Grammys flashback: Green Day rocked their way to Record of the Year over Mariah Carey and Kanye West in 2006

Green Day helped popularize pop-punk music with mainstream audiences, largely due to their successful releases “Dookie,” “Nimrod,” and “American Idiot.” The band’s commercial success has matched their awards success, with five Grammys and 11 MTV Video Music Awards to their name. Perhaps the biggest honor the band has received is the Grammy for Record of the Year for perhaps their biggest hit, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” The song’s win marked a big moment not only for the rock band, but for rock music in general, especially with how strong its competition was. Let’s take a look back.

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“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was a single from “American Idiot.” The album was a huge success and brought the band back to the public eye after a commercial slump. The album’s sharp political commentary and great production made it the band’s first number-one opener on the Billboard 200 albums chart and won them the Grammy for Best Rock Album at the 47th Grammy Awards. Since “Boulevard” was not released as a single until after that eligibility period, it did not compete at the 47th Grammy Awards but at the 48th. Since it came from an album that won a Grammy, as per the rules at the time, the song was only eligible for Record of the Year; nowadays, it wouldn’t be eligible for anything.

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As stated above, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was a huge hit for the band. The song peaked at number-two on the Billboard Hot 100, their highest position ever by a large margin. With both the song and album being smashes, it was no surprise to see it nominated for Record of the Year. But nominated alongside it were some of the most defining hits of the 2000s, including Mariah Carey’s record-breaking “We Belong Together.” Like Green Day, Carey was having a huge career resurgence with her album “The Emancipation of Mimi,” and “We Belong Together” was an integral part of it, becoming the biggest hit of the 2000s in the US according to Billboard.

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Also nominated was “Feel Good Inc.,” the signature song from alternative band Gorillaz. The song was a huge hit and the band had previous nominations, so its inclusion wasn’t a surprise. Gwen Stefani was nominated for her chart-topping “Hollaback Girl,” off her Album of the Year-nominated “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” Last but not least was the chart-topping “Gold Digger” by Kanye West with an uncredited assist from Jamie Foxx.

With such heavy competition, “Boulevard” definitely wasn’t a surefire pick, but its win can be easily explained. First, it’s the most “serious” song in the lineup, reflecting the depressed, lonesome state of many people in a war-torn, post-9/11 era, which was an important theme throughout the album. It also likely helped that it was the only rock song nominated, but still had appeal to academy members from other genres; this was similar to how Coldplay’s “Clocks” won a couple of years earlier.

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Writing for SLANT Magazine, Sal Cinquemani noted how similar the song’s win would be to “Clocks”: “Being the sole rock entry in this category helped Coldplay’s ‘Clocks’ win two years ago but it didn’t do much for Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ last year. The less politically divisive ‘Boulevard,’ on the other hand, is the kind of sweeping rock ballad the academy likes to get behind.” On top of that, the song only being nominated for Record of the Year might have been a blessing in disguise; while fans of the other songs could’ve voted for them in other categories, the only place to vote for “Boulevard” was in Record, so all its supporters concentrated there. Ultimately, things perfectly lined up in Green Day’s favor.

“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” remains one of the best Record of the Year winners of the century. Sharp and poignant, the song still echoes in many people’s hearts these days, especially after COVID brought up more feelings of loneliness and disorientation in many people. Plus, it’s nice to see a rock song win in the general categories that isn’t by a legacy act like U2 or Bruce Springsteen. As such, the win not only cemented the song’s legacy as a certified 2000s classic, but also serves as one of many reminders of Green Day’s amazing contributions to music history.

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