Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong Say This Hit Was a ‘Loser National Anthem’
Green Day have a lot of upbeat and fun music, however, they have also tried to challenge their listeners. For example, they included a bisexual lyric in their hit “Basket Case.” Here’s a look at why Billie Joe Armstrong added this lyric to the song.
Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong said this song is a ‘loser national anthem’
Firstly, a little background. The 1990s gave us many classic alternative rock albums, from Nirvana’s In Utero to Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral to No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom. Among these classic records is Green Day’s Dookie. While it’s not as political as their later work, it’s catchy and sometimes edgy. Perhaps the most famous song from the album is “Basket Case.”
During an interview with Rolling Stone, Armstrong revealed his feelings about the track. “‘Basket Case’ became this loser national anthem,” he opined. “But to say it’s about panic attacks is limiting. It’s about going through total confusion. I think of a song like ‘American Idiot’ as feeling, OK, there is a lot of chaos in the world, people getting murdered. There is no way to make sense of a world like that. You feel like a victim of it. ‘Basket Case’ is the same way.”
How Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong tried to ‘challenge’ listeners with ‘Basket Case’
In one of the lyrics of the song, the narrator mentions spending time with a male prostitute. Why did Armstrong decide to make the prostitute male? “I wanted to challenge myself and whoever the listener might be,” he recalled. “It’s also looking at the world and saying, ‘It’s not as black and white as you think. This isn’t your grandfather’s prostitute – or maybe it was.’ This record touches on bisexuality a lot.”
Do the lyrics reflect Armstrong’s personal experience? According to Loudersound, he said “I write a lot of my lyrics in the first-person perspective, even if they aren’t about me. I’d rather write sh*t about myself than write sh*t about someone else.” From that comment, it’s not totally clear if he was saying the song’s lyrics were personal or not.
How the world reacted to ‘Basket Case’
So how did audiences react to this lyric in the 1990s? The line didn’t prevent the song from becoming a huge success. The song was a major hit in the milieu of alternative rock. The track reached the pinnacle of Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart.
In fact, it would become one of Green Day’s 11 No. 1 hits on that chart. The others would be “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Holiday,” “When I Come Around,” “American Idiot,” “Still Breathing,” “J.A.R.,” “Minority,” “Oh Yeah!,” “Bang Bang,” and “Know Your Enemy.” Despite the success “Basket Case” found on the Alternative Airplay chart, “Basket Case” did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. Regardless, it remains a famous hit — with a line meant to challenge audiences.