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Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”: Review the Song


Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is a song that mostly anyone knows because of its catchy tune and easy-to-understand lyrics. What is hard about getting that the song is about dreams being broken, right? However, what many do not understand is that the song speaks about estrangement and how the American Dream has let a person down. The piece has a specific plot as it is a part of the American Idiot album, which is considered a punk-rock opera (Miller, p. 245). Released back in 2004, the album has a narrative that progresses through the songs, and in the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” the audience sees the opera’s main character Jesus of Suburbia (St. Jimmy) facing loneliness and despair. The song has deep emotional undertones as its subject matter applies to anyone’s life as a failure, disappointment, and loneliness are something that everyone has experienced at some point. For the generation of people who were teenagers and young adults in the 2000s, the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is a representation of their doubts and fears while also the encouragement to be open to failure, as there is always an opportunity to get up and walk along.

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The Song’s Background and Main Theme

“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is the song name that instantly communicates the message of people’s dreams and aspirations being ruined. However, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is also a painting by Gottfried Helnwein that depicts Marylin Monroe, James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Humphrey Bogart who got together in a bar (Theisen, p. 11). When Billie Joe Armstrong first saw the painting, he used it as an inspiration for the song. The stars depicted in the painting all had dreams and aspirations, but they were unfortunately broken, unexpectedly for

the public. For instance, James Dean died in a tragic automobile accident while Marilyn’s dreams were broken, leading her to the unfortunate overdose. All of the deaths could have been avoided, which represents the tragedy of life. Dreams are being broken at any point in life through death or trauma, and it is essential to be aware of that. While Green Day’s song only shares the name with the painting, the core theme of broken dreams transcends different contexts. The painting served as an inspiration for Green Day and the song is more focused on the lives of regular people rather than stars, whose dreams also fade away, leaving them alone.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams” Analysis

Loneliness is a universal theme, which is why the song remains highly relevant even today. Finding oneself alone at some point in life is very common, which is why the lyrics of the song may be very close and familiar to many people. The first lines of the chorus, “I walk this empty street on the boulevard of broken dreams,” (“Boulevard of Broken Dreams Lyrics”) shows the protagonist walking head down through a town all alone, knowing that the ambitions and the ideas that he once had have fallen by the wayside. There is no more place for noble dreams and aspirations, and here to stay are the lonely deserted streets with nobody to turn for help and support. The empty streets of the boulevard represent a metaphor that points to the coming of age, moving away from family and friends in pursuit of success and accomplishment. However, it quickly turns out that not all dreams are attainable right away and that an “empty street” is something that will inevitably come to break down the illusions. Therefore, failure is a part of life, and loneliness is a feeling that everyone will experience to become stronger.

The lines from the chorus, “My shadow is the only one that walks beside me, my shallow heart is the only thing that is beating. Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me,” continue the theme of loneliness and disappointment (“Boulevard of Broken Dreams Lyrics”). The main character is not only feeling alone and isolated, but he is also reaching the point that he no longer finds comfort in being alone (Miller, p. 246). He desperately wants to find someone who will reach out and lend a helping hand that. In many cases, asking for help means swallowing one’s own pride and accepting the help of a person that would help get through the rough time. St. Jimmy is coming to the point of swallowing his pride reaching out to someone else because the loneliness becomes unbearable. These lines are the reason why the song has stood the test of time and remains relevant even to this day. The lines evoke the feelings to which people can relate outside the context of the song and the American Idiot punk rock opera (Healy). Many people can relate to the song because of its intensely personal level because they had gone to the point when they pushed people away to reach their dreams and desires. Many of them are too prideful to ask for help and end up walking alone, reflecting upon the broken dreams, knowing that their shadow is the only thing that would accompany them.

The first verse after the chorus, “I’m walking down the line that divides me somewhere in my mind, on the border line of the edge and where I walk alone” is important to consider in the context of the song’s exploration (“Boulevard of Broken Dreams Lyrics”). The ‘protagonist’ of the song does not talk about being successful or the things that everyone else sees as valuable. Instead, he encourages people to look deeper into their mind and the “lines” that one may draw individually, trying to understand what they want to achieve on a more personal level. “Walking down the line” means that the character push one’s limits to see what the sanity can handle. The verse that follows, “read between the lines, what’s fucked up, and everything’s all right, check my vital signs to know I’m still alive, and I walk alone” proceeds discussing the hypocrisy that some people will have towards others (“Boulevard of Broken Dreams Lyrics”). Since the protagonist does not care about financial gain and career, he feels that he has an outside perspective that allows him to see what other people miss or prioritize wrongly. The outside perspective makes the Jesus of Suburbia more aware of his loneliness as he proceeds in life. Such a perspective also allows people to have a more accurate moral compass in life.

Criticism of the Song

Criticism targeted at the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is hard to come by due to the overall positive perception of the song back in 2004. The critical piece of criticism on the song came from Noel Gallagher from Oasis who pointed out that the song used the same chord progression as the band’s main hit, “Wonderwall.” In a Rolling Stone article, Gallagher mentioned that “they [Green Day] should have the decency to wait until I am dead [before stealing my songs]. I, at least, pay the people I steal from that courtesy” (qtd. in Goodman). Such an opinion is rather unconstructive as it is based on the criticism of the song’s composition. However, the comment is irrelevant to the narrative and the contribution of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from the perspective of its literary value. The criticism could have been relevant to the current discussion if it had pointed out the copying of song lyrics rather than a similarity in the chord progression. Apart from the comments on the similarity of the musical aspect of the song to another, there is nothing that critics could have said about the value of the song and what it has brought to the generation listening to it. Therefore, Gallagher’s comments should not be taken seriously as there is so much more to the Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” that just the melody.

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In the context of social life, the metaphor of a boulevard of broken dreams has received a new meaning since the song came out originally. The metaphor has come to signify the end of a good life, the decrease of public and social funding, the lost opportunities for the population, as well as the overall failure in life. It was interesting to find the metaphor being used in a Regional Science and Urban Economics research article exploring the end of the EU funding of some Italian regions (Barone at el, p. 31). The dreams of the people living in an EU-supported region were broken as they understood that they were left alone to manage their problems. While the song does not speak directly of such issues, the message that it has transferred to the general public is that the dreams and expectations are being broken despite the context to which they relate.

The limitations of the American Dream, of which Green Day sings, are universal and apply to a broad range of life issues and complications that the character of the song has encountered. While modern society is highly integrated, it is very common for people to feel alone in an interconnected world. Therefore, the message of the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is universal and can transcend age, gender, or socioeconomic context. It is essential to understand that support and understanding come a long way in making people feel secure and not alone.

Concluding Remarks

Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is a greatly deep and emotional song that could touch the hearts of many. It gives comfort to people by communicating the fact that difficult times happen to anyone, and that feeling isolated and lost is a normal part of human existence. The song also reflects the perspective of people who see the mistakes and limitations that exist in society and shows that they are not alone in having such an outside perspective. Just like the Jesus of Suburbia was searching for where he was going, the people who listen to the song were also encouraged to find their direction.

Despite the minor criticism associated with the similarity of the melody to another song, the main value of the son cannot be broken down by irrelevant comments. For people who were coming of age in 2000s, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is a reminder that life is not always full of good things, accomplishments, positive emotions, and lasting relationships between people. The Jesus of Suburbia, regardless of his eccentric name, is a representation of any person who broke free from the limitations of life in the suburbs and tried to accomplish something on his or her own.

Works Cited

  1. Barone, Guglielmo, et al. “Boulevard of broken dreams. The end of EU funding (1997: Abruzzi, Italy).” Regional Science and Urban Economics, vol. 60, 2016, pp. 31-38.
  2. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams Lyrics.” Genius.
  3. Goodman, Elizabeth. “Noel Gallagher Turns Loathing of Green Day into Personal Pastime.” Rolling Stone, 2006. Web.
  4. Healy, Patrick. “Finding the Musical Hidden in a Punk Album.” The New York Times, 2010.
  5. Miller, Donald. Coming of Age in Popular Culture: Teenagers, Adolescence, and the Art of Growing Up. Greenwood, 2018.
  6. Theisen, Gordon. Staying Up Much Too Late: Nighthawks and the Dark Side of the American Psyche. Thomas Dunne Books, 2006.

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