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Green Day’s Mike Dirnt on ‘American Idiot’ Lyric Changes at ‘New Year’s Rockin’ Eve’: “It Provoked Conversation”

The “best part” of Green Day updating lyrics to its 2004 protest anthem “American Idiot” during the band’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve performance was “that it provoked conversation,” according to bassist Mike Dirnt.

While appearing on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest, the trio performed a collection of their hits past and present, including the title track to their critically acclaimed, chart-topping 2004 album American Idiot. The co-founding member recently spoke to Rolling Stone about the band’s performance of the track — and the backlash it garnered — while discussing the punk rockers’ nearly 40 year career.

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Like “Holiday,” the song was among the explicitly political tracks on the band’s self-described punk rock opera concept album, which explored a lower-middle-class antihero known as the “Jesus of Suburbia.” The song addressed the disillusionment of a young generation during the George W. Bush administration following events like 9/11 and the Iraq War, while also calling out the American media for fueling mass paranoia and spreading war propaganda.

During the New Year’s Eve performance, Armstrong belted new lyrics to the radio hit, altering the original wording of “I’m not a part of a redneck agenda” to “I’m not a part of a MAGA agenda,” a pointed nod to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

While the update garnered support from many of Green Day’s fans, it — like when the song was originally released — also faced backlash. For Dirnt, the update seemed natural. “The song’s twenty years old, and we’re Green Day,” he told Rolling Stone. “What did you expect? Come on.”

“I think the best part about it is that it provoked conversation,” he continued. “It got people talking. First it was rhetorical, and then it got into conversation. Anytime you can get people talking, you’re always going to have the loudest voices [heard first], and then everyone else in the room is going to figure out what it really means.”

The Green Day bassist was later asked about the belief that a follow-up to American Idiot would have been released following Trump’s election. He responded that “we all knew it was just low-hanging fruit,” but noted Armstrong had written something within that vein — “The American Dream Is Killing Me” off the band’s Saviors album — nearly four years ago.

“We’re not a parody of who we are, and songs like that need time to be fleshed out. If that means just sitting back and letting life happen, so be it,” he explained. “And it was one of the last things we recorded. Rob’s like, ‘What else do you got?’ As we get towards the end of recording, it was two songs. It was that one and ‘Father to a Son.’ And those two songs, Rob’s like, ‘Oh, you’ve got to record those.’

“And then Billie [Joe Armstrong] had to go in for ‘American Dream’ and just deep dive on the lyrics, and just tweak a few things here and there,” he added. “But ‘The American Dream Is Killing Me’ was the line a while back ago. We were like, ‘Yeah, it’s just not the right time.'”

So what did make 2024 the right time, according to Dirnt? “I think it’s a wider statement than Trump. It’s more important than him,” he told the magazine. “It speaks to the fact that Billie’s dad was a Teamster truck driver, and his mom was a waitress, and somehow they could afford to raise five kids and buy a home, and that just doesn’t work for everybody anymore. We are back-asswards right now.”

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