Reconsidering ‘Boulevard Of Broken Dreams’

– Jacob O’Gara

Listening to the music of your youth is something only the brave and self-confident can do without cringing. And even after you steel yourself, it’s hard not to greet such music with the exclamation, “I listened to that?!”

Red Hot Chili Peppers and A.F.I. receive such a response. Of course, there is the exception here and there; I used to listen to Nirvana a lot back in the day, and they’re still good.

Then there’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day, a song I loved, then hated, then just ignored when I shifted my listening tastes from alt/rock/generally guitar-based music to hip-hop. Recently, I listened to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” again and was surprised.

It’s not bad; in fact, it’s actually good. Not good for a song from the American Idiot album; not good for a Green Day song or a song of that type; just straight good. Sure it shares the same poppy structure that every other alt ballad has, but you can’t expect bands to reinvent the wheel with every song.

What struck me about the song after re-listening to it are the lyrics; at first I thought, “All this guy does is say ‘walk alone’ over and over.”

And in the context of Green Day’s American Idiot-era image, and the music video, those lyrics are run-of-the-mill emo jive. But if you just read them, and replace Billie Joe Armstrong’s nasal with Johnny Cash’s slow drawl, then “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is a masterpiece of Biblical economy and poetry.

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