Back With a 'Bang Bang': Green Day Returns to the Rock Charts

Marina Chavez
Green Day

The band hits Alternative Songs, debuting at No. 16, for the first time in three years.

"Bang Bang" is the first single from Green Day in more than three years, but the band picks up where it left off, with big debuts on Billboard's rock charts.

The lead single from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act's upcoming 12th studio album Revolution Radio, due Oct. 7, roars onto multiple rankings (dated Aug. 27), including the Alternative Songs airplay chart at No. 16.

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After less than four days of airplay after the song premiered Thursday, Aug. 11, the cut enters Alternative Songs with 54 of the chart's 55 reporting stations having spun the song at least once in the tracking week ending Aug. 14, according to Nielsen Music. The No. 16 debut is the chart's highest since Beck's "Dreams" began at No. 13 on July 4, 2015.

"Bang Bang" is Green Day's 24th top 20 entry on Alternative Songs, good for fifth-most all-time, and it's 31st on the chart overall, tying the band for third place with Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers; only U2 (41) and Pearl Jam (38) have made more visits.

And of Green Day's 31 Alternative Songs entries, "Bang Bang" makes the group's fifth-highest debut. (2012's "Oh Love" launched at a career-best No. 7, on its way to a No. 3 peak.)

"Bang Bang" concurrently enters Mainstream Rock Songs at No. 17, the band's second-highest debut ever, bested only by "Oh Love" (No. 13). The new song, which drew airplay on 60 of the chart's 66 reporters, is also the list's top debut in more than a year, since Shinedown entered at No. 9 with "Cut the Cord" (July 18, 2015). On the all-rock format Rock Airplay chart, "Bang Bang" debuts at No. 9 with 8 million audience impressions.

Despite less than one day of sales in the tracking week, "Bang Bang" enters Rock Digital Songs at No. 42 with 4,000 downloads sold. The track bows at No. 23 on the airplay/sales/streaming-based Hot Rock Songs chart.

VETERANS 'COMING BACK STRONG'

Green Day is the latest in a string of bands now considered legacy rock acts to debut with sizable numbers on the Billboard rock charts in 2016. Already this year, Blink-182 and Red Hot Chili Peppers have mounted successful comebacks, garnering Nos. 1 and 2 debuts on the Billboard 200, respectively, with each adding No. 1 hits on Alternative Songs.

Yeah, sure, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Green Day in 2015; the Chili Peppers in 2012) can certainly help matters when you're looking to promote your new single to radio. But according to influential rock radio programmers, it goes further than simply being an act that's racked up multiple No. 1s in the past.

CBS Radio's KITS San Francisco played "Bang Bang" more times (34) than any other station in its debut week. "We're biased, but [East Bay-formed] Green Day looms large in the Bay Area and hearing them on the radio again is like a cool family reunion," program director Jacent Jackson tells Billboard. "The response has been tremendous, and exposing the song a lot was an easy decision."

Jackson adds that the continued success of veterans in 2016 isn't just a product of their proven track records. Musically, Green Day, Blink-182 and the Chili Peppers lean more pure-rock than several newer alt acts, some of whom were influenced by pop and even hip-hop (i.e. Twenty One Pilots). "I think that in the past few years, we have seen the music industry invest in rock acts that can also potentially appeal to a pop audience, so when an act like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blink-182 or Green Day comes out with new material, it really stands out," he says. "The fact that they have written very good songs is a bonus."

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Meanwhile, SiriusXM's Octane channel led the charge for "Bang Bang" in the mainstream rock format, spinning the tune 25 times through Aug. 14. PD Vinny Usuriello says that just because the band has traditionally found more of a home on alternative rather than mainstream rock radio didn't mean much once the new song was introduced. "Green Day is coming back strong with a rocker that's reminiscent of early punk-rock Green Day, with lyrics that resonate with what's going on in the world today."

With Octane a key voice in the mainstream rock world, Usuriello says, "I felt it was important to play the song for that audience and get their opinion."

A quick glance at the No. 1s on Alternative Songs this year may yield unfamiliar names for listeners who may not pay as much attention to the genre as they did five years ago, with Foals, Nothing But Thieves, The Strumbellas and Kaleo all earning their first No. 1s in 2016. But, at the other end of the spectrum, Green Day and its contemporaries continue to showcase the staying power of the elder statesmen of the format.

"Seeing some of the 'Mount Rushmore' bands in the alternative genre deliver [hit new music] has been very welcome to radio programmers," Jackson says. "It's a great reminder that rock stars still matter."