"21st Century Breakdown" as written by and Billie Joe/wright Iii Armstrong....
Born into Nixon, I was raised in hell
A welfare child where the teamsters dwelled
The last one born and the first one to run,
My town was blind from refinery sun

My generation is zero
I never made it as a working class hero
21st century breakdown
I once was lost but never was found
I think I'm losing what's left of my mind
To the 20th century deadline

I was made of poison and blood
Condemnation is what I understood
Video games of the Tower's fall
Homeland security could kill us all

My generation is zero
I never made it as a working class hero
21st century breakdown
I once was lost but never was found
I think I'm losing what's left of my mind
To the 20th century deadline

We are the class of the class of thirteen
Born in the era of humility
We are the desperate in the decline
Raised by the bastards of 1969

My name is no one, your long lost son
Born on the fourth of July
Raised in the era of heroes and cons
That left me for dead or alive

I am a nation, a worker of pride
My debt to the status quo
The scars on my hands there a means to an end
Is all that I have to show

I swallowed my pride and choked on my faith
I've given my heart and my soul
I've broken my fingers and I've lied through my teeth
The pillar of damage control

I've been to the edge
And I've thrown the bouquet of flowers left over the grave
I sat in the waiting room, wasting my time
And waiting for Judgment Day

I praise liberty
The freedom to obey
Is the song that strangles me
Well don't cross the line

Oh, dream, America, dream
I can't even sleep
From the light's early dawn
Oh, scream, America, scream
Believe what you see
From heroes and cons


Lyrics submitted by bfg1024

"21st Century Breakdown" as written by Frank E. Billie Joe Armstrong

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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21st Century Breakdown song meanings
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  • +6
    Song MeaningTo me, this is about the character Christian, who was raised in a tough neighborhood by bad parents and video games. He'll be graduating in 4 years and is rapidly becoming enlightened in many ways with age - socially, intellectually, politically. He's realizing that the government and many other Americans that are idolized are incredibly corrupt and are basically "cons" to society. He and his classmates were raised by these people and thus they are probably bound to become them as well. Also, in the lyrics it implies that working very hard for a living is prideful, but at the end of the day, all most of them can show for it is scars and an eventual death.

    The final minute is, in my opinion, the most fascinating bit of music on the album. The guitars screech and at first Bille Joe sings "Dream America Dream", which is about hope and faith. Then it shifts to "scream America scream" because the dreams are merely that and are not grounded in reality. Once the dreams are over, and morning hits ("from the lights early dawn"), you must wake up and be met with the grim reality of the state of the country.

    It's a very negative and depressing song despite the poppy, diverse sound. As much as Christian wants to dream, he's met with a grim reality at every corner.
    bostonceltzon May 20, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General Comment"Juliet's crying, well now she's realizing love can be filled with pain and distrust"

    Say it ain't so, TheTuxedo! This is from one boy who makes a plan to take a stand and doesn't end up quitting. Yes, this is a band that has transformed over the years, but middle-finger up smile on your face apathy only takes you so far. Yes, they are anti-war (not the same as anti-American), but at least they made a choice. I understand the dilemma: now they face a paradox, serving as the American icon of counterculture, a popular symbol and an outsider all at once?

    But I have to agree that this song is epic. It has three parts, each with its own energy and emotion.

    The first segment is by the narrator, and it sounds like Billie-Joe himself. "I never made it as a working-class hero" could be a rare moment of humility, in comparison to John Lennon (a reference to the cover song, of course). The second part is an introduction of the new generation, "The class of '13" which logically is 4 years from now but sounds an awful lot like bad luck. And finally, the dream vs. scream section is truly a conflicted mind being taxed, the catalyst of a revolution to come.

    I really like the line, "I once was lost but was never found," which I believe to be a reference to Amazing Grace with an inverted result. Faith and politics are definitely called into question in the meat of this album, and giving them thought doesn't negate American ideals or their influence in the world. It's blind patriotism and blind faith that are taken to trial by fire in this epic.

    If you have a problem with that, we'll always have Christie Road...
    davidecoyoteon May 17, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentSo...fucking...good...
    gengen319on May 08, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentCool, but the meaning of this song isn't about you not liking it.
    kmjeon May 15, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMink4i you are stupid.
    Nimrod06on May 25, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYou people are complete idiots this song isn't about Anti-war, Anti-America, or about the album. (it's only partly a concept album) This song in it's self is about Billie Joe Armstrong who was born in 1972 (hence the born into Nixon) the song talks about how he was born the youngest of six kids into an era after the Hippies and rebels and was raised by his parents who were fifties Teamsters. The song also explians the part of his life where his father died (sat in a waiting room) and when his mother married a man everyone hated (I was once lost but never was found) the song also talks about that kids of the class of 2013 who would be born around the mid 1990's have to deal with the problems about the 21st century when the 1990's were good.
    VarGulF42on May 29, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTheTux, I disagree completely with your assessment that Green Day has become radio-trash. On the contrary, I believe that they have finally been able to correct a mistake they made so many years ago. As a devoted Green Day fan as yourself must remember, the band made big news when it strayed from the East Bay scene and fellow punk rockers Rancid and NOFX to sign with Reprise Records. By signing a major record deal, they were forced to censor themselves and play to an audience of music consumers, not music listeners. Many thought that Warning, especially "Macy's Day Parade", was a change in their style and the death of the Green Day we all grew up loving. In hindsight, that album was sort of the last depressed push of a group sick and tired of producing radio-ready crap. "Macy's Day Parade" was Billie Joe saying he's done pushing out all this commercialized crap and he wants to do what he wants to do. He's saying Reprise promised him all these dreams of stardom and hope but he did not get it. He's saying he's going back to a time when he was happier. Green Day now has the fanbase, the capital, and the wherewithal to produce what they want to produce under Reprise without too much editing. They have produced for Reprise and now they wanted some of their own artistic license. Billie Joe wrote his heart out about issues he was truly moved about. Then American Idiot was an explosion of repressed rage at the obvious shortcomings of the first term of the Bush Presidency. No one, especially not a devoted patriot like myself, can deny that Bush was a terrible president who will always be remembered as setting back Civil Rights, Economic Progress, and our International reputation. With 21st Century Breakdown, Billie Joe is trying to capture the feeling of a generation. They're not Anti-American. They're anti-idiot. We don't want to destroy this country, we want to make it better. After all, that's what punk is about. We don't believe the union of states or the collection of the American people should be disrupted, we just want what we were promised--a government that cares about its people, does what is in the best interest of the population, and allows us to have life, liberty, and pursue happiness. Billie Joe is upset that, since the Presidency of Richard Nixon, there have been too few presidents keeping this ideal in mind. Now it's time to realize this and push for change.
    areid86on June 15, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlrighty, first I want to say that I love Green Day, I have for years now and I wouldn't be the same without having listened to them, but I also think it's kind of strange that the last album's American Idiot was about how stupid it is that the country is run by the media, which I agree with, but they're pretty much repeating everything the media is saying now with this album, I still love them and appreciate the CD and all of the work that they put into writing their lyrics, but this was kind of hypocritical. So, all of you that are going to tell I'm stupid and that I suck, go for it, but you won't change my mind.
    littledrummergirlon July 12, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationIt's basically a song about Billie Joe's life and the generations in which him and his kids grew up in.

    Born in to Nixon I was raised in hell. He was born in 1972 when Nixon was president and did not have a good upbringing.
    A welfare child where the teamsters dwelled. His town was unionized and the Teamsters were one of the biggest unions back then.
    Last one and the first one to run. My town was blind from the refinery sun. He was the youngest of his siblings but first to move out. Also references Born to Run by Springsteen. The oil refinery was the biggest source of jobs in his town.

    The chorus references John Lennon (Working Class Hero) and the Who (My generation is Zero). The 21st century breakdown stuff references the fact that many people in this century feel lost with no direction in live.

    I was made of poison and blood. Condemnation is well understood. He was not brought up well and feels like he is damned to hell after death.
    Video games of the tower's fall. Homeland security can kill us all. This is a comment on the post 9/11 world and the fact that Homeland Security can spy on us. Also a reference of COD modern warfare and drone strike.

    We are the class of the class of thirteen. The graduating class of Billie's oldest son (and me)
    Born in the era of humility.
    We are the desperate in the decline. Kids Billie's son's age (and mine) are going into the workforce in a time will there are not a lot of job and we may suffer unemployment.
    Raised by the bastards of 1969. If a person was born in 1969 and had a kid in 1995 like Billie, they would be 26 years old at the time of their kids birth and kid don't always see eye-to-eye with their parents. It could also reference the sexual position or the fact that 1969 was during the "free love" era and people who had unplanned pregnancy in 1969 became grandparents. Not sure if one or both those comments is correct.

    My name is no one, your long lost son
    Born on the fourth of July
    Raised in the era of heroes and cons
    That left me for dead or alive. This is about the current state of the country and how our government is sending people off to war to die.

    I am a nation, a worker of pride
    My debt to the status quo
    The scars on my hands there a means to an end
    Is all that I have to show This is about the average working class man and how he has to scrap for everything he's ever got.

    I swallowed my pride and choked on my faith
    I've given my heart and my soul
    I've broken my fingers and I've lied through my teeth
    The pillar of damage control

    I've been to the edge
    And I've thrown the bouquet of flowers left over the grave
    I sat in the waiting room, wasting my time
    And waiting for Judgment Day These two verse could be about the contemplation of suicide by desperate people who feel stuck

    I praise liberty
    The freedom to obey
    Is the song that strangles me
    Well don't cross the line This is about being left wing and the rights we have as Americans to speak out against the government and how they have been restricted.

    Oh, dream, America, dream. The American dream
    I can't even sleep
    From the light's early dawn Shattered dreams because if you can't sleep you can't dream
    Oh, scream, America, scream
    Believe what you see
    From heroes and cons. The government is depicted as heroes by the media but they are both really cons who are just out to trick you. You basically have two options from Billie perspective. Stand up and scream if you feel the government in wrong or naively believe everything you see in the media.
    gregb429on July 22, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think it is about how working class people are oppressed and whatnot. It's your Up with the Democrats and down with the Republicans song.
    GreenDayPunkon July 26, 2016   Link

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