If I had been told in early June that there would be a race for the number 1 spot in the charts between Three Lions and American Idiot, I probably would have laughed it off. But here we are. As protestors seek to get Green Day’s 2004 anti-Bush anthem to the top spot in time for Trump’s UK visits and football fans nationwide dare to dream, it feels like a good time for discussing the impact music can have on the wider world. How we can use music to make a statement of where we are as a nation. How songs that were tied to past events can come back around. The fact that this can be done with a case study of Three Lions only adds to the appeal.
Three Lions was released to coincide with the 1996 Euros. That’s the one where current England manager Gareth Southgate missed a penalty and we crashed out of the tournament. It’s bouncy chorus of “it’s coming home” has been a joke from the moment the tournament began, but after Southgate led his team through the round of 16 with a redemptive penalty shootout, it looked as though England may have learned from the past. No longer assuming they were owed anything, they worked and fought for what they got. Now Three Lions stands as both a joke and a celebration, proudly boasting that England will be triumphant whilst aware that we might not be.
If Three Lions serves to celebrate lessons learned, American Idiot serves as a painful reminder of the lessons still to be learned. Trump is an amplified version of all of George W Bush’s failings with a thin-skin to match. Whilst this isn’t a political essay, it is safe to say that Trump is not popular in the UK, or even the US if recent opinion polling is accurate. Lurching from poor decision to potentially war-causing poor decision, the man fits the caricature of Bush Green Day painted on their 2004 masterpiece more comfortably than even the original target.
The two pieces sit in polar opposition to each other. Three Lions is hopeful, joking and suggests better things are yet to come. American Idiot feels somewhat dejected and lamenting the fact that nothing has changed. Both songs are more than a decade old now, yet they’ve come back to mark the bizarre situation we are currently in: a collapsing political landscape but England, somehow, doing well in a World Cup again. Three Lions has become a song England fans can appreciate the dual meaning of, rather than only seeing the serious or satirical side, whilst American Idiot remains painfully relevant.