Sunday, March 10, 2013

Beware: Warning

Green Day: Warning

Having a Broadway musical based on your songs is not generally a sign of “indie cred.” Green Day has to be considered one of the greatest “sell out” bands ever. I mean, they were just a bunch of punks, right? Who played loud, fast music with a remarkable pop feel. So, of course, they shouldn’t want to be successful, have millions of people hear their music and make lots of money. No, the purity of their art demands that they refuse to change, reject popularity, play shitty hole in the wall clubs their whole career, and have trouble paying their bills.


From their earliest days, Green Day exhibited extraordinary songwriting talent, and I think that it was a great thing that the world ultimately appreciated it. Why is it that fans turn on bands they love when they become popular? Why is it so important for so many fans to think that they are the only ones who can appreciate a band, and when more people like them, they feel betrayed? I understand when an artist changes their sound significantly so that what you liked about them is gone, but I always wonder why fans often take success as a personal affront.

I write these blog posts because I enjoy doing it. It makes me feel good, and I like to think that there are people out there who enjoy my work. And I do it for free. But, if Mojo Magazine, for example, offered me a bunch of money to write blog posts, you can bet your ass that I would take the checks. And if they did that and told me to write about more popular bands every week, I’d certainly consider it. Would I write about REO Speedwagon? Not unless the check was for a very, very large number. Which reminds me of an old story, the punchline of which is: “We’ve already established that. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

So, has Green Day changed so much due to their success (or to cause their success) that their fans should reject them? I say, no. Yes, they have broadened their palette a little, and yes, they wrote "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," which was overplayed, and probably overused in photo montages, but you know what? It’s a good ballad. And yet, the band is obviously concerned about their image. They released an album under the pseudonym “Foxboro Hot Tubs,” in part, I believe, to see if they could still be successful without the power of their name, and their recently released trilogy has been billed as a return to their punk roots. But they have moved on, a little, and the three albums show that they can’t fully return, and that’s O.K. Artists grow, mature and change, and fans can follow or not. But in my mind, they should not just walk away because they resent success.

So, maybe that’s the “Warning.”

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