Take a full listen of Twenty One Pilots‘ 2015 album, Blurryface and you get a sense of camaraderie through struggle and seeking identity. In the videos for both “Car Radio” and “Lane Boy”, there are two scenes towards the end of each where fans go in a silent like trance – then when the bottom of the song drops out, carry on into a frenzy. Ski masks were almost symbolism into turning into a musical superhero-like character. I got to see part of the start first hand at the 7th annual Radio 104.5 Birthday show in New Jersey where the duo opened up the day’s festivities. Little by little, kids wore their skeletal hoodies almost like a secret club (the Skeleton Clique) – identifying with each other and rejoicing. Look at where the Cleveland, Ohio duo is now – a heap of well deserved sold out shows on their current Emotional Roadshow tour. It’s those early shows with the opening slots that the genuine connection between fan and artist is born. It’s also during this time that we feel protective of the band that we feel like we “discovered”. “How dare you intrude on OUR band! Name their first three singles!” Before the big venues, the huge award show performances, and press tours – we become protective. Vessel, the 2013 album from the band would turn into honest narratives from Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun to the words that many fans use to express their own struggles.
“Stressed Out,” might be classified as the millennial anthem chronicling the tug-o-war of retaining your child-like dreams in the modern-day world that is unforgiving. (“Used to dream of outer space, but now they’re laughing at our face singing “wake up, you need to make money”, yeah“). As Joseph goes within the inner sanctum of his own sanity throughout the album, “Blurryface” is a rallying cry to all TOP fans to unite despite their own personal insecurities. With new popularity, brings new fandom and the battle lines are drawn. A musician’s prime job it to share their art with as much as the world as they can. What happens when the original fans don’t want to share “their” band with every single corner of the world? After all, they were there throughout the small club shows, trying to support them through all peaks and valleys right?
“Heathens,” the newest song off the Suicide Squad soundtrack at first listen could be formulated in two ways; the first being the prototypical fixture of the movie where a collection of super villains are thrown together to team up against a commonality. The other is a deeper meaning and could be a “state of address” to TOP’s fans. (“We don’t deal with outsiders very well/They say newcomers have a certain smell“). There’s an eerie sense that hangs around the song. Released shortly after the tragic death of Christina Grimmie, there’s a reference to guns in a metaphorical sense. (“Just because we check the guns at the door/Doesn’t mean our brains will change from hand grenades”). Think about it. Music is a place where you can drop the mirage of the person you may show yourself to be in the public to fit in a neat little box. Unfortunately, with the good, there’s a chance that the bad and ugly can seep through as well. (“You’ll never know the psychopath sitting next to you/You’ll never know the murderer sitting next to you“). There could be actual danger in ostracize those who want to partake into something that could help them.
During “Screen”, within a boisterous chorus, TOP and their clique declared that they were “broken people”. We have to be thankful that music can be so liberating. There are many instances throughout the band’s music that it becomes so introspective that while listening to it, you might find a slither of darkness that you might have to overcome. In a world that seems to raise its frantic fear meter by the day, “Heathens” is addressing the dangers of loving a thing so much that you don’t allow someone else to see the light in the darkness.