Cat Cohen's Anatomy of a Hit a Hit in 2005

Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day

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Green Day releases a haunting record that dominates the charts and Grammy Awards in 2005 for good reasons.

Song: Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Artist: Green Day
Album: American Idiot
Songwriter: Michael Pritchard, Frank E, Wright, Billie Joe
Producer: Rob Calvallo and Green Day
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Concept
Young adult angst, disappointment and isolation.

Lyric
Paints the sadness of feeling alone on an empty late night city street. More of a tone poem of images than a story.

I walk a lonely road, the only one that I have ever known

Don’t know where it goes, but it’s home to me, and I walk alone

I walk this empty street on the boulevard of broken dreams

Where the city sleeps and I’m the only one

And I walk alone, I walk alone, I walk alone

Groove
Strong 8th note rock groove with 16th guitar figure overlay above and heavy quarter note feel below.

Melody
Memorable melodic lines well shaped and phrased with effective repetition. Bridge melody contrasts the verse melody. The minor scale echoes the loneliness of the lyrics.

Harmony
Familiar sounding triadic guitar chords in minor diatonic harmony make a strong background to the melody and lyrics. A good use of two new contrasting chords in the second section.

i bIII bVII IV (7x) bVI bIII bVII i (3x) bVI bIII V

Structure
Signature A A B Sig A A B Sig Solo A B Tag

Sig Verse Verse Bridge Sig Verse Verse Bridge Sig Solo
Verse Bridge Tag

What breaks the rule here is the absence of the title in a prominent place, not the usual hit song hook. However, it is still catchy and compelling.


Signature
More of a sound hook in the guitar overlay than a riff. This is developed before the second verse statement and in later repetitions.

Production
The sound is crystal clear with all elements balanced in repetition and contrast. There is not a wasted moment in the whole recording.

Performance
The vocal is direct and expressively emotional in its simplicity and honesty.

Predicted Longevity
The easy to follow structure, strong melody and excellent guitar work alone should keep this song in circulation for a long time. The prosody of all the elements give the whole more impact than the sum of its parts. One can listen to this recording many times without getting tired of it.

Album Cover: American Idiot

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