'American Idiot' stunt pits anti-Trump sentiment against soccer in England
Washington (CNN) -- Green Day's "American Idiot" is climbing the UK chart ahead of President Donald Trump's visit there this week.
An online campaign is pushing to get the song to No. 1 when he arrives, but first it has to get past one of the biggest-selling songs in British chart history -- a patriotic soccer (football?) anthem that has retaken charts just as England is set to play in its first World Cup semifinal since 1990 on Wednesday.
At the top of the midweek chart update is "Three Lions," which was written for the 1996 European Championship, which was held in England. The song has reached No. 1 before, in 1996 and 1998. And it's sold 1.6 million copies, making it the 32nd best-selling single ever in the UK, ahead of hits like Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time" and the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love," according to Official Charts. As England has progressed in the World Cup, "Three Lions" has pole-vaulted up the chart, from No. 42 to No. 24 to within striking distance of its third stint at No. 1, within three weeks.
Further down the chart, "American Idiot" was at No. 18 in the midweek update, and fewer than 4,000 copies away from placing in the top 10, Official Charts said.
Music consumers in the UK have used the charts to make a statement before. In 2009, Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" outsold a single from the latest "X Factor" winner in an upset for Christmas No. 1 (Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha told the BBC at the time that it was the toppling of a "very sterile pop monopoly"). And in 1977, ahead of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee, the Sex Pistols' controversial "God Save the Queen" reached No. 2 despite being banned by the BBC.
"American Idiot" wasn't a chart hit when it was released in the US, stalling at No. 61 on the Hot 100. It's perhaps unsurprising, considering it came out the year after radio stations pulled the Dixie Chicks' music because Natalie Maines said at a London concert that she was "ashamed" of President George W. Bush. And the following month, Madonna scrapped a music video for her song "American Life" that featured a Bush lookalike. But in the UK, "American Idiot" was a smash, peaking at No. 3 in 2004.
Green Day has yet to publicly comment on the campaign on its social media accounts, although they did share a tweet from Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, on Friday joking that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would send the US a copy of their album.
The campaign to take "American Idiot" to No. 1 this week faces tough competition. It pits British anti-Trump sentiments against not just hits from Drake, Cardi B and Dua Lipa, but against excitement and patriotism over England's national team. Just how high "American Idiot" can go may very well depend on England's performance Wednesday in the semifinals against Croatia.
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