[artist id="988"]Green Day[/artist]'s 21st Century Breakdown may currently be the #1 album in the country, but you can't get it at Wal-Mart, the country's biggest music retailer.
That's because, according to The Associated Press, the superstore has refused to carry Breakdown after it asked the band to edit the album for language and content and Green Day refused.
"Wal-Mart's become the biggest retail outfit in the country, but they won't carry our record because they wanted us to censor it," the article quotes frontman Billie Joe Armstrong as saying. "They want artists to censor their records in order to be carried there ... we just said, 'No.' We've never done it before. You feel like you're in 1953 or something."
Wal-Mart has a long-standing policy of not stocking CDs that come with a parental advisory sticker (as Breakdown does), instead offering "clean" versions of the albums with profanity and questionable material removed.
"As with all music, it is up to the artist or label to decide if they want to market different variations of an album to sell, including a version that would remove a PA rating," the AP quotes Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien as saying. "The label and artist in this case have decided not to do so, so we unfortunately cannot offer the CD."
Most of the time, the artists relent. In 1993, Nirvana famously changed the title of their song "Rape Me" to "Waif Me" on the packaging of their In Utero album to satisfy the demands of retailers like Wal-Mart and Kmart. But Green Day refused to change one note or lyric on Breakdown — which, while not as overtly political as 2004's American Idiot, still takes an unflinching look at issues like religion and war (and uses some dirty words too) — and that means their CD won't be on Wal-Mart shelves anytime soon. That's something they're more than OK with.
"If you think about bands that are struggling or smaller than Green Day ... to think that to get your record out in places like that, but they won't carry it because of the content and you have to censor yourself," Armstrong says in the AP article. "I mean, what does that say to a young kid who's trying to speak his mind making a record for the first time? It's like a game that you have to play. You have to refuse to play it."
A spokesperson for Green Day's label, Reprise Records, could not be reached for comment on the issue, nor could a spokesperson for Wal-Mart.