American Edit, by Dean Gray

11-americanedit

Released November 18, 2005

48 min, 35 sec

Alphabetical order has made for another frustration, but at least these two are right next to each other.

Green Day’s 2004 comeback album American Idiot immediately elevated them above and beyond the levels that Dookie had brought them to ten years prior. Up until American Idiot, Green Day made their music under the shadow of Dookie‘s rapidly growing legacy. Both albums are pop-punk milestones, and both albums kept Green Day going for years and years. Ironically, American Idiot has cast its own long shadow over Green Day’s career since its release; neither 21st Century Breakdown nor the Uno/Dos/Tre trilogy can compare to the sheer brilliance of American Idiot‘s politically fueled rock opera. And that’s alright, for the most part – Green Day has written their legacy and cemented their status in rock history. They’re up for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year; of all the acts currently nominated, Green Day is likely the only one absolutely guaranteed to go in this time around. (Keeping my fingers crossed for Nine Inch Nails to join them.)

Because of the cultural legacy of American Idiot, things like American Edit were bound to spring up. American Edit is a mash-up album, the work of mash-up artists Party Ben and team9, collaborating under the name Dean Gray (a parody, of course, of Green Day). Released in 2005, it capitalized on the ubiquity of American Idiot‘s singles, particularly “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (a mash-up solely by Party Ben, created in 2004, that provided the impetus for American Edit‘s creation) and “Holiday,” the mash-ups for which had the most circulation independent of the album. The album didn’t solely coast on cheap relevance, however – it’s clear that the artists put quite a bit of time and effort into making the mash-ups sound like “real” songs, managing to combine as many as six songs into one and having the resulting product sound completely natural.

American Edit trades on the same general themes that American Idiot does, without sticking to the rock opera narrative. It takes a much simpler political slant than the source album, characterized by “Dr. Who on Holiday’s” use of a George W. Bush quote crossed with quotes from the Daleks, iconic enemies from Doctor Who, and a Bill Hicks quote viciously satirizing American culture in “St. Jimmy the Prankster.” Aside from that, however, the songs and samples chosen are mainly based on what sounds right for a given song, with a basic adherence to the themes of each individual song. “The Bad Homecoming,” for example, combines “Are We the Waiting” and the first few lines of “Homecoming” from American Idiot with two U2 songs that share the same themes of longing and reflection (“Bad” and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own”). “Whatsername (Susanna Hoffs)” frames the source track as being about Susanna Hoffs herself, using the Bangles track “Manic Monday” to do so.

Aside from the quality of the mash-ups, American Edit gained additional notoriety from the controversy surrounding its release. Shortly after it began circulating around the Internet, Reprise Records (Green Day’s record label) and Warner Music (Reprise’s parent company) began issuing cease and desist orders to a number of websites hosting the mash-ups. In response, dozens more websites organized “Dean Gray Tuesday,” a day of protest based on the previous year’s “Grey Tuesday” in support of Danger Mouse’s Beatles/Jay-Z mash-up The Grey Album. On Dean Gray Tuesday, every website participating in the protest hosted the album for one day only, refusing to bend to Reprise’s cease and desist orders. The move resulted in mainstream media coverage for the album, increasing its exposure significantly. Green Day’s lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong even commented on the most popular track “Boulevard of Broken Songs,” noting that he enjoyed the mash-up’s creativity.

Mash-up albums are not necessarily rare, but it is certainly very rare for a mash-up album to reach the level of exposure and acclaim that American Edit did. The only album that compares is the aforementioned Grey Album, and even that only drew from two sources for its mash-ups. American Edit took on a much larger task, and largely succeeded, becoming an important section of American Idiot‘s wider cultural impact.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at American Idiot, and see just how wide that impact ended up being.

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