Green Day is back with a Greatest Hits album and plenty of punk cultural criticism for the Donald Trump era. The new album, called Green Day Greatest Hits: God’s Favorite Band, has 22 songs, including “Back in the USA.” It also includes a new version of the song “Ordinary World,” with co-vocalist Miranda Lambert.
The video for “Back in the USA” is a black-and-white exploration of a 1950’s sitcom, but with a twist. The video is inspired by John Carpenter’s movie, They Live. The 1988 film, which starred Roddy Piper, featured a drifter who discovers a pair of sunglasses which let him see what people have overlooked: the earth has been overtaken by aliens. The sunglasses displayed controversial messages like “Stay Asleep”, “No Imagination”, “Submit to Authority,” which all suggested government control. Sounds like perfect fodder for singer Billie Joe Armstrong.
Armstrong uses the sunglasses to see things in color. The messages on the sunglasses also let him see what’s really going on, such as “President to lie to nation tomorrow night!” and “Consume” and “Conform.”
Green Day teams up with Miranda Lambert and the song is a good take on “Ordinary World,” which was on the band’s 2016 album Revolution Radio. The lyrics harken to folk protest classics like Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind.” With Lambert, the lyrics pierce the material more poignantly, giving new life to the song.
Lambert and Armstrong have another memorable collaboration under the belt. They performed a much-lauded performance of the Everly Brothers’ classic “When Will I Be Loved” at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Lambert recently won the award for Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA Awards earlier this month. Her new tour, Livin’ Like Hippies, launches in January.
The greatest hits album is sure to please longtime fans of the band, whose output now spans 30 years. Armstrong was quick to point out they do not intend for the album to serve as a farewell. He compared it to a bit of nostalgia and a book for short stories.
Armstrong was just 16 when the band debuted, and he believes they have an entire second life ahead of them as punk provocateurs. For those looking for Trump references, according to Armstrong you don’t have to look far. On “Back in the USA,” Armstrong sings “I woke up to a bitter storm.” The lead singer said it was his reaction to returning to the U.S. after touring Europe right after America elected Donald Trump. “I felt we’d come back to a different America that I was trying to recognize,” he said.
The band previously released a greatest hits album, way back in 2001, but that was before their groundbreaking work American Idiot. That album explored Armstrong’s feelings about George W. Bush. “We always live in chaos and once you think you start to have it figured out, it changes immediately,” he said. “That’s just the way our culture is. Right now, we’re in the age of outrage and revenge.”