This article originally ran in 2016, but we’re dusting it off in celebration of Billie Joe Armstrong’s birthday on February 17th. Top Songs is a feature in which we definitively handpick the very best songs in an artist or band’s catalog. Sounds simple, right? Oh, if only. Also, check out the new “Punk Is Dead, Long Live Punk!” T-shirt at the Consequence Shop.
Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt formed Green Day in 1986 — that’s over 35 solid fucking years of punk, pop punk, punk rock, rock, pop rock, and all the strange detours in between. They’ve scaled not one but two commercial peaks in a storied, 13-album career that’s experimented with form (rock operas, album trilogies, Broadway musicals) and subject (love, politics, masturbation). I think I speak for everyone who pitched in on this list when I say narrowing down their best songs was nearly as painful as (ahem) pulling teeth.
The breadth of their catalog aside, this ranking was difficult because the line between “best song” and “favorite song” quickly blurs when it comes to this band. Green Day is a formative band for many of us, whether you were there when they were still called Sweet Children or whether you were captivated by their grand middle finger to George W. Bush in 2004.
A band that’s been around for so long has unavoidably soundtracked different parts of your life, and with strong personal attachments, it can be unthinkable when the band takes a left turn. A new album can become as much a cause for apprehension as enthusiasm when you’ve so cherished what has come before.
So take a ride with us through Green Day’s prolific discography as we narrow it down to a definitive list of the band’s 20 best songs.
— Karen Gwee