Where does Green Day rank when held up against coral bleaching, computer viruses, dysentery, and organ harvesting?
On the subject of Green Day, I have behaved myself for a long time. When the band went mainstream in 1994, I shut my trap. Many of my pals shut their traps as well. For any of us involved in punk bands to publicly disavow the world's largest punk band would have come off as a massive sour grapes hissy fit. Also, Green Day's rise highlighted the futility of critiquing anyone for "selling out." It's hard to remember now, but GD concerts in '94 and '95 literally involved protestors—adults—waving anti-major label picket signs, as if they were involved in some kind of labor dispute. For years, I'd made selling out my own personal bugaboo-crusade. The Green Day backlash illuminated my wrongness. I corrected my behavior.
Fast forward to July 2011. I found myself with some time to kill in the lobby of a cheap Israeli hotel. In a corner of the room, a TV played a block of Green Day videos. Curious, I pulled up a chair and watched one song, then another, and another. I'd been aware, obviously, of their continued existence. I'd distantly registered that they'd kept making records and had produced a Broadway rock opera. Now I understood how much I'd willfully overlooked. While I'd spent the last 17 years ignoring this band, this band had not ignored me. They'd been hard at work making my life more difficult. I'd been hearing their songs for years, as the background music for my life in public. Their music had tormented me in supermarkets, lobbies, airports, and doctors’ offices.
The realization hit me like a ton of bricks. When I'd last paid attention to this band in '94, they were merely a gimmicky pep-punk act. In the intervening 17 years, they'd somehow morphed into something immense and terrible, a mewling behemoth that embodied the worst aspects of pop music: the preposterous pomposity of 90s alt-schlock, the cock rock awfulness of 80s arena rock, the preening jizz sock sincerity of 70s singer-songwriter ballads. Worse, they'd done so with the tenacity of a cockroach, refusing to die, or even peak.
Sitting in front of the TV, I did some quick mental recalculation. My long-hardened Master List of Hated Musicians had to be revised. Nick Cave, Guns & Roses, REM, and/or Lou Reed? Green Day is clearly, objectively worse. Even Natalie Merchant—the one artist whose public omnipresence matches GD—isn't quite as grandiose. Natalie, for example, never made me grind my teeth in displeasure, as I realized I was doing in the lobby of the cheap Israeli hotel. My list was inadequate for the task at hand. Where would they rank when held up against coral bleaching, computer viruses, dysentery, and organ harvesting? (I'm still working out the math on this one.)
Two months after my return, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight because his pants sagged below decorum guidelines. This was another brain teaser. An insider source tells me that Green Day touring amenities include castle rentals, private theater screenings, and home living rooms recreated backstage for maximum downtime comfort. The band has sold more records than Nirvana. Fractional private jet ownership starts at $115,000 a year, which is a quarter of the gross from one night of the band's American Idiot tour. Why would such a man fly Southwest? Why further mock us?
Previously – Opportunity Cost