One of the most highly anticipated movies of the summer, Suicide Squad, came out on August 5. I’m all for superhero – well, in this case supervillain – movies, so that meant I had to see it, right? So, I took my sister last night to a theater that began playing it a night early. I was so excited that I was literally bouncing in my seat until it started. Because this is a music blog, I won’t go into much detail about the movie itself except to say that everyone should go see it and to mention that the entire movie soundtrack is bomb. One song in particular stopped me dead in my tracks. Twenty One Pilots, an alt-rock duo that have become rising Billboard stars that sell out Madison Square Garden venues, wrote a song for the movie called “Heathens,” which isn’t so much of a new fact to the world. It’s been out for quite some time now.
However, I came across a very interesting version of this song on YouTube. It’s on a channel called TheDailySign and what Libby – that’s her name – does is cover different songs in sign language. In honor of the movie premiering today, here’s a slight single review of the song that’s ruled the radio and the billboard charts about some highly insane people that seem to be quite interesting. But first, I have a few questions I’ll be answering because who wouldn’t be questioning why I thought of a sign language cover for a music blog.
What is sign language?
To put simply, sign language is the way that deaf people talk to one another. Yes, they can read lips and most can talk now, but to others, talking is still uncomfortable. They’re not used to using their vocal chords, which is why they needed a completely new way of speaking. It uses manual communication to convey meaning involving the combination of hand shapes, movement of the body and facial expression to express thoughts.
Here’s the more important question: why do I like sign language?
The moment I fell in love with sign language is the moment I saw my sister signing “Like A Prayer” by Madonna during one of her choir performances. It spoke to me because it’s another way to speak to someone; it’s like a secret language that anyone could learn if they chose to. At that point in time, that song was very popular, so it was on the radio a lot. After a while and many times of watching her sign it in the car, I managed to pick up most of the chorus.
I lost track of doing it over the years until I sat in my apartment during my first Disney College Program and I thought, “Hey, why shouldn’t I get back into this?” I began YouTubing different alternative songs that I loved to see if others had translated them into American Sign Language. Luckily, a lot of them were. The first song I ever learned myself was “This Is Gospel” by Panic! at the Disco. I would replay the song in my car on the way to work and soon enough, I began teaching my friends how to do it. After a while and with a few songs under my belt, some words became second nature to me to sign and now I’m absolutely in love with it. This gives me a connection to my sister and we have something to do together; I even teach her some songs.
To the average human, signing is fast and highly confusing. When music and signing are combined, it’s a whole other story. It’s like a brilliant bright light has opened my eyes to see something beautiful, especially with something like music because it’s what keeps me sane. To be honest, though, I believe that everyone should learn a little bit of sign language if only to broaden horizons.
What is a “heathen”?
According to the Dictionary, a heathen is “an individual of a people that do not acknowledge the God of the Bible; a person who is neither a Jew, Christian, nor Muslim.” To put simply, they are Pagen. According to some, they are an irreligious, uncultured, and uncivilized person.
According to the Urban Dictionary, understanding one’s heritage is very important to a heathen as they take their religion very seriously. They have a very complex idea of the soul, believing it was created from living and organic matter as well as being made up on many parts passed down through generations. To a heathen, “you weave your own fate by the actions you take in life; every action that you take or don’t take affects you. There is no forgiveness (or sin for that matter); if you wrong someone you must take action to make amends and set what is wrong right.”
What do I think of the song “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots? And yes, this is the single review.
There are no other words to say about this song except that it is brilliant. This is a song that sounds like Twenty One Pilots. A lot of bands when they get the chance to include a song in a soundtrack change the way they sound. But not this band; they are who they are and it’s obvious they know it.
“Heathens” is dark, plain and simple. With the steady percussion by Josh Dun, it sort of sounds somewhat mechanical, hollow, and very hypnotic. However, both Dun, with his drum, and Tyler Joseph, with his voice, manage to weave life into it, allowing it to sound and feel organic.
I’ve read a lot of reviews on this song and quite a number of those “deeper meanings” posts about this song, but to me, they are all looking so far into this song. There have been some that explain that this song is for the Skeleton Clique – the hardcore fanbase of Twenty One Pilots – and how they should accept the newer fans though they are different. I’ve read some that claim Joseph is a heathen though he was raised purely as a Christian. I’ve also read that it has to do with addressing mental illness and Joseph is urging others not to judge people on their short interactions, which seems the most accurate. While all of these could be the real reason, why look so deep into something that could be so easily understood?
To me, the meaning of this song is simple. It was created as a song for the Suicide Squad movie, which is about supervillains and “freakshows” – get it, cause that’s what Joseph says in the song – having to come together to save the world. These people are not your average people; they are not civilized or cultured and do what they want – hence the term “heathen.” That is what they are; these villains are the heathens. Then again, we could all be considered a heathen in some regard because everyone faces their own demons throughout life. Let’s keep it that simple of an explanation.
All in all, the music video was brilliant. The lyrics are brilliant. (Some of my favorite being “We don’t deal with outsiders very well/They say newcomers have a certain smell/You have trust issues, not to mention/They say they can smell your intentions”). The music itself is brilliant by opening with the haunting sounds of the piano and Joseph’s eerie sounding singing. Everything about this song is beautifully done and there’s no contest as to why it was one I wanted to learn in sign language, which you should check out the video below.