were each living their own separate lives, and no one was really sure how the chemistry was going to be, They all had to deal with a lot of personal stuff before they could be great again. And when they first came to me and said, 'Let's get the band back together and make the best rock record we can,' I wasn't totally sure they could do it."
Once they got in the studio, Cavallo was impressed with the band's dedication to the project. He continued: "They had all made a commitment, and I was lucky enough to be there at the beginning of that commitment. I'd go up there on a Monday and leave on a Friday, and we'd be in the studio 12 hours a day writing and conceptualizing. They were so focused and so invigorated that honestly, my main role was to be their coach, telling them that I believed in them. They did the rest."
Green Day had to start the album over from scratch after the masters for around 20 songs were stolen from the studio. "We had completely finished these songs, and we were getting ready to mix them," Billie Joe Armstrong explained to MTV. "We walked out of the studio and came back the next day, and all of the masters had been stolen … but [American Idiot] was about making mistakes and fixing them."
With the help of theater director Michael Mayer, the band adapted the American Idiot concept into a one-act stage musical. The rock opera, which follows the story of three troubled youths living miserably in suburbia, debuted at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and moved to Broadway the following year.
In 2006, grocery clerk Paul McPike sued Green Day, alleging that he'd written "American Idiot" and the other songs on their album way back in 1992. McPike's evidence consisted entirely of a copy of the album and a claim that the lyrics sung on the album didn't match those in the sleeve notes. The US District Court Judge suggested he could file a more detailed copyright infringement complaint in the future.
The 2007 Simpsons Movie boasted an "American Idiot: Funeral Version" played on an organ after the band's fictional drowning in Lake Springfield during a performance on a barge.