Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the name Twenty One Pilots probably isn’t unfamiliar to you. With songs like Stressed Out, Ride, and Heathens (featured in the Suicide Squad movie) dominating the charts, the entire world seems to be infatuated with this new style of music they’re bringing to the table. But what makes these guys so special? Why is their music influencing or affecting so many people?
The thing about Twenty One Pilots is that they were never in it for the fame or the money. They just wanted to play music and let that music be heard. Just four years ago they were handing out tickets door-to-door in their hometown of Columbus, OH, meeting people outside of Chick-Fil-A in the mall, and doing everything they could to get their music heard by as many ears as possible. They’ve turned down huge contracts, sponsorships deals, and even served as their own roadies long after they were selling out venues. Their hearts are in the music, and fans can hear it every time they press play.
Twenty One Pilots have also created a style of music that doesn’t fit into any single category. Rolling Stone described them as “mixing angsty lyrics, Macklemore-style rhymes, Ben Folds–like piano pop, 311-ish reggae beats, hard-rock energy and the occasional ukulele ballad”, but their style is just one of the things that make the band so different from everyone else in the music scene at the moment. If you listen to one of their songs, your first impression of it will probably be that it’s catchy and fun; after listening to the words, though, you’ll find a much deeper meaning under a few layers of poetry.
Take their song “Migraine” for example— it sounds like a top summer hit you’d hear on the radio with a catchy backtrack and a bouncy rhythm you can sing along to, but then it becomes apparent what the song is about. With lyrics like “Behind my eyelids are islands of violence / My mind's ship-wrecked / This is the only land my mind could find” and “Sometimes to stay alive you gotta kill your mind”, the song hints at something much deeper than a headache. The song was written about dealing with depression and mental illness, but they buried it under a catchy tune. The boys are not only raising awareness for it, but they’re also letting other people know that they’re not alone.
Even though the band is still climbing the charts with songs (and topping it with others), they’ve said that their main focus is to make their live shows even better. If you’ve ever been to a Twenty One Pilots concert, you know that it’s an experience unlike anything else in the world. They give their shows everything they’ve got. Their energy, stage presence, and overall vibe of their personalities and music make their shows special, and everyone in the room can feel it when they go to one. They’re always finding new ways to make Twenty One Pilots different from other artists out there, and their shows send you home thinking about what every word, action, and visual meant.
So next time you hear Twenty One Pilots on the radio smooshed between a boyband and Adele, try to listen past the exterior layer. Maybe you’ll find something deep down that you can relate to, and maybe it will be the thing that changes your life.