In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: A stand-up who released her first 7-inch, Uncomfortable At Best, on Jonah Ray’s Literally Figurative Records in January, Paige Weldon has performed everywhere from The Meltdown in Los Angeles to the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland. With a dry, witty style that’s evident even on her Twitter feed, Weldon is also the co-founder of the online comedy magazine The Higgs Weldon and has published several zines, including The Drama Sutra.
The hated: Green Day, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” (2004)
The A.V. Club: Why is this the song you picked?
Paige Weldon: I have a lot of feelings about it. It’s less that I hate the song and more that I find it really disappointing. I would love to like this song. It has the potential to be a very important and meaningful song about loss, but I also loved Green Day growing up, and I still love Green Day. When they had this whole rebranding around American Idiot, I was so disappointed, and so I think this song sort of represents all of that in one track.
AVC: Why did the song and the rebranding disillusion you?
PW: Because the thing that I loved about Green Day was that they were always kind of dumb and angsty and a little bit gross, and that was charming about them. Even as they got older and put out Nimrod and Warning—those albums are still very much Green Day growing up, but they’re still Green Day. But after Warning and coming up with this whole “new look” and this album that was supposed to be a big rock opera, it just fell so flat with me.
AVC: This track is supposedly about the death of Billie Joe Armstrong’s dad, which I can respect, but then when you consider it’s also part of a Broadway musical, it gets a little over the top.
PW: It almost feels like their record label or whoever was like, “Guys, we’re ready at any time for your sad song. Billie, what do you got?” I respect that it’s about his dad and he’s probably had it for a while, but that almost makes it even more disappointing. This should be a great, powerful song, and it isn’t. It’s just kind of bad.
AVC: What do you think makes it bad besides the fact that it’s disappointing? Is it the music? Is it the lyrics? Is it everything?
PW: It’s probably more the music, because the lyrics are on par with anything they’ve ever written. They’re not better or worse, but it’s kind of boring.
Maybe part of why it drives me so insane is that it was played constantly. Maybe if I’d only heard it on the album once, it wouldn’t bother me so much, but now whenever I hear it, it’s just like, “Oh, gosh, this again.”
AVC: It is the band’s power ballad. This and “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” have probably made the group the most money.
PW: It is kind of interesting that this one became as popular or more popular than “Good Riddance.” I just don’t see them as the same. I don’t know why.
AVC: That one was from 1997, and this one was from 2004. Seven years can make a big difference as a listener.
PW: Maybe “Good Riddance” worked because of the context of the album that it was on. This song being on American Idiot, I’m already annoyed with the album. The other songs on the album are, arguably, more hateable. There’s a song called “Jesus Of Suburbia,” and it’s like, “Really, you’re going to call your song ‘Jesus Of Suburbia’?” It’s kind of embarrassing—it’s like they’re trying to grow up, but they also sound like the angry teenagers they always were, and it doesn’t work.
AVC: It’s also weird that they wrote this musical about teenagers.
PW: The other thing I was wondering about was the music video for this song. It was the teenagers. I think it was Evan Rachel Wood.
AVC: And Jamie Bell.
PW: There’s that opening scene where they talk about how much they love each other and they’re never going to leave each other, and everything they say sounds super dumb because they’re teenagers or whatever. I don’t want to see that in a beautifully shot, directed video; I want to see it in a dirty, grungy context that admits that it’s dumb.
AVC: This track feels very adult contemporary on purpose. It feels like they were trying to write a hit that everyone could enjoy.
PW: I don’t know the context, if someone came in necessarily and helped them restyle themselves, but it’s like they’re trying to sell themselves as eight different things. They’re trying to adopt an emo look with the eyeliner and the black outfits, and they’re still trying to be punk by having a patch on their shirts or whatever, but they’re also trying to be grown-ups and political activists. I remember reading about how “Jesus Of Suburbia” was a big song for Billie Joe; he wanted it to be his “Bohemian Rhapsody” or whatever, and it’s like, “Calm down. That’s not what’s happening.”
AVC: He can aspire to those things. Maybe when Freddie Mercury wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody,” he thought, “This is it.” It’s for you as a comedian to say, “I’m going to write the best joke that’s ever existed.” Instead you might think, “I’m going to write a great joke for me.”
PW: Yeah, and even if I thought that, I wouldn’t say it out loud.
AVC: This song was pretty closely related with Hurricane Katrina, which I didn’t remember.
PW: Yeah, I don’t remember that either. I was reading about it and I guess they were playing it at the Superdome, but that’s almost something that’s like—and I don’t have the answer to this—I don’t know if it matters if it’s a good song if it means something to people. But it would be super cool if it were also a great song.
AVC: Did you see American Idiot, the play?
PW: No, I never did. I wanted to because it came out when I was maybe just starting high school or finishing middle school, and where I grew up, nobody knew who Green Day was.
AVC: Where’d you grow up?
PW: I grew up in Temecula, California, Riverside County. So it was a suburb where people didn’t really know that kind of music. Then American Idiot came out and everyone knew American Idiot, and I was like, “Guys, that’s not what they’re about, though.” But I still wanted to be on board, so I thought my mom would take me to the show, but it fell apart for me.
AVC: How did you get into Green Day if no one else was into them?
PW: It was probably because my mom showed them to me. Before we moved to Temecula, we lived in San Diego, and we’d always listen to their alternative station 91X, and they’d play Green Day a lot. That really coincided with my whole desire to be a rebel, and so I got super into them. I had this sweatshirt I’d wear, like, every day in fourth grade; it was this Green Day sweatshirt that was way too big for me, but I wore it, like, every day. It was my favorite.
AVC: What did that look like?
PW: I don’t even remember where I got it, and I don’t know why I got the one that was too big for me. It might have been because I did go see them in concert. The day before the first day of fourth grade, I went to a Green Day concert with my mom. I remember I had this teacher in fourth grade who I was really good buddies with all year, and we were talking the first day of fourth grade about how we were both at that concert. I wonder if that’s where I got the sweatshirt; I don’t remember.