In Defense Of Green Day’s Trilogy
Four years ago, Green Day announced their most ambitious release yet: A trilogy of albums. Following the huge success of 2004’s rock opera, American Idiot, the band crafted another concept album, this time divided into three acts, with 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown. Green Day knew they couldn’t keep doing politically-oriented rock operas, so they decided to take it a step further and release three albums instead of just one. This should have been the best moment for Green Day fans everywhere, and Billie, Mike, and Tré seemed excited. Being showered with 37 all-new songs in a span of just three months is the kind of things fans usually can only dream about.
Sadly, the trilogy didn’t get the warm response Green Day and their fans may have expected. Critics and fans were underwhelmed, and Green Day’s limited ability to promote the album after Billie Joe’s iHeartRadio tirade and subsequent rehab stint made the trilogy less impactful than anticipated. But why was the reception so dissatisfied? Why has the trilogy been remembered as a shameful mark on Green Day’s otherwise lauded catalog?
In spite of the negative view many have of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!, I still love the whole trilogy. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I thought the three albums were amazing. In the face of fervent criticism, here is my defense of Green Day’s 2012 trilogy.
Quantity vs. Quality
The main complaint I heard from fans back in 2012 was that there was no way Green Day could release 37 new songs that were all of high quality. The sheer quantity of songs we were getting had to mean that there would be great songs and not so great ones. The theory is that quality somehow correlates to quantity, but that is clearly a fallacy.
For most people, even great albums have their one or two mediocre songs. But this can also be true of a 4-track EP. There are plenty of flawless, full-length albums out there that weren’t affected by the quantity/quality issue, just as there are plenty of truly awful full-length albums. There are amazing, perfect EPs, but there are also terrible EPs.
When an artist puts out a single, it can be amazing, average, or awful. Whether you get one song or 100, there’s always an equal chance that any of those songs will be good or bad.
And this doesn’t even take subjectivity into consideration. Personal opinion is what truly colors a person’s world. It’s why you and I can each listen to the same album or watch the same movie and have completely different reactions to them. Art is subjective, and that explains the variety of opinions people have of Green Day’s trilogy. Whether you enjoyed none, one, two, or all three of the albums depends on your personal preferences. Some people think ¡Uno! was the best record of the three, others may say ¡Tré! was superior. Personally, ¡Dos! is by far my favorite from the trilogy.
Many people hate the first single, “Oh Love.” But that doesn’t make it a bad song. “Oh Love” is one of my all-time favorite Green Day songs. Conversely, many people loved “Let Yourself Go,” but that’s a song I would rank rather low on the band’s list. Quality is subjective, and it doesn’t correlate with quantity.
Why Not Just Release One Great Album?
One question I’ve heard fans and critics ask way too many times is, “Why didn’t Green Day just release one great album?” People think that it would have been better to get one 15-song record rather than the whole trilogy. And this is wrong for a number of reasons.
First, this implies that charts and awards are somehow more important than sharing art and expressing yourself. Should Green Day have aimed to have a #1 album that wins another Grammy? Or should they have released the music as they saw fit? Is it better to play it safe in order to appease people rather than push the boundaries and try something more ambitious and less certain? How is limiting what’s released a good thing? It might improve chart positions, but it means the fans are getting less.
Moreover, this “one album” statement once again implies that there was a perfect tracklist that could have been made of the best 15 songs. But what are the best 15 songs? Again, subjectivity plays into this. Your favorite songs are not my favorite songs. And perhaps more significantly, our favorite songs are not the same as Billie’s, Mike’s, or Tré’s. Or the record label’s.
Fans seem to hate “Oh Love,” but I’m certain that would have been included on this “ideal” album, being how it was also the lead single. Billie Joe apparently loves “99 Revolutions” – which is, in my opinion, one of the worst songs Green Day has put out this century.
Releasing the “best” 15 songs means a lot of my favorite songs never would have been released. A lot of your favorite songs would be collecting dust, unheard and forgotten. Releasing 37 songs rather than just 15 means that fans get to decide what songs they listen to, whether that’s just 10 of them or all 37.
And let’s be real: It’s the 21st century, and you can make your own “best of the trilogy” playlist if you so choose. Don’t like certain tracks? Think you have figured out your favorite 15 songs? Open your iTunes or Spotify, make a playlist, and enjoy. Modern technology puts you in control. And it’s better to have more options rather than fewer. I’d rather be able to just pretend “99 Revolutions” didn’t happen than live a life without “Wow! That’s Loud,” “Brutal Love,” “Sweet 16,” “Dirty Rotten Bastards,” or “Wild One.”
Pleasing All Fans
Green Day has a huge and diverse fan base ranging from the 1980s through the 2010s. Most of their fans seem to have joined in the mid-90s or the mid-2000s, but others have come in at their own pace too. And with all these different fans, Green Day has a lot of people to please. Old-school fans may constantly beg for a new Dookie; younger fans tend to be partial to the sound of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. But then Green Day can’t stay stuck in time forever, and many people are eager to hear them explore new sounds and styles.
Fans got lucky with the trilogy: Green Day seemed to be trying to please all fans. ¡Uno! had the simplistic pop punk sound of Dookie, while ¡Tré! followed more in the vein of the band’s previous 2000s albums. ¡Dos!, on the other hand, found Green Day trying something different, a little more garage rock and experimental. It was actually like their side project, the Foxboro Hot Tubs. In theory this should have made all their fans happy with at least one third of the new songs.
But it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Green Day can’t recreate the ’90s – they’re not in their 20s anymore, and they’re not experiencing the same things they did back then. Likewise, they can’t keep doing political rock operas anymore without sounding redundant. Green Day can only move forward, and fans can either join them or leave them. The trilogy was the most generous collection of music Green Day has ever offered their fans, and personally, I’m glad they did. They didn’t have to share all those songs, but they did, and in my opinion, each of the songs was worth. (Except maybe “99 Revolutions,” but even that has grown on me.)
Why I Love The Trilogy
Starting with their spontaneous secret shows in 2011, I was obsessed with what new music Green Day was crafting behind the scenes. From February 14, 2012 onward, I looked forward to their 30-second studio videos. When they announced not one, but THREE upcoming albums that April, I was ecstatic. I was one of the first Green Day fans that saw Rolling Stone’s breaking news article about the 37 songs that would be released. I followed this recording process and buildup more closely than any other before it, and I was not disappointed with the music we got. Maybe some people expected too much and were let down when the albums didn’t reach their expectations. But not me; I was happy with it all.
¡Uno! wasn’t the most impressive Green Day album I’d ever heard. It was rather simplistic, back-to-their-roots, and nostalgic. It probably has the most songs that I don’t care for so much out of the three albums. But the highlights on the album are really high. “Oh Love” is a song I’ve loved since the band first played it in 2011, and the single version was just as epic as I’d hoped. “Kill The DJ” is funky and so different from any other Green Day song I’d heard before, and is among the most infectious songs ever. “Sweet 16” is romantic and reminiscent, “Troublemaker” is naughty and fun. “Stay The Night” and “Nuclear Family” are classics that could fit on nearly any Green Day album.
But ¡Dos! is the one that blew my mind. It’s so raw, garage-y, and gritty. It feels like a throwback to earlier rock while stepping outside of Green Day’s own boundaries. It has the reckless energy of Foxboro Hot Tubs. “Stray Heart” is a beautiful 1960s throwback and “Wow! That’s Loud” is an epic, psychedelic standout. “Wild One” is moody and enchanting while “Amy” is tender and ethereal. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s something fearless about the rather unexpected urban style of “Nightlife.” ¡Dos! is the album that brought Green Day out of their comfort zones in the best way, and is my personal favorite out of the trilogy.
¡Tré! is the closing album that fits best with what Green Day released throughout the 2000s. It has the epic quality of their two rock operas and the honest simplicity of Warning. The opening track, “Brutal Love,” is a soulful song I would never have expected to hear from Billie. “Dirty Rotten Bastards” carries the long-form tradition of “Jesus Of Suburbia,” yet in a rather cheerier, looser style. “The Forgotten” is a beautiful piano ballad, similar to the sincere “Drama Queen.” Over time, “Walk Away” and “8th Avenue Serenade” have become some of my favorites from the album, as has as my own personal theme song, “Amanda.”
Maybe these song descriptions don’t explain why I love the trilogy. I don’t know if I can explain it. All I know is that each of the songs means something to me, and each one fits so well with the others. They all combine to make a perfect, three-part whole that needs to be understood all together. The trilogy was all I listened to for about 6 months, and it will always be a special collection of music and memories for me.
All of Green Day’s fans (and critics) can choose whether to enjoy the trilogy or not. But I would never call it a bad set of albums or complain that we got three albums instead of just one. As a hardcore fan, I’m always eager for more Green Day music, greedy for every single song I can get my hands on. Maybe every song wasn’t perfect, but I’m still completely happy. The more the merrier. Getting just one “ideal” album wouldn’t have made the era any better; it just would have taken away 20 of the songs that I love.
One thought on “In Defense Of Green Day’s Trilogy”
I love your article! And most of the time I pretty much felt the same about the trilogy! It’s great! 🙂