Green Day is amazing, and so are the dozens of songs they’ve released over their 2+ decade career. We’ve listened to them all, and these are the best album tracks from Green Day’s extensive catalog. Sorry, lovers of “Basket Case” and “21 Guns” – you won’t find your favorite Green Day singles here. No, we’e focusing on those underrated songs you didn’t hear on the radio. The hidden gems that only real fans know about.
Because Green Day has so many amazing songs – from the late ’80s all the way to now – we’re only including songs that appeared on studio albums. We’ll save the b-sides, live tracks, and Network/Foxboro Hot Tubs songs for another list. Also stay tuned for a Best Singles list (which may or may not be topped by “When I Come Around”).
For now though, these are the 30 best Green Day album tracks that everyone needs to hear:
30. “Bab’s Uvula Who?” – This Insomniac track gets its title from a 1976 SNL sketch with Gilda Radner and Chevy Chase. It’s a fairly straightforward song with frontman Billie Joe Armstrong singing of how he gets angry about the smallest things.
29. “Rest” – Probably Green Day’s first ballad, this somber track appeared on the band’s very first album, 39/Smooth. (This is before Dookie – when Green Day was still on the indie label Lookout! Records.) “Rest” shows a different side of Green Day – one less peppy and energetic than the rest of their songs at the time – and features some great vocal harmonies.
28. “One For The Razorbacks” – This romantic song is taken from Kerplunk, which was released in 1992; it was Green Day’s second and final indie album with Lookout! Records. In February 2011, Billie Joe revealed on Twitter that the girl he sings about really is named Juliet. She also has a twin sister.
27. “Blood, Sex, And Booze” – Though this was a promotional single for Warning, “Blood, Sex, And Booze” never got the full attention it deserved. It’s a kind of kinky song, and more direct than most of Green Day’s material.
26. “Chump” – Taken from their major label debut, 1994’s Dookie, “Chump” is fun song that talks about a guy that Billie Joe doesn’t know, but hates. This guy is causing all his misery, leaving Billie Joe jealous. “Chump” ends with the rolling drum beat that leads right into “Longview,” Dookie‘s lead single.
25. “Worry Rock” – 1997 saw the release of Nimrod, Green Day’s third major label album and 5th overall. It was more experimental, with Green Day throwing in harmonicas, horns, and fully instrumental tracks. “Worry Rock” is often overlooked, but it’s a touching and personal song that describes moving past a difficult point in a relationship.
24. “Troublemaker” – In 2012 Green Day released not one, but THREE new albums. The first of the trilogy was ¡Uno!, an album that harkens back to Green Day’s Dookie sound. “Troublemaker” isn’t quite the 1994 throwback that other tracks were; instead, it goes for sleazy rock complemented by handclaps and “hey”s.
23. “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” – You may recognize the name: This song gets its title from the protagonist in the classic novel, The Catcher In The Rye. “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield” comes from Kerplunk, released in 1992. Billie Joe has admitted to this being his personal favorite song from the album.
22. “Panic Song” – This is the only song where Billie Joe wrote the lyrics with bassist Mike Dirnt. (Normally Billie writes all lyrics himself, though there are some songs where Mike or drummer Tré Cool write the lyrics.) “Panic Song,” from Insomniac, has a long intro with frantic guitar strumming that builds up as drums are added in. It’s an interesting song that showed Green Day evolving and experimenting.
21. “Sweet 16” – One of ¡Uno!‘s softer moments is this song right here. “Sweet 16” is an anniversary song for Billie Joe’s wife, Adrienne. The two met in 1990 when Green Day was on their first nationwide tour. They called each other often, and Billie tried to make sure his tours always went to Minnesota so he could see her. They finally married in July 1994 after Adrienne moved “from the midwest to the beach.” “Sweet 16” has a sweet sound, with lots of falsetto and dreamlike instrumentation.
20. “Whatsername” – 2004 marked the return of Green Day. After Dookie, Green Day’s popularity and album sales declined, but with American Idiot they were able to reclaim their place as rock kings. “Whatsername” is the album’s timeless closing track. Like many other Green Day songs – such as “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life),” “She,” and “Amanda” – this was inspired by Billie’s ex-girlfriend Amanda.
19. “Restless Heart Syndrome” – This song ends the second act of 21st Century Breakdown. “Restless Heart Syndrome” is the first song Green Day released that was piano-driven. The ballad describes addiction to pills – unbeknownst to fans, Billie Joe was battling this addiction in real life, and it wasn’t until 2012 that he went to rehab for that and alcoholism.
18. “Prosthetic Head” – The final track on 1997’s Nimrod, “Prosthetic Head” was also a promotional single for the album. It’s a fun song with soaring vocals, and it’s something that could have been great as a proper single.
17. “Stuart And The Ave.” – This song is taken from Insomniac, and its title references a real intersection in Berkeley, California: Stuart Street and Telegraph Avenue. It’s a bitter song about leaving someone behind. Though things may have started off great, they’ve gone bad and the protagonist isn’t “stupid enough to stay with you.”
16. “Give Me Novacaine” – With strumming guitar and an almost tropical vibe, “Give Me Novacaine” is a highlight from American Idiot. The verses are soft with subtle falsetto, but the choruses offer more punch with distorted guitars and rougher vocals. There’s something romantic about this song – perhaps it’s the “long kiss goodnight” that numbs the pain.
15. “Drama Queen” – This song was originally written for 21st Century Breakdown, which came out in 2009. It almost made the cut, but Green Day pulled it at the last minute. They played it live for excited fans, but no studio version was released. It wasn’t until they started working on the trilogy in 2012 that it resurfaced. Its name appeared on the white boards in their teaser videos, and fans were thrilled that it may finally be released. And it was: “Drama Queen” was included on the final album, ¡Tré! The song talks about the pressures girls face growing up, and its simplistic music allows listeners to focus on the lyrics.
14. “Wild One” – ¡Dos! is the trilogy’s rougher, more garage rock styled experimental album. The songs are dirty and dark, and “Wild One” is no exception. With a chord progression and atmosphere that recalls Radiohead’s “Creep,” this song describes a troubled girl that could spell trouble for our protagonist.
13. “Before The Lobotomy” – Before 21st Century Breakdown was released in May 2009, both Billie Joe and Tré Cool identified “Before The Lobotomy” as their personal favorite song on the album. It starts with a gentle guitar and vocals, creating a dreamlike atmosphere. But almost a minute and a half in, the song suddenly changes course, going for a punchier and more energetic section in the uncommon 7/4 time signature. It sounds happier, but also a bit more frenzied. It goes through two verses and choruses plus a bridge, before fading back into the motif that opened the song – but this time, it has more power, giving it resolution.
12. “Amy” – In 2011, the immensely talented but troubled singer Amy Winehouse died of alcohol intoxication. Although Billie Joe never knew her personally, her struggles and untimely passing struck him. He wrote “Amy” about Ms. Winehouse, and it is a beautiful eulogy that is touching and sincere. Green Day decided to use Billie’s original demo on ¡Dos! rather than recording a full studio version.
11. “¿Viva La Gloria? (Little Girl)” – Another 21st Century Breakdown highlight, the second Viva La Gloria is a unique piece of music, and fairly different among Green Day’s own extensive catalog. The song opens with an old-sounding piano that quickly goes into a syncopated, ragtime style. It’s an eerie song with dark undertones, and though it probably would have been too obscure to be a single, it is a highlight among Green Day’s many songs.
10. “Homecoming” – Everyone knows “Jesus Of Suburbia”: That 9-minute, 5-part suite that shocked people who thought Green Day was only capable of straightforward 3-chord punk. It’s an impressive opus, but not the only one of its kind on American Idiot. “Homecoming” comes towards the end of the album, and not only features the same number of distinct parts, it’s also 10 seconds longer. While Billie Joe wrote the lyrics for the first two and final parts, he let his band members take over writing duties for the other two. Part 3 (“Nobody Likes You”) was written by Mike, while the 4th part (“Rock And Roll Girlfriend”) was written by Tré. This is the song that got Green Day back on track and launched the writing for American Idiot.
9. “Dirty Rotten Bastards” – While we’re talking about multi-part suites, let’s turn our attention to the most recent contribution, “Dirty Rotten Bastards.” It appeared on ¡Tré!, and though it’s not quite as structured as the previous two opuses, it does offer some inspired tunes. It starts with singalong “yeah”s before going into a jingle-like anthem for the rejects, wastes of time, and “all God’s losers.” The song switches gears often, and each part is so short that they don’t have separate titles (as “Jesus Of Suburbia” and “Homecoming” did). Some of the parts were originally their own songs, but at some point Green Day decided to put them all together.
8. “Haushinka” – Billie Joe revealed on Twitter that he wrote “Haushinka” around the same time he wrote “Basket Case.” The song was originally meant to go on Dookie, but Green Day didn’t like how it sounded and ended up saving it. “Haushinka” finally appeared on Nimrod in 1997. It’s a great song that has a different sound and epic quality… and it was inspired by a girl who really was named Haushinka.
7. “Brutal Love” – This may be the most soulful song Green Day has put out in their entire career. And it’s no surprise: Musically, it borrows from Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me.” Most fans seem to agree that “Brutal Love” is a highlight on ¡Tré! – or the whole trilogy. It slowly builds from the soft opening notes, Billie crooning “Turn out the lights, close your eyes” in lullaby fashion. It escalates to the song’s climax featuring Billie’s most soulful vocal belt; “Brutal Love” then maintains the high energy with forceful guitars and the repeated refrain “Drop out, drop dead hideous. How low is this brutal love?”
6. “Peacemaker” – This is one of the more different songs on 21st Century Breakdown, and easily one of the best. It’s dark and rather political – Billie Joe sings about vendettas and seizing the day, before turning his attention to the issues in the Gaza. “Peacemaker” has a singalong quality to it – you’ll be chanting “hey hey!” along with them throughout the song. It also has some more complex instrumentation than would have been found on an earlier Green Day record. Behind the straightforward guitar, bass, and drums are some intricate and sultry strings stirring up tension in the background.
5. “Misery” – Billie Joe is the main lyricist of Green Day; sometimes, Mike or Tré will write lyrics instead. But “Misery” is the only song thus far in which all three members sat down and wrote the lyrics to a song together. Taken from 2000’s Warning, this is one of the most story-telling songs you’ll hear from Green Day. Billie sings about lot lizards, hustlers, and drug cartels, and generally paints a picture of people in difficult situations. They have no escape from their current plight, and can only “get high when we get low.” Musically, “Misery” has a spooky, circus-like vibe with syncopated music and alternative instruments. Instead of being limited to guitar, bass, and drums, Green Day brought in mandolins, accordions, and a farfisa. Too bad Green Day has never played “Misery” live.
4. “Going To Pasalacqua” – Ahh, Green Day’s early days. When they were just getting started in the late ’80s, the Bay Area trio wrote short, simple pop punk songs about girls and love. Most of these songs have been largely left behind as Green Day’s moved on to bigger things, but one song has truly stood the test of time: “Going To Pasalacqua” is one of the few early songs – taken from Green Day’s debut indie album, 39/Smooth – that is still regularly played today.
3. “Extraordinary Girl” – American Idiot is filled with incredible songs that showed Green Day evolving past their simple punk roots. “Extraordinary Girl” is one prime example, and it builds on their earlier experimentation with exotic sounds (“Haushinka,” “Misery”). The song opens with Middle Eastern inspired percussion, and this exotic flair persists throughout in the melody. In spite of the different sound of “Extraordinary Girl,” it actually has a very catchy, almost poppy chorus that could have made it a big radio hit had it been released as a single.
2. “Having A Blast” – Dookie had some great singles, but one song that was left behind was this little gem. “Having A Blast” has a happy sound musically, but don’t let that fool you: The lyrics are dark, tackling depression and plans of suicide bombing. Nonetheless, this is a song that had all the single potential, and could have been immortalized in history like “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around.”
1. “Wow! That’s Loud” – Green Day’s 2012 trilogy was a huge, ambitious project, and one that didn’t have the success it deserved. Perhaps the most overlooked of the three records is ¡Dos!, a garage-rock styled gritty album that doesn’t fit within Green Day’s earlier styles. Maybe the direction was too different for the average Green Day fan, but that album is packed full of amazing songs. One of the very best is “Wow! That’s Loud.” You may think the title refers to loud music, but it actually is describing a loud (bright, patterned) dress. This is a song that is led by a cheery guitar refrain and lyrics describing mixed up senses and a sad girl whose bouquet of flowers is left in the dirt. The music is full of emotion, and the classic style gives “Wow! That’s Loud” a timeless appeal.
And there you have it: Green Day’s 30 best album tracks, not including singles. In all honesty, this list could have been twice as long. Green Day has no shortage of underrated hidden gems amongst their albums. What are your favorite Green Day songs? Which ones would you include if you had made this list?