21st Century (Digital Boy)

Last updated
"21st Century (Digital Boy)"
21st Century (Digital Boy).jpg
Single by Bad Religion
from the album Against the Grain and Stranger Than Fiction
Released1990 (original released)
1994 (rereleased)
RecordedOriginal version: May 1990 at Westbeach Recorders, Hollywood, California
Later version: 1994
Length2:50 (original)
2:47 (re-release)
Label Epitaph Records
Songwriter(s) Mr. Brett
Bad Religion singles chronology
"Struck a Nerve"
"21st Century (Digital Boy)"
Music video
"21st Century (Digital Boy)" on YouTube

"21st Century (Digital Boy)" is a song by the punk rock group Bad Religion. It was originally recorded in 1990 on their fifth full-length studio album Against the Grain and re-recorded on the 1994 album Stranger Than Fiction . The following year it was included on the All Ages compilation release.


Although the Against the Grain version was not released as a single, the Stranger Than Fiction version was a popular hit. The hit version was also featured on the 2002 compilation Punk Rock Songs , which was not endorsed by the band.


In 1994, Bad Religion re-recorded the song for their eighth studio album Stranger Than Fiction . Guitarist Brett Gurewitz claimed that Bad Religion re-recorded it because their then-label Atlantic Records said they did not "hear a single" in that album and thought the song was a hit so they asked the band to redo it.

When also asked why "21st Century (Digital Boy)" would be re-recorded for Stranger Than Fiction, bassist Jay Bentley replied:

[We re-released the song] because we were playing it every night since 1989, '90. It wasn't that we weren't happy with it. I was thrilled with it. I thought it was a great song. Brett just happened to think that we were playing it better than we played it on the record. He just thought it was the one song of his that had a snowball's chance in hell of being popular. I think one of Brett's quests as a song writer was to write a pop hit. That's hard to do when you're in a punk rock band. He always thought that song could be a pop hit, and he fought for it to get on the record and to be a single. I eventually got tired of saying 'that's not what we do'. That's what he wanted to do when he was a member of the band at the time and we all went 'well, OK, if you feel that strongly about it, we'll put it on the record'. We have a very democratic process which is that if 3 members vote one way, then it's going to happen, unless one member feels so strongly about it, then we all just concede and say that's cool.

Meaning and composition

The lyrics of the song could be interpreted as a rejection of modern consumerist culture, as exemplified in the lyrics "I'm a 21st Century Digital Boy / I don't know how to live, but I've got a lot of toys". This alienation and rejection of consumerism and mainstream culture is a common theme in the music of Bad Religion. The bridge includes references to the group's two previous records (as of the original recording), Suffer and No Control . Contrary to rumor, "21st Century (Digital Boy)" was not written or performed live in 1988 nor was it going to appear on No Control. [2]

The song pays homage to King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man", even incorporating some of its lyrics towards the end:

Cat's foot iron claw
Neuro-surgeons scream for more
Innocents raped with napalm fire

The line "everything I want I really need" that follows is a play on "21st Century Schizoid Man"'s "nothing he's got he really needs." The principal difference between the two versions is after that line. On the original Against the Grain version, as the song fades out, Graffin sings the title of the song four more times with a different word instead of "digital" (including "21st Century Schizoid Boy" in reference to King Crimson's song) backed with another guitar solo. Stranger Than Fiction's version ends with one final "Ain't life a mystery?" line.

Excerpt from a 2010 interview with Greg Graffin in Scientific American: [3]

Q: "Your most famous song is "21st Century Digital Boy," which pokes fun at our gadget-laden era."

A: "Oh no, we love technology and gadgets. We use irony in 60 percent of our music. "21st Century Digital Boy" is an ironic twist characterizing the youth of today. The truth is that even though the song was written in 1990, it was clear that the youth were going to be affected for good and bad by digital technology. It's probably because we loved video games so much."

Music video

The music video shows a young child transfixed on a TV screen as the band, all in blue, appear to be "swimming" on the static screen. Director Gore Verbinski achieved this effect by using various dyes and other substances to create the illusion that the static screen is made out of water. [4]

In modern culture

The Against the Grain version is available as downloadable content in both Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour . Guitar Hero World Tour incorrectly notes 2004 instead of 1990 as its date of the song. The 2004 date could possibly be referring to Against the Grain's remastered date.

The Dylan Ratigan Show , a television program on the news channel MSNBC, used the song as background music during a segment targeting "Facebook addiction".

Cover versions


Chart (1994–95)Peak
UK Singles (OCC) [5] 41
US Alternative Airplay ( Billboard ) [6] 11

"21st Century Digital Girl"

"21st Century Digital Girl"
Groove Coverage - 21st Century Digital Girl.jpg
Single by Groove Coverage
from the album 21st Century
Released June 23, 2006
Genre Eurodance, Pop rock, Dance rock
Label Universal Music Group
Songwriter(s) Ole Wierk, Axel Konrad, B Gurewitz, Lou Bega
Groove Coverage singles chronology
"On The Radio"
"21st Century Digital Girl"
"Because I Love You"

"21st Century Digital Girl" is the third and final single from the album 21st Century by German Eurodance group Groove Coverage. The song is an adaptation of Bad Religion's "21st Century Digital Boy".

Chart positions

Chart (2006)Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40) [7] 32
Germany (Official German Charts) [8] 41
Hungary (Dance Top 40) [9] 11
Hungary (Single Top 40) [10] 1

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Epitaph Records</span> American independent record label

Epitaph Records is an American independent record label owned by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, most acts signed to the label were punk and pop punk acts, while there are many post-hardcore and emo bands signed to the label as well. A large portion of the record label, known as Hellcat Records, is owned by Tim Armstrong, frontman of the punk rock band Rancid. Several sister labels also exist, such as ANTI-, Burning Heart Records, Hellcat Records, and Heart & Skull Records that have signed other types of bands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bad Religion</span> American punk rock band

Bad Religion is an American punk rock band that formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1980. The band's lyrics cover topics related to religion, politics, society, the media and science. Musically, they are noted for their melodic sensibilities and extensive use of three-part vocal harmonies. The band has experienced multiple line-up changes, with singer Greg Graffin being the band's only constant member, though fellow founding members Jay Bentley and Brett Gurewitz have also been with the band for most of their history while guitarist Brian Baker has been a member of the group since 1994. Guitarist Mike Dimkich and drummer Jamie Miller have been members of the band since 2013 and 2015 respectively. To date, Bad Religion has released seventeen studio albums, two live albums, three compilation albums, three EPs, and two live DVDs. They are considered to be one of the best-selling punk rock acts of all time, having sold over five million albums worldwide.

<i>Suffer</i> (album) 1988 studio album by Bad Religion

Suffer is the third album by American punk rock band Bad Religion, released on the Californian independent record label Epitaph Records on September 8, 1988. It was the first album that was both released and distributed by the label. Following the release of the EP Back to the Known (1985), Bad Religion went on a temporary hiatus, then reunited with its original members and went to work on their first full-length studio album in five years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Greg Graffin</span> American singer and academic

Gregory Walter Graffin is an American singer and evolutionary biologist. He is most recognized as the lead vocalist and only constant member of punk rock band Bad Religion, which he co-founded in 1980. He embarked on a solo career in 1997, when he released the album American Lesion. His follow-up album, Cold as the Clay, was released nine years later. His newest solo work is Millport, released in 2017.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brett Gurewitz</span> American guitarist

Brett W. Gurewitz, nicknamed Mr. Brett, is an American musician best known as the lead guitarist of Bad Religion. He is also the owner of the music label Epitaph Records and a number of sister labels. He has produced albums for Bad Religion as well as Epitaph Records labelmates NOFX, Rancid, and Pennywise, among others. Gurewitz also had a project called Error, which also featured Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, and Greg Puciato. He is also the co-founder of comic book and graphic novel publisher, Black Mask Studios.

<i>Stranger Than Fiction</i> (Bad Religion album) 1994 studio album by Bad Religion

Stranger than Fiction is the eighth full-length studio album and major label debut by American punk rock band Bad Religion, released in 1994. It was a major breakthrough for Bad Religion, being certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America and becoming the band's first album to chart on the Billboard 200, peaking at 87.

<i>No Control</i> (Bad Religion album) 1989 studio album by Bad Religion

No Control is the fourth album by American punk rock band Bad Religion, released on November 2, 1989, through Epitaph Records. Bad Religion began work on the album while touring in support of their previous album, Suffer (1988). No Control is stylistically faster than its predecessor, owing more to hardcore punk. Additionally, it was the first Bad Religion album not to feature a lineup change from the previous album.

<i>The Gray Race</i> 1996 studio album by Bad Religion

The Gray Race is the ninth full-length album of the punk rock band Bad Religion, which was released in 1996. It was the follow-up to the band's highly successful 1994 album Stranger Than Fiction.

<i>Against the Grain</i> (Bad Religion album) 1990 studio album by Bad Religion

Against the Grain is the fifth album by American punk rock band Bad Religion, released on November 23, 1990. It was the last album recorded with drummer Pete Finestone, who left in 1991 to concentrate with his new project The Fishermen. Following his departure, the band's music would take a different direction on their next album, 1992's Generator. Against the Grain was also the first Bad Religion album not to feature a lineup change from the previous two albums.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Greg Hetson</span> American musician

Greg Hetson is an American guitarist. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and has lived in the Los Angeles area since he was 2 years old. He is Jewish. Active since 1979, Hetson is best known as the guitarist for the influential hardcore punk bands Redd Kross, Circle Jerks and Bad Religion. He is known for his high energy stage antics which people have coined the term "The Hetson Leap". Hetson was a founding member of and also plays guitar in another supergroup, Punk Rock Karaoke, and the hardcore punk band G.F.P.

<i>How Could Hell Be Any Worse?</i> 1982 studio album by Bad Religion

How Could Hell Be Any Worse? is the debut studio album by American punk rock band Bad Religion, released on January 19, 1982 by Epitaph Records. Released almost a year after their self-titled EP, it was financed by a $3,000 loan by guitarist Brett Gurewitz's father. Its success surprised the band when it sold 10,000 copies in under a year.

<i>Punk Rock Songs</i> 2002 greatest hits album by Bad Religion

Punk Rock Songs (The Epic Years) is a compilation album by Bad Religion, released in 2002. All songs on this compilation are from their tenure on Atlantic and Epic Records from 1994 to 2000, in addition to four live tracks and both the English and German versions of "Punk Rock Song". Punk Rock Songs was released by Epic without any input from the band members, as Bad Religion had already returned to Epitaph Records, and as of 2017, it has not been released in the United States.

<i>Live at the Palladium</i> (Bad Religion video) 2006 video by Bad Religion

Live at the Palladium is a live concert DVD by the punk band Bad Religion, released in March 2006. It features footage from two nights at the Palladium in Hollywood, California on November 21 and 22, 2004.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bad Religion discography</span>

The discography of Bad Religion, an American Punk Rock band, consists of 17 studio albums, two live albums, four compilation albums, one box set, two extended plays (EPs), 29 singles, five video albums and 25 music videos. Formed in Los Angeles, California in 1980, the band originally featured vocalist Greg Graffin, guitarist Brett Gurewitz, bassist Jay Bentley and drummer Jay Ziskrout, who released their self-titled debut EP in February 1981 on Gurewitz's label Epitaph Records. Pete Finestone replaced Ziskrout before the release of the band's full-length debut album How Could Hell Be Any Worse? in 1982. The following year's Into the Unknown featured bassist Paul Dedona and drummer Davy Goldman, before Bentley and Finestone returned to the band and Greg Hetson joined as second guitarist.

<i>New Maps of Hell</i> (Bad Religion album) 2007 studio album by Bad Religion

New Maps of Hell is the fourteenth studio album by Bad Religion, released on July 10, 2007.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Infected (song)</span> 1994 single by Bad Religion

"Infected" is a song by American punk rock band Bad Religion, written by Brett Gurewitz. It was released as a single in 1994 and appears on their eighth studio album Stranger Than Fiction. Along with "21st Century ", "Infected" is considered to be their breakthrough song, as it received airplay from modern rock radio stations. It is also a live staple for the band.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stranger than Fiction (Bad Religion song)</span> 1994 single by Bad Religion

"Stranger than Fiction" is a song by American punk rock band Bad Religion, featured on their 1994 album with the same title.

"We're Only Gonna Die" is a song penned by frontman Greg Graffin for Bad Religion's debut album How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, which was released in 1982. It is the album's opening track, as well as the now-out of print 80–85 compilation, which was released in 1991.

<i>True North</i> (Bad Religion album) 2013 studio album by Bad Religion

True North is the sixteenth studio album by the California punk rock band Bad Religion, which was released on January 22, 2013. After touring in support of their previous album The Dissent of Man (2010), Bad Religion began writing new material for an album that was planned for release in 2012. During their 2011 tour, frontman Greg Graffin stated that Bad Religion would make "one more album and then all join the navy, do honest work", which led to speculation that they were breaking up, although this turned out not to be the case. The recording sessions took place in July and August 2012 at Joe's House of Compression, a studio owned by Joe Barresi, who produced the album.

<i>Age of Unreason</i> (album) 2019 studio album by Bad Religion

Age of Unreason is the seventeenth studio album by American punk rock band Bad Religion, released on May 3, 2019. It is the band's first studio album to feature guitarist Mike Dimkich and drummer Jamie Miller, replacing Greg Hetson and Brooks Wackerman respectively, and the first one to be produced by Carlos de la Garza, thus ending their collaboration with Joe Barresi, who had produced, mixed or engineered every Bad Religion album since 2004's The Empire Strikes First; Barresi did, however, mix "The Kids Are Alt-Right", which had already been released as a one-off single in 2018.


  1. "Bad Religion weds punk, science". Chicago Tribune. 2020-10-08. Retrieved 2022-03-21.
  2. "21st Century (Digital Boy) | The Answer | The Bad Religion Page – Since 1995". Thebrpage.net. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  3. Biello, David. "Was Darwin a Punk? A Q&A with Punker-Paleontologist Greg Graffin".
  4. SongFacts. "21st Century (Digital Boy)". SongFacts. Retrieved 20 January 2023.
  5. "Bad Religion: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  6. "Bad Religion Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  7. "Groove Coverage – 21st Century Digital Girl" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  8. "Groove Coverage – 21st Century Digital Girl" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts.
  9. "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Dance Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége.
  10. "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége.