This song is about estrangement and the recognition that the American Dream can let you down. The singer's hopes have been crushed, and he finds himself very much alone.
This follows the main character from Green Day's song "Jesus Of Suburbia." He leaves town, has one crazy first night and now it's kind of like the hangover. He's just walking, thinking about whether it was the right decision leaving where he used to live.
"Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" is a famous painting by Gottfried Helnwein depicting Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and Elvis Presley hanging out in a bar. Helnwein's painting is a parody of a painting called "Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper. In a VH1 Storytellers session, Armstrong explained he actually saw the title on another Helnwein painting of James Dean from 1948. "There's an old James Dean photo where he's walking in New York and underneath it says 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams.' It's a great photo of him, so that's where I sort of nicked the title from," he said.
A different song called "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams," also known as "Gigolo And Gigolette," was written in 1934 by Al Dubin for the movie Moulin Rouge
. It has been recorded by Tony Bennett and Nat King Cole.
Evan - Mountain View, CA
In the music video for this song, you can also hear the last faded bits of "Holiday," the other hit from the album, in the background, as this song is the follow up to that. They are using the same car as the one in the "Holiday" video.
Gautam - Rockville, MD
This won a Grammy for Record Of The Year.
In Rolling Stone's Decade-End Readers' Poll, this song was voted the Best Single of the '00s. Green Day proved they are the band of choice amongst Rolling Stone readers by also grabbing the #1 spot for Best Album (American Idiot) and being named Top Artist of the Decade.
The band wanted to stray from their punk-rock roots and close out the song with a Beatles-esque vibe, but producer Rob Cavallo put his foot down. "Originally, the band had wanted the outro to be something like the huge crescendo at the end of the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life,'" he recalled. "Then they thought that maybe they'd try it with calliopes and circus music and craziness like that. I told them, 'Look, you're a rock band, let's just do it with guitars.'
"So we had Billie plug in and just play the hardest, fastest chords he can. We just told him to push it as far as he could," Cavallo continued. "And then, when we mixed it, we just kept telling [mixer] Chris [Lord-Alge] to push it. We'd be yelling, 'Push it! Push it!'"
Samuel Bayer, whose first gig was directing the video for Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit
," helmed the joint clips for this and "Holiday." He told MTV: "With 'Boulevard,' I tried to make something that was empty and desolate and introspective," Bayer said. "If you think about our country and the specter of war and the problems we're having, then 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' is the state of the union - and 'Holiday' is the wild trip that got us here. It was about living your life and partying as if there's no tomorrow. But 'Boulevard' is the tomorrow. And it's a really dark, gray, desolate landscape. It's a graveyard.
"It wasn't like it was a great linear story between the two videos, but 'Holiday' was brightly colored and you're driving 100 miles an hour and you don't care what happens, but then the car breaks down," he explained. "And then with 'Boulevard,' you start walking, and that journey goes on forever."
To get the distressed film look, Bayer damaged the actual film, giving it a more organic feel.
The video follows the band as they break down and begin a long journey down a desert road - yet they never left the soundstage.
"A lot of people don't understand that on 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams,' every image was shot on a soundstage," Bayer said. "They're never outside. Even when they're walking, they're on treadmills on a soundstage, and everything's projected behind them from exterior footage I shot separately. A lot of videos I see now work so hard to make everything look seamless, and I wasn't going for that. I spent a week hand-scratching the negative with razor blades and cigarettes. I threw a couple rolls of it in my shower and left it for a few days."
This won Video of the Year at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards and also took home the prizes for Best Group Video, Best Rock Video, Best Direction, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography.
Billie Joe Armstrong, under quarantine due to the coronavirus, played this from his home as part of the "Living Room Concert For America," broadcast on March 29, 2020. Armstrong did the song accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and the jingling of his dog Lenny's collar as the pooch wandered around the room.
In The Office episode "Secret Santa" from season 6, Dwight and Andy sing this at the staff Christmas party.