The Great Sell-Out Debate

It’s been going on since Green Day signed to Reprise. It will probably continue to go on through their entire career. But I’m going to put my two-cents into the matter and argue every reason I’ve ever heard for them to be called sell-outs.

They Signed To A Major Label:
So what? They didn’t do it to become arrogant rich jerks. They did it because they felt it was the right thing to do. After the release of the Kerplunk! Album, they were selling more records than the label could process and sell. It was time to move onto something bigger- something that could handle the demand they were getting. They also didn’t just sign to any label who wanted them- they heard a lot of offers, and only when they met Rob Cavallo and heard what their offer was, did they agree to sign. Not to mention the fact that they allowed Lookout! To keep their first 2 albums, and continue to profit from them. Which brings me onto my next reason…

They Pulled Their Pre-Dookie Albums from Lookout!:
The label hadn’t been paying the royalties that Green Day was owed for quite a while, and they allowed it to continue, until eventually, it just got to the point where it was ridiculous, and they pulled the plug. However, they weren’t alone in that matter- many other bands left the label as well. Larry Livermore himself had even given a statement saying that Green Day had done the right thing, and he didn’t blame them. (Mind you, Larry doesn’t run Lookout! Anymore but he still agreed with their decision to pull the records, none the less.)

Lots of people say that they changed themselves when they signed to Reprise Records, and Dookie was a drastic change from their previous albums. They started cursing in the music, etc. They did, in fact, change with Dookie. However, they’ve changed, expanded, matured, and experimented with new sounds on every single one of the albums. Their career wouldn’t have the longevity that it has had, and probably will continue to have if they made the same album over and over again. Not to mention how boring that would be. They had also probably written a lot of their songs from that album before they switched to Reprise. Remember how Haushinka was on the Dookie demos but never made the cut? Written way before Nimrod, but never made the album until then. Who’s to say that all the songs from the album were written after their signing to a major label?

People say they sold out with Dookie, and Insomniac was their backlash that tried to prove they were still punk, and this in itself, was selling out. I think they definitely were trying to prove something here, but that’s not the only reason it was so angry. It was angry because they WERE angry. And who could blame them? They had friends turning their backs on them now, people that they’d used to associate with calling them sell-outs, and saying all sorts of hurtful things to them. Seeing things like “Billie Joe must die” written in the bathroom stall at Gilman Street? Being unable to play there anymore, and being shunned when it had been their home for so long? Of course they were pissed off. Anyone in that situation would be.

The use of more than just the classic guitar, bass, and drums came in here, and that caused people to call them sell-outs yet again. Their sound drastically changed from their fun melodic 39/Smooth (Since that was what it was called back then), Kerplunk!, and Dookie, and their anger-charged Insomniac. They’d matured. They’d finally reached a stage where they were comfortable enough to branch out and experiment with different instruments and sounds. Billie Joe said himself that they were now making the type of music they’d always wanted to make. Now onto the big one…

American Idiot:
This album was massive. It took a completely new direction for them. We heard a new politically charged side of the guys. Not to mention the fact that it was a rock opera. This is what they were accused of being sell-outs for this time. But here, it had been 10 years since Dookie, when they had very first been accused of selling out, and for almost every new release, there had been backlash, when all the guys had done was mature, and write about what was important to them and they were feeling at the time. That’s always been what Green Day had done- and what they did with American Idiot. People will argue that it was less personal than their other albums, but I don’t see that being true either. Billie Joe has said that everything he writes comes from a feeling he’s had at some point in his life. And he was feeling angry about the president, the war, the way the media handles things, the way the youth was being brainwashed, and he wrote the album surrounding that. Even if it wasn’t his personal experiences, it was all sparked from feelings he’d had, and portraying his view of the current times. You can hear the emotion behind each song on this album. Not to mention the fact that they used the attention brought upon them to do good. Instead of just bitching about the state of the world, they put their fame and their money to use to help out and to do good. When the tsunami hit, they played a benefit show, and the donated their profits from Boulevard of Broken Dreams itunes sales to the tsunami victims. They played the Live 8. They teamed up with the NRDC to bring about Global Warming awareness. When Katrina hit, they teamed up with U2 and Music Rising to earn benefits for the victims, as well as the Armstrong and the White family going down to New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity to help out personally. Billie Joe is a part of Emily’s Army. Now they’ve covered Working Class Hero for Instant Karma in order to raise awareness and earn money to help save Darfur. Instead of taking all their fame and their profits and doing nothing- they chose to use it positively to help bring about awareness, change, and to help people. Besides the fact that when American Idiot came out, they didn’t know if people would like it or if they would hate it, and they weren’t sure what was going to happen. They never expected it to blow up the way that it did. It could have been a complete and utter failure, and they knew that… yet they released it anyway, because they felt that it was amazing, and had exceeded anything they’d ever done.

American Idol:
Now, I have to admit… I was quite iffy on this one. I was one of the people that wanted to peg them as sell-outs for playing it, but in the end- it was done for a good cause again. Think of the millions of people that watched the finale of American Idol that might have known nothing about the horrors going on in Darfur that have an idea of what’s going on now. Maybe there are better places they could have done it- but maybe there weren’t. Think of how many viewers the season finale of Idol raked in. All those viewers might be a little more aware now, may be inspired to want to help, when they weren’t before. Think of the good that playing that show had the potential to do.

To be classified as a sell-out, a band or artist would have to be in it for the money and change themselves to stay popular, and clearly, this is not the case with Green Day. They’ve changed, but not to stay on top. They’ve changed because they’re not the kids they used to be… they’ve grown up, they’ve got kids of their own now, they’re adults, the world has changed as well as their views on it, and the things they care about along with it. Green Day has never changed themselves for popularity… they’ve always done what they wanted to do. They don’t make music for the fans, they make it for themselves, and if we as fans like it- that’s great, but they aren’t going to stop making it if we don’t like it. Take a look at the period from Insomniac to Warning…probably even International Superhits and Shenanigans… their sales decreased with each album. They were getting less and less received, yet they continued making their music, because it’s what they loved to do. And that’s what they’ll continue to do.

Besides that- they’ve never let their fame go to their heads. They’ve never acted like they're better than people because they’re famous or because they’re rich. They’re good to their fans and to people, they use the fact that they’re famous and have money to help. To a sell-out, it would have to be all about being rich and famous, and not caring. Screw the world! Is that the attitude that the guys have? Is that what they’re in this for? I think not.

If you want to argue anything, or you think there’s something I left out… feel free to comment and debate this with me. I’ll respond.
Posted on June 25th, 2007 at 01:20am


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