Sunday 15 November 2020

Nerd Church - How 2020 Is Actually An Apocalyptic Rock Opera. No, Really.


(Warning: This post discusses various elements of 2020, including but not limited to - Covid 19/Coronavirus, the US presidential elections, racism and police brutality.)

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Please do not use my links to make UK purchases.

Whew! It's been a year, right? 

And it's not over yet (though hopefully our supply of Bad News has dwindled sufficiently.)

Over the course of this year, two of my (many - when I love something, I love it!) favourite albums of all time have kind of become my soundtrack to whatever the f**k has been going with 2020.

Some people think we're living in a simulation, but I have a new take: dearest nerdlets, we're in a rock opera!

'How 2020 is Actually An Apocalyptic Rock Opera. No, Really.' with a background of multi-coloured guitar necks

21st Century Breakdown by Green Day, and Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by My Chemical Romance were released when I was a teenager (emo children never grow old!)

And I couldn't help but feeling, over the past year -

as I stuck them in my dusty old CD player (yup, still got one of those,) to sing and dance around my room first thing in the morning (...I never claimed I was easy to live with,) 

- that there was a lot in them that rang true with where we are now.

Both are apocalyptic - make of that what you will πŸ˜…

21st Century Breakdown is Green Day's follow-up to American Idiot, and the less-remembered (usually) of these two incredible 00's rock operas.

It follows star-crossed lovers Christian and Gloria, as they graduate high school, into an America where society is crumbling - full of charlatans and cons using politics and religion for their own benefit.

Christian and Gloria's lives are pulled apart by a lack of prospects, an apathetic state, snake-oil religious leaders, and various eruptions of fires and riots.

'I'm wide awake after the riots
This demonstration of our anguish
This empty laughter has no reason
Like a bottle of your favorite poison
We are the last call and we're so pathetic'

- Green Day, Murder City, 21st Century Breakdown 

Before we go further: I am NOT equating the riots and violence in this album to the Black Lives Matter protests. 

I'm equating this aspect to the riots which did occur in some places surrounding these protests

- often caused by White and other Non-Black members of the public, -

or caused DIRECTLY by the POLICE, who often escalated situations which were previously peaceful, and acted with brutality and disregard of the lives and rights of their citizens.

I'm also referring to the actions of armed, usually White, militias, who arrived at these protests purely to create tensions and commit acts of violence. Those people are the rioters, not BLM.

What I AM saying is that the EMOTIONAL EFFECTS of the riots in 21st Century Breakdown, as 'demonstrations of our anguish' against a government that does not care - or worse, is actively malicious towards - the lives of Black people, is comparable.

I realise there was a lot of nuance in that last section, and this is the Internet, but hopefully you understood what I was trying to say.

In simple terms: 

BLM =/= rioting. 

Feelings in 21st Century Breakdown = many 2020 feelings.

OK? Good.

Through it all, Christian and Gloria keep finding their way back to each other, but become canon fodder in the battle for America's soul, leaving them wondering just what is worth fighting for. 

It ends in tragedy, with an epilogue of cautious optimism.

Anyone finding this familiar? #JustSaying.

'Mayday, this is not a test!
As the neighborhood burns,
America is falling
Vigilantes warning ya,
Calling Christian and Gloria'

- Green Day, American Eulogy, 21st Century Breakdown 

Artistic image of Tre Cool drumming. The drum contains an animation of Christian and Gloria embracing as flames burn behind them
Via Giphy

Given how Trump is acting in the wake of the US election, I can't help but think of the song Horseshoes and Handgrenades:

'Maybe you're the runner up
But the first one to lose the race
Almost only really counts in
Horseshoes and handgrenades'

Is it disappointing that the Trumpkin got so close? F**k yeah! Almost half the USA thinking it's OK to vote a fascist back into office is deeply disturbing.

But almost only really counts in horseshoes and handgrenades.

Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is either a rock opera or a concept album, (more on that in a sec,) that's set in a world that's barely inhabitable. 

Capitalism and consumerism have run amok, leaving nothing but a radioactive desert wasteland full of danger, where you can buy guns from vending machines.

The air is unbreathable, and the environment inhospitable - to the extent that people have to wear brightly coloured masks to survive outside if they stay out too long. 

Again... hopefully you can see where I'm coming from here!

Granted, their masks are about pollution rather than disease... but we've not got the greatest of records there either.

Our Danger Days experience is presided over by DJ of pirate-radio, Dr Death-Defying.

The story then follows the struggles of The Fabulous Killjoys - a group of friends trying to survive this world while resisting the facist private forces of corporate giant Better Living Industries (aka BL/Ind,) and indulging in self-destructive partying tendencies.

It's through Dr D. that we get updates on the dangers of this world's America, and news on the tragic fates of some of the Killjoys.

'They don't like who you are
You won't like where we'll go
Brother, protect me now
With blood they wash in the money!'

- My Chemical Romance, DESTROYA, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

21st Century Breakdown was released in 2009, and Danger Days in 2010, they were set in 2013 and 2019 respectively.

Granted, they were a few years out (depending on when you consider the current events to have started,) but they also generally weren't intended to be instruction manuals, y'know?

So, what exactly is a rock opera?

Putting it simply, a rock opera is a studio album of rock music which tells a story.

It's similar to a concept album, which is an album which centres around a theme or narrative.

So, a rock opera is a type of concept album - rock operas are all concept albums, but not all concept albums are rock operas.

Green Day's rock operas are obvious - they're clear narratives, with 21st Century Breakdown actually being split into a 3 act structure.

(Although, Revolution Radio is arguably a rock opera, most people - yours truly included - count it as a concept album.)

While all of My Chemical Romance's albums are concept albums (yes, all of them - I will debate you if necessary,) the final two - The Black Parade and Danger Days - are kind of on that fine line between rock opera and broader concept album.

For the purposes of this post, we'll call Danger Days a rock opera. Because I said so πŸ˜…

Plus, there's a comics series based on these characters (no, I haven't read it *gasps*) and these characters have lives outside of the album - so I'm totally counting it as having enough of a narrative to be a rock opera.

Party Poison (Gerard Way) from Danger Days, blowing the smoke from their gun.

I didn't know before researching this post (yes, I actually research these things, shocking I know,) but Gerard Way's Danger Days character, Party Poison (above,) is Non-Binary. #YouLearnStuff

Via Giphy

A 3 act structure, like the one in 21st Century Breakdown, is a common narrative structure, that goes a little like this (at its most basic):

  1. Set-up/scenario
  2. Sh** hits the fan 
  3. Resolution

If 2020 is following the 3 act structure, then hopefully we're at point 3. Resolution.

21st Century Breakdown ends with cautious optimism - the public, inspired by Christian and Gloria, have fought back.

And over America, a new day dawns...

See the Light - Green Day:

(Run-time: 4.35)

Danger Days, meanwhile, ends (excluding Dr. D's radio sign-off, and bonus track Vampire Money,) with The Kids From Yesterday - which is a recognition of struggle.

It's like the breath you take after a stressful event - the reminder that you're still here. 

It acknowledges how difficult it was to get here, what you've had to go through, how you've been forced to grow, and how strong you've had to be to do so.

(Warning: flashing images. Run-time: 5.34)

Let's hope that we have, indeed, reached Act 3 of 2020.

There's hope for a Covid vaccine.

And in the US, the people have fought back and voted Trump out of office.

He lost, my dearest nerdlets. Thanks - in major part - to People of Colour and Indigenous people, especially the organisational efforts of Black women, and the Navajo/DinΓ© Nation's votes.

White people did not pull their weight in Biden's victory.

But Biden won.

Hopefully, America sees the light.

It does make me wonder, though... does art mirror life or does life mirror art?

(Oh, and if you get the chance, you could do worse than listening to these albums - not least because, imho, they're works of kick-a** art and story-telling.)

What do you think, dearest nerdlets?

Did any of that make sense?

Or do you have an alternative theory?

Talk to me! πŸ˜ŽπŸ’¬

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  1. What an interesting post, Cee! I didn't even know that rock operas were a thing until today. You really do teach me something new with every post!

    1. Haha, I'm just here to educate the youth about rock music - that's my legacy. Lol. ;) <3


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