Billie Joe Armstrong
As a musician, lyricist, and front man for the pop-punk band Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong became one of the most successful and influential rock stars of his generation. Forming the group that would eventually be known as Green Day with childhood friend Mike Dirnt in the late 1980s, Armstrong wrote nearly all of the songs featured on their breakout major label debut, 1994's <i>Dookie</i>. Hits like "When I Come Around" catapulted Armstrong and the band to MTV stardom, while their scatological lyrics and bad boy behavior earned them the newly-coined descriptor "brat rockers" in the press. Follow up efforts such as <i>Insomniac</i> and <i>Nimrod</i> were moderate successes, although they failed to impress most critics, who decried the band's perceived lack of musical growth. By the early 2000s, Green Day had reached an all-time low, with their latest album failing to go platinum as their three previous releases had, while now also serving as opening acts for up-and-coming alt-rockers like Blink-182. Everything changed when the high-concept <i>American Idiot</i> hit stores in 2004. Described as a "punk rock opera," the album debuted at No. 1, far surpassing Green Day's previous efforts and returning them to rock music's upper-echelon. Armstrong expanded on the operatic structure with <i>21st Century Breakdown</i>, the band's eighth studio album, which usurped the position of the best-selling record in Green Day's history. Praised by many for playing a key role in the resurgent interest in punk rock, even as some disparaged him for "mainstreaming" the non-conformist musical genre, by the start of the 21st Century, Armstrong was undeniably a major force in American rock music.