Opinion - Why selling out is super cool

Didn't see this one coming ... (Image courtesy Rolling Stone/Tyler Golden)

It was announced this week that Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong will be joining Christina Aguilera's team as a mentor on NBC's "The Voice."
And out come the wolves.

"(T)otal sellout, no other way to say it," carps RhythmSteve on Rollng Stone's message boards. "From now on all artistic license provided to Green Day is now revoked, and anything in the future should be instantly suspect of corporate whore-mongering."

There are plenty who share this anonymous grump's complaints. But can you sell out if you've already "sold out" - you know, like giant stadiums such as Milton Keynes or Irvine Meadows? The second you plaster your band's or your own likeness on a lunchbox, haven't you sold out?

Speaking as a 29-year-old Green Day fan, I may be more forgiving of the sellout moniker. At this age, I realize my heroes are fallible, and that makes them all the more admirable, really. What other profession outside the art world would consider it "selling out" when you become successful beyond your wildest dreams?
The point of being in a band, other than to score with whichever sex you prefer, is to bring your message to as many people as possible. Which is exactly what Green Day can do on a mainstream hit such as "The Voice." Lest we forget that Armstrong was one of the most vocal opponents of George W. Bush's presidency (listen to "Holiday" off American Idiot and "East Jesus Nowhere" off 21st Century Breakdown again. I dare you to find more vitriol in another well-known artist's discography).

Which is not to say Armstrong's going to blast out of the gate with middle fingers flying when he makes his "Voice" debut. But lest we also forget that he is a father of two. The family-friendly nature of this show can really aid in the argument from, say, a 12-year-old Green Day fan, insisting to his parents that Dookie is a lot more harmless than Katy Perry singing about threesomes or Rihanna singing about S&M.

Plus, the toxic label of selling out in punk rock is a lot less caustic than the hand-over-fist moneymaking on Wall Street or Congress. Green Day isn't likely fucking anyone over in taking this deal. But the actions of politicians and bankers can have direct influence on the proles' jobs, health, personal matters, housing, ad infinitum. One might argue that in selling out, the Bay Area trio's concert tickets will get more expensive, edging out many a young and broke fan. True, but since no one buys music anymore, it might be a fair turnabout. And face it: Green Day will never again play 924 Gilman Street. Enthusiasts bitter that they missed the boat in the '90s shouldn't rain on the parade for the rest of us.

In short, be your own hero, kids. I'm not trying to be blase about Armstrong's career choice (personally, this'll actually give me a reason to watch "The Voice"). Just take a step back when you revile Green Day or any other musician for selling out. You support your favorite bands, right? You want them to be happy and to prosper, right? Or do you want to glom onto them as Gollum does to the One Ring, becoming a decrepit grouch and not sharing in the magic?

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