Twenty One Pilots, born in 2009, is perhaps one of the most unique bands of this era to achieve a heavy presence on mainstream and alternative radio. Despite having only two members (Tyler Joseph, who is responsible for lead vocals, piano, keyboards, ukulele, keytar, synthesizer, and bass, and Josh Dun, drummer), their sound is somehow still endlessly creative. They self-released their first two albums in 2009 and 2011. After signing to Atlantic Records in 2012, they released Vessel in 2013 and their latest album, Blurryface, on May 17, 2015. More recently, they performed at the MTV Video Music Awards ceremony on August 30th. Overall, Twenty One Pilots has grown to use more producers, a more experimental sound, and they have achieved a cult following, selling out almost every single show they play.
Blurryface takes noticeable strides in a different direction than past albums. It is much grungier, but also more eclectic than their previous album, Vessels. The mainstream hip hop influence has a strong foundation in many tracks such as “Fairly Local” while a much more organic sound can be found on tracks “The Judge” and “We Don’t Believe What’s On TV.” There are also elements of electropop and indie pop that round out the album, which finally arrives at the closing track, “Goner.” This song is a beautiful ballad that explodes into a cacophony of pounding piano and soaring electric leads with merely a minute left in the song as Tyler screams, “Don’t let me be!”
The album is produced with excellence but maintains some rawness in its features – in Tyler’s vocals, and the ukulele and piano that drive many tracks. In the opening track, “HeavyDirtySoul,” the song concludes with a time signature shift that leaves listeners with music background widening their eyes and rewinding to hear it again. A couple views of live show recordings on YouTube shows the differences they choose for their live shows that can’t fully be expressed on their album. As explained in their song “Lane Boy,” Tyler sings,
“Honest, there’s a few songs on this record that feel common.
I’m in constant confrontation with what I want and what is poppin’.
In the industry it seems to me that singles on the radio are currency.
My creativity’s only free when I’m playin’ shows.”
This exposes the unfortunate truth expressed on occasion by other artists struggling with the balance of staying true to their passions in music and following the instruction of their labels to produce hits.
Intimate and honest, Blurryface is a compelling documentary of lead singer Tyler Joseph’s internal struggle with his mind. Torn between the person he wants to be and his more self-conscious and tormented alter ego, which he calls Blurryface, Tyler calls out to God, knowing that this can only be overcome with His strength. In the concluding song, “Goner,” Tyler pleads,
“I’ve got two faces, Blurry’s the one I’m not; I need Your help to take him out.”
The spiritual themes contained in Twenty One Pilots’ songs are buried inside metaphors and profound questions, making this album a lyrical maze. It begs the listener to pay attention and discover the heart of the artist as portrayed in his songs. We encourage you to take some time to really let this album sink in. According to the band, they make music for the purpose of “making people think.” They should be pleased with their success in that area.
Take a listen to the band’s radio hit, “Tear In My Heart” which is a love song for Tyler Joseph’s wife Jenna Black, who stars alongside him in the music video below. Near the end of the video, Tyler’s wife punches and kicks him, which is meant to symbolize her literally beating Blurryface out of him, leaving him just “Tyler” by the end of the song.
If you’d like to hear the more unique sound of Twenty One Pilots, listen to Kate’s favorites are “Ride,” “Doubt,” and “Fairly Local”; Nat’s favorites are “Tear In My Heart,” and “Stressed Out.” You can find their music on Spotify, iTunes, and their website. Enjoy!