Music / Twenty One Pilots

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Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph
Twenty One Pilots is a rock duo from Ohio formed in 2009 that currently consists of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist note  Tyler Joseph and drummernote  Josh Dun.

Joseph, drummer Chris Salih, and bassist Nick Thomas formed the band and released their debut album, Twenty One Pilots, in 2009. Thomas and Salih left the band in 2011, Dun was added a few weeks later, and the band's second album, Regional At Best, was released soon afterwards. After finding tremendous success in their home state of Ohio with their energetic live shows, the duo were signed to Fueled by Ramen in 2012 and began their rise to fame with the release of their third album, Vessel, in January 2013, followed by Blurryface in May 2015.

Their lyrics commonly deal with heavy topics, such as suicidal depression, anxiety, and unstable sense of self, showing a strong Emo Pop infuence, and they have a unique sound that's hard to describe and has been categorized under Rap Rock, Indie Rock, Synth Pop and Electronicore.

Should not be confused with the similarly-named Stone Temple Pilots, as the two groups sound nearly nothing alike. Compare with La Dispute.

Discography

  • Twenty One Pilots (2009)
  • Regional At Best (2011)
  • Vessel (2013)
  • Blurryface (2015)

Tropes

  • Adorkable: Both members, just so much.
    • The hazmat suits from the "Lane Boy" video, "Fame" and "Success", have this in spades due to their awkward dance moves.
  • Album Filler: Referenced in "Lane Boy".
    Honest, there's a few songs on this record that feel common.
  • Album Title Drop: Blurryface in "Stressed Out" and (kind of) "Goner".
  • Alliterative Title: "Message Man".
  • all lowercase letters: Up until the Blurryface era, their name was often stylized as twenty | one | pilots. They still use twenty one pilots as an official band name, however.
  • Alter Ego Acting: Blurryface. He had a Twitter accountnote  that would tweet surreal text, images, and occasionally livestreams, often relating to upcoming single releases.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Both members. Josh has some Japanese ancestry and Tyler has stated to be part Lebanese
  • Anti-Love Song: "Air Catcher" discusses avoiding falling in love in order to protect oneself from worse pain.
  • Arc Words: "Stay alive", which features prominently in "Lovely" and "Truce" and serves as the band's statement of purpose.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From "Migraine":
    I don't know why they always seem so dismal.
    Thunderstorms, clouds, snow, and a slight drizzle.
  • Audience Participation Song:
    • Tyler and Josh both believe in the power of the audience in live performances. As a result, nearly every song has some form of interactivity with the audience, ranging from conducting the crowd to sing refrains ("Doubt") to requesting them to perform certain actions like crouching and jumping ("Lane Boy", "Car Radio") or getting on each others' shoulders ("The Run and Go", "Not Today").
    • Most performances of "Screen" will drop the music to let the crowd sing the refrain of "We're broken people"; likewise with the bridge of "Tear In My Heart" and the first verse of "Migraine".
    • "We Don't Believe What's On TV". See Call-and-Response Song.
  • Author Appeal / Motifs:
    • Radio gets brought up often as either a symbol for distraction or popular opinion ("Car Radio", "Screen", "Fairly Local", "Tear In My Heart", "Lane Boy").
    • Cars and long drives are also a common motif ("A Car, A Torch, A Death", "Taxi Cab", "Lovely", "Fake You Out", "Ride", "Tear In My Heart", "Lane Boy").
    • Sleep and insomnia ("Anathema", "Guns For Hands", "Migraine", "Ode to Sleep"). Tyler notes in his commentary on "Ode to Sleep" that sleep is universally important to every person's life, so it's easy to convey what he means when discussing it in music.
    • Nighttime appears all over the place in Tyler's lyrics, generally being used as a metaphor for depression. It'd be easier to name the songs that don't reference night in some way than list the ones that do. He explains its appeal in the track commentary for "Semi-Automatic":
    Tyler: There's a lot of writers who talk about the night as an awesome time where everyone's partying or whatever. But usually the nighttime for me is, like, the worst. That's when everything comes out for me. That's when I realize that I don't really understand why I'm here or what I'm doing. That's when the doubts happen. And so a lot of these songs are showing you the things I'm thinking about at night.
  • Auto-Tune: Vocoder distortion features prominently on "Lovely", "Doubt", the Regional at Best version of "Trees", their cover of "Jar of Hearts", and towards the end of "Air Catcher". Tyler's voice is also drastically deepened in "Stressed Out", "Fairly Local", and " Message Man" when singing as Blurryface. note 
  • Badass Boast: Tyler usually avoids this, but "Clear" contains a little boast about his lyrical skill.
    I'm not trying to be lying to you,
    But it takes a clever guy to do what I do,
    It takes some chivalry and well-placed energy,
    To subliminally get myself inside you.
    • From "Message Man":
    Wrote this in three minutes, three words to a line,
    It's just poetry divided, I'm the kind of guy
    Who takes every moment he knows he can fight it
    And music to use it for others to use it.
  • Call-and-Response Song: "We Don't Believe What's On TV"; audiences chant the "yeah yeah yeah"s at a pre-established cue.
  • Careful with That Axe: "Goner" is a slow, quiet piano ballad until Tyler suddenly starts screeching out his vocals towards the end of the song.
  • Christmas Songs: Tyler's cover of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" for a church concert.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Both members are very eccentric. Tyler has been known to ask for live audience questions in the middle of concerts before, and actually call on people who raise their hand. This usually turns out about as well as you'd expect.note 
  • Concept Album: Though Tyler and Josh were hesitant to refer to it as such, Blurryface is based around a character of the same name who represents the insecurities all people have. The album's tracks all deal with this idea to some extent and together seem to tell a story of struggle against these negative feelings.
  • Color Motifs: Pre-Blurryface, red and blue. Post-Blurryface, red and blacknote . Both color schemes were reflected in the band's logo, stage attire, and music videos.
  • Cool Mask: The ski masks. Also a subversion of Malevolent Masked Men, as Tyler and Josh are anything but.
    • In the video for "Guns for Hands", they improvise masks by taping their faces with colored duct tape.
    • Both Josh and Tyler often wear skeleton hoodies with zip-up hoods that serve this function. Josh also regularly wears Monster and alien masks.
  • Cool Shades: Both members wear them, but Tyler does the most as explained here. Tyler is particularly prone to wearing a pair of round, white-rimmed sunglasses during live shows, which are featured prominently in the music video for "Ride".
  • Cover Version: Their cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love" was included on the "Holding On To You" EP and is performed at most shows, to the point of almost being a Signature Song.
  • Crisis of Faith: The topic of "Implicit Demand For Proof" and "Doubt".
  • Crowd Surfing:
    • There was a period where it seemed that Tyler spent more time in the crowd during shows than on stage; he's particularly fond of crowd standing and singing held up by the front row.
    • Josh takes it to the next level and regularly plays the drums on a platform supported by the audience.
    • Most live shows end with Tyler and Josh going out to the crowd to pound on drums covered in water
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The music video for "Holding On To You".
  • Driven to Suicide: A common theme in their songs.
    • "Guns for Hands" and "Fake You Out" are about suicidal teens.
    • "Addict With a Pen" is about someone suffering from suicidal depression turning to faith for support.
    • "Friend, Please" offers companionship to a person contemplating suicide.
  • Epic Rocking: Some of the songs on the Self-Titled Album are on the longer side, with "Isle of Flightless Birds" and "March to the Sea" approaching six minutes. "Ode to Sleep" is only just over five minutes, but sounds much longer and grander due to the repeated drastic shifts in tone and sound.
  • The Everyman: The protagonist of "Johnny Boy".
  • Eye Color Change / Red Eyes, Take Warning: Tyler's eyes turn red in the videos for "Fairly Local" and "Stressed Out" when singing in the deeper Blurryface voice.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Lane Boy" note , "Message Man".
  • Finger Gun: "Guns for Hands".
    'Cause when the sun sets/it upsets what's left of my invested interest/Interested in putting my fingers to my head.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: "Glowing Eyes" plays with this trope by portraying them as both threatening and comforting; the titular glowing eyes represent distressing thoughts that can also offer a distraction from other serious problems.
  • God Test: "Implicit Demand For Proof".
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: They avoid swearing not just in their music, but in general. Tyler's pretty fond of the word "frick".
  • Gratuitous Japanese: In the "Guns for Hands" video, which has titles and subtitles in English and Japanese.
    • "Tear in My Heart" opens with a shout of "안녕하세요" (An nyeong ha se yo), Korean for "Hello" or "How are you?"
  • Growing Up Sucks: "Slowtown" and "Stressed Out".
  • Hearing Voices: Alluded to in "Ode to Sleep", "Glowing Eyes", and "Anathema". The Blurryface character, which stands for people's insecurities and suppressed dark feelings, can be interpreted as representing this as well.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tyler and Josh.
  • I Am the Band: Ultimately subverted. Technically, Tyler is the only member of Twenty One Pilots who has been with the band from the beginning, and being the lead singer and songwriter only enhances this image. Since joining the band, however, Josh has consistently been shown to be just as important to the group as Tyler, and the two appear inseparable.
  • Iconic Item: The beat-up wooden piano shell used for Tyler's keyboard, which features in most live performances and the videos for "Guns For Hands", "Truce", and "Tear In My Heart".
  • Iconic Outfit: The ski masks and skeleton hoodies for both Tyler and Josh.
    • Tyler has two more candidates for this position: the flower kimono and the "Blurryface" outfit with red socks/beanie and black makeup smeared on his hands and neck.
  • Important Haircut: Tyler shaves his head in the video for "Car Radio". It works as both an expression of grief and an affirmation of his decision to stay alive.
  • Incredibly Long Note: "Addict With a Pen", especially in some live performances. "Ruby", "Ride", and "Goner" have some pretty impressive ones, too.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Josh Dun has had his hair dyed nearly every colour of the rainbow by now. See this post for a few examples.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "The Run and Go", "Trees".
  • Lead Bassist: Tyler for certain songs including "Ride", "Polarize", and "Not Today".
  • Lead Drummer: Tyler often accompanies Josh on his own drum set in shows, and both of them usually end performances with a drum set in the crowd.
  • Lucky Charms Title: The group formerly stylized their name as twenty | one | pilots, but since the release of Blurryface, it is now stylized as TWENTY ØNE PILØTS.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "March to the Sea", "Oh Ms Believer", "Migraine", "Hometown".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The biography on their official website talks about how joy can exist even without happiness, so this is probably to reflect that theme.
    Listen, I know
    This one's a contradiction because of how happy it sounds
    But the lyrics are so down
    It's okay, though
    Because it represents, wait, better yet, it is
    Who I feel I am right now
  • Man Child: The boys often invoke this persona on Twitter, possibly due to their apparent firm belief that Growing Up Sucks. They frequently use phrases associated with children, such as "playdate" or asking their mothers for permission for things. These personas make an appearance in the video for "Stressed Out".
    the only reason I don't look so thrilled in this photo is cause Rocky is giving the middle fingers. my mom will NOT think that's cool, gang. not cool.
  • Midword Rhyme: "Migraine" has some of this, with Tyler rhyming many words by their stems.
    It's me defending in suspense/It's me suspended in a defense/less test/Being test/ed by a ruthless examinant/that's represent/ed best by my depress/ing thoughts.
  • Mind Screw: The video for "House of Gold", which has both members upper halves playing the song while floating in mid air.
  • Momma's Boy: Both Tyler and Josh. They tweet about their mothers and talk about them in interviews all the time, and Tyler even wrote “House of Gold” for his mother. He's even referred to himself and Josh by the trope title on a few occasions.
    Tyler: i løve chord progressions and my mom.
  • Mood Whiplash: "Ode to Sleep", which has dark verses followed by an upbeat chorus that almost sounds like an entirely different song altogether.
    • On Vessel, "House of Gold"note  is followed by "Car Radio"note .
    • On Blurryface, "Not Today"note  is followed by "Goner"note .
  • Moral Dilemma: Their band name comes from the play "All My Sons" by Arthur Miller, in which a man indirectly kills twenty-one pilots by selling plane parts which he knew were faulty, but had he not sold them he would have lost money (which he needed) and tainted his business's name. The band's website says the name was chosen because we are all facing moral dilemmas frequently, and that the "right" answer is usually the one that seems tough at the time but will ultimately end up for the better.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Punk-pop/electronica/alternative rock/rap with ukuleles, screamo, baroque pop, and reggae thrown in every once in a while just for good measure.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Implicit Demand For Proof", "Anathema", "Ode to Sleep", "Truce". Also, every album except Blurryface.
  • Not Christian Rock: Both members are Christian and their earlier work in particular is clearly influenced by this, but they are not an explicitly Christian band.
  • Oh Crap!: Tyler pulls off a pretty great "oh, crap" face in the music video for "Tear In My Heart" (complete with dramatic zoom) before Jenna picks him up by the neck and throws him around a public restaurant.
  • One Woman Song: "Ruby".
  • One-Word Title: On the album side, Vessel and Blurryface. The song list is a bit longer:
    • From Twenty One Pilots: "Trapdoor"
    • From Regional At Best: "Anathema", "Slowtown", "Forest", "Lovely", "Ruby", "Clear", "Trees"
    • From Vessel: "Migraine", "Screen", "Truce"
    • From Blurryface: "Heavydirtysoul", "Ride", "Doubt", "Polarize", "Hometown", "Goner".
  • Parental Love Song: "House of Gold" is about Tyler's love for and dedication toward his mother.
  • Pun-Based Title: "Slowtown".
  • Rap Rock: Thanks to Tyler's lyrics being so long he had to start rapping to be able to fit them into their songs.
  • Recycled Lyrics: Tyler reused verses from the solo album he made in high school, No Phun Intended, for some later songs; a verse from "Drown" for "Fall Away", part of "Just Like Yesterday" for "Ode To Sleep", and the opening of "Blasphemy" for the closing of "Anathema".
    • One of the verses for "Heavydirtysoul" was used by Tyler in a street poetry video two years before the song was released.
  • Rerelease the Song / Updated Re-release: After being picked up by Fueled By Ramen, six songs from Regional at Best ("Guns For Hands", "Holding On To You", "Ode To Sleep", "Car Radio", "Trees", and "House of Gold") were rerecorded with some changes for Vessel. "Lovely" was also rerecorded and released as a promo single in Japan. This led to the pulling of Regional at Best from circulation by Fueled By Ramen and the resulting dilemma of Keep Circulating the Tapes.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Tyler and Josh
  • Rhyming with Itself:
    • In "Taxi Cab", "cab" is rhymed with itself three times in succession.
    • In "Migraine", Tyler repeatedly rhymes "Friday", "Sunday", and "days".
  • Running Gag: Kicking each other out of the band.
  • Sampling: One of Twenty One Pilots' first tracks, "Time To Say Goodbye", sampled off the song of the same name by Andrea Bocelli. For this reason, it was pulled from the first album at the last minute and was only available to download on their website for a brief period.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: "The Pantaloon", dedicated to Tyler's grandfather, is about the cyclical process of watching your parents and grandparents become this and knowing that one day you'll join them.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Tyler on most tracksnote .
  • Self Empowerment Anthem: "Car Radio" and "Migraine" both play with this trope- although the singer is struggling with depression and mental illness, both songs ultimately emphasize his choice to keep moving forward regardless. "Not Today" plays it a little straighter.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their first album.
  • Signing Off Catch Phrase: "We are Twenty One Pilots and so are you."
  • Silly Love Songs: "Tear In My Heart" is the only song in their discography that definitely fits the label of "love song". "Lovely", "Ruby", and "We Don't Believe What's On TV" could be either this or friendship songs. note 
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: The video for "Tear In My Heart" depicts this as Tyler and Jenna's relationship (though the reality of it is quite different).
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: From "Implicit Demand For Proof":
    Strike me down,
    I am calling your lightning down from your dark hiding place.
    Go ahead and show me your face.
    Rain down and destroy me.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: Their songs are very prone to this considering just how quickly Tyler can rap, but notable offenders include "Kitchen Sink"note and "Ode to Sleep" note 
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Played with in the video for "House of Gold". Both members are playing while cut in half and their organs are visibly spilling out of them, which is far more disturbing than one would expect for such a happy song, but neither member seems bothered by this at all.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": They're always "Twenty One Pilots", never "21 Pilots". Despite this, it's still generally acceptable to abbreviate their name to either "top" or "21p".
  • Studio Chatter: The laughter at the end of "Johnny Boy", some mumblings from Tyler in "Be Concerned".
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Done humorously in "Stressed Out"
    I wish I found some better sounds no one's ever heard.
    I wish I had a better voice that sang some better words.
    I wish I found some chords in an order that is new.
    I wish I didn't have to rhyme every time I sang.
  • Suddenly Shouting:
    • In "House of Gold".
    So I just might beCOME SOMEONE
    • In "Fake You Out":
    Before you walk away, there's one more thing I want to say,
    OUR BRAINS ARE SICK BUT THAT'S OKAY!
    I WANNA BE KNOWN BY you.
  • Surreal Music Video: The video for "Holding Onto You", which involves dancers wearing skeleton make-up and Tyler looking incredibly nervous.
  • Take That: In "Heavydirtysoul",
    Mindless zombies walking around with a limp and a hunch,
    saying stuff like "you only live once"
    • In "Lane Boy":
    All these songs I'm hearing are so heartless
    Don't trust a perfect person and don't trust a song that's flawless
  • That Man Is Dead: Implied in "Trapdoor", which is about a man taking on a new identity to escape from his past.
  • Those Two Guys
  • Title Drop: Nearly every song features one. "March to the Sea" merits a special mention for its position in the final line of the song.
  • Three First Names: Tyler Robert Joseph.
  • The Voice: Nigel, an ancient being with a British accent who occasionally makes appearances in concerts to act as narrator and request covers from Tyler.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Tyler and especially Josh are prone to going shirtless in live shows.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: From the famous "Happy Wheels" video; Josh one time had this job on a cruise ship,note 
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Kitchen Sink" is in some ways about this trope. Tyler refuses to explain what he was referring to when singing about his kitchen sink. Since the song is about how there are some perspectives and ideas unique to every individual, explaining his views on "kitchen sinks" would take away from its power as a metaphor.


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