Boulevard of Broken Dreams is the 4th track from the album ‘American Idiot’ by Green Day released on 29th November 2004. The song was a huge commercial success with worldwide sales over 5 million copies. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was named Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards of 2006 and also MTV Video Music Award for the Best Video of the Year in 2005.
In order to get new ideas for writing songs, Billie travelled to New York City and stayed alone for a few weeks in a loft in the East villlage of Manahattan where he would spend time going on long walks and participating in jam sessions in the basement of a bar in Manhattan. Armstrong wrote this song inspired from his time in New York that he spent alone.
Billie talked about the title of the song in a VH1 Storytellers session, saying that he saw it on a photo of James Dean walking in New York and underneath was titled ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’.
There’s an old James Dean photo where he’s walking in New York and underneath it says ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams.’ It’s a great photo of him, so that’s where I sort of nicked the title from,” he said.Billie Joe Armstrong
Song Meaning and Explanation
The song is part of the album ‘American Idiot’, so it follows the story of Johnny who is known as ‘Jesus of Suburbia’, an adolescent who runs away from home and is now on the streets. The song is telling the story of what happens after the song ‘Holiday’ in which Johnny is ranting about American politics and war. The car comes to a halt in what seems like a deserted place.
Now, Johnny runs away from his home because he hates his family and friends. He has a message that he wants to convey to the world and he does that through singing songs like American Idiot, Holiday etc. Initially, he feels a need to run away from the society and is kinda happy on the road. Boulevard of Broken Dreams is the aftermath of what seems like an adventurous time and when everything settles down all of a sudden.
Jesus of Suburbia finds himself alone after he runs away from his family and friends. His life has come to what seems like a dead end. Initially, he was having fun living on the streets and acting like a rebel but things have changed now all of a sudden. Loneliness catches up to him and he describes that throughout the song. Maybe, he is wondering if leaving his home behind was a good idea. This was a decision that he felt motivated to take but now he is contemplating on what this journey means to him. He is talking about the fact that he doesn’t know where life is going to take him but he is following his heart at every step even though it may feel lonely.
He wishes for someone to find him because he longs for company. He is probably contemplating his identity and the things that are important to him. He is talking about the lines that he draws for him when he mentions ‘walking down the line that divides me somewhere in my mind’. This is most likely referring to his ideals and his motivations to take the decisions that he took. He is probably depressed during this time and is conveying that through the lyrics ‘check my vital signs to know I’m still alive’. This is signifying that he is somewhat feeling dead inside. When he says ‘sometimes I wish someone out there will find me’, he is hoping for someone to offer support to him because he is tired of being alone.
So, the song is the continuation of what happens after the song ‘Holiday’. Jesus of Suburbia is feeling depressed and alone. He is contemplating his life, decisions, what lies for him ahead and meanwhile also hoping for someone to support him. This is my interpretation of what I understood from the song. I could be wrong about it.