Over the past couple of years, twenty one pilots have shot from being a cult favorite to household name. If you didn’t hear “Stressed Out” from their platinum album, Blurryface, then you were definitely abstaining from radio, and unless you were living under a rock and hadn’t heard about Suicide Squad, whether positively or negatively, you definitely have heard their song “Heathens”.
Music lovers have really latched onto the duo made up of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, and it’s seemed that with two incredibly commercially successful records under their belt, a blockbuster hit for a huge movie soundtrack and a remarkably touching cover of My Chemical Romance’s “Cancer”, it really seemed like the past year was their year. Every move they’ve made has been nothing but beneficial for them in the long run of their careers, and it really seems like they can’t fail. But can they? And why does it seem like they can’t be stopped?
For one thing, twenty one pilots garnered a fan base in the most organic way, and has made sure to cultivate them from the beginning. I myself am I proud member of the Clique, and it’s clear that in everything they do with their music, they do it for themselves and the fans. They really could care less about how their music is critically received. If it speaks to them and their fans, they’re happy. And it’s a rise in artists that are willing to step down that risky path that has made me particularly happy. They enjoy seeing how much their lyrics and their music have helped kids with anxiety, depression, loneliness and isolation to feel like someone else understands them, and in a completely unique way than other artists do.
For another thing, these two are a group that live up to their hype. Not only do I have all of their music, but I’ve seen them live in concert, and for a group that is just the two of them, the only stage decoration being a screen behind them that sets up their performances, there is never, and I repeat NEVER a dull moment. They are electrifying performers with stage presence and that interact with their fans to make them feel like they are apart of the show. Josh plays drums like a mad man, and with an energy that just doesn’t seem to give out no matter how long the show. Tyler goes from piano to ukulele, to synths, to whatever and manages to front an act that is unforgivingly energetic.
Their music is original. Tyler raps, sings and has a flow that is all his own. Their lyrics are deep and original, telling stories of fighting their demons, feeling as if no one else understands, and overcoming their worst fears. They’re storytellers, masterful ones at that, and they understand what it means to write a song that has something more than just a good beat. “Stressed Out” perfectly captures the yearning nostalgia to be a child again to when times were easier and we could crawl back into our parents’ arms and believe them when they said, “Everything would be alright”. Another Top 10 hit of theirs, “Ride”, showcases not only their songwriting, but their aforementioned flow, mashing up some incredibly catchy vocals and impressive lyrics set to head banging rhythm. I’m sure there are some people out there that heard this one on the radio that jammed to it without listening to the lyrics, but the second verse in it’s own right is quite a hard hitting set of lines:
“I’d die for you, ” that’s easy to say
We have a list of people that we would take
A bullet for them, a bullet for you
A bullet for everybody in this room
But I don’t seem to see many bullets coming through
See many bullets coming through
Metaphorically, I’m the man
But literally, I don’t know what I’d do
“I’d live for you, ” and that’s hard to do
Even harder to say when you know it’s not true
Even harder to write when you know that tonight
There were people back home who tried talking to you
But then you ignored them still
All these questions they’re for real
Like “Who would you live for?”,
“Who would you die for?”
And “Would you ever kill?”
And with a mixture of techno, rock, alternative, and pop influences in their music, they refuse to be cornered into one genre. They are versatile. They are inventive. They are not ones to be profiled.
So, why does it seem like they can’t make a bad song? My personal opinion, which is a popular question among fans, is that I think overall, Vessel is a better album than Blurryface.
However, when both are amazing, it’s really not that big of a deal. The reason they seem as if they can’t be stopped is for all of the reasons that make them unique: they’re original, they’re different, and they know where they came from. No matter how many songs of their’s go to the Top 10, no matter how many of their albums go platinum, no matter how many awards they get, they’ll remember where they started, who got them there, and who they’re making their music for. And it’s a lack of artists that live that way that make them stick out in the crowd and make people keep coming back to hear their next track or buy their next record. I know I will!
Now, like I said, there seems to be a new influx of artists have made the decision that now that they’ve established themselves, it’s time to make music they feel passionate about rather than what it is going to get them played on the radio. This could be either because they wanted to make whatever would get them popular and played out the butt everywhere you go, or because their labels forced them to make music more commercially likable than what they wanted to. However, with Fueled by Ramen (who also houses Paramore and Panic! at the Disco’s names to their roster, if you didn’t know) backing them and the determination and drive they have, these two are not in the position to be pigeonholed into another Top 40 act we’ll all start to hate because they’ve gone mainstream. They’ve reached that sweet spot that some artists are having trouble finding: the music they’re making with only the fans and themselves in mind is actually catching on with so many more people.
Like I said before, Josh and Tyler know exactly what they’re doing. They know why and how they got here at the top of the music charts, and something tells me that’s not going to change. Not a single person is going to change the way they make their music. And it’s because of that fact that they could stay at the top of their game for the remainder of their career. They are artists currently that others should be taking their cue from. I’m very, VERY excited to see where their next album takes them. And hopefully, it will take me to their next tour!