Twenty One Pilots is a rock duo from Ohio formed in 2009 that currently consists of vocalist/multi-instrumentalistnote 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 became the band's new drummer, and the now-duo's second album, Regional At Best, was released soon afterward. After finding tremendous success in their home state of Ohio with their energetic and engaging live shows, the duo was signed to Fueled by Ramen in 2012 and began their rise to fame with the release of their third album, Vessel, in January 2013.
Two years of touring that included playing large festivals and opening arena shows for Fall Out Boy and labelmates Panic! at the Disco and Paramore organically grew both their fanbase and their reputation as must-see live performers. Their fourth album, Blurryface, debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard 200 in May 2015 and broke them into mainstream success with multiple Top 40 radio singles. In February 2018, Blurryface became the first non-compilation album in history to have every track certified as gold or platinum in the U.S.
In early summer 2017, the band departed from social media and public appearances entirely for one year to focus on new music. In early 2018, fans began discovering clues establishing the concepts behind their next work, which revolved around a dystopian city called "Dema", culminating in the release of their fifth album, Trench.
Their lyrics commonly deal with heavy topics, such as suicidal depression, anxiety, and unstable sense of self, showing a strong Emo Pop influence, 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.
- Twenty One Pilots (2009)
- Regional At Best (2011)
- Vessel (2013)
- Blurryface (2015)
- Trench (2018)
- Album Filler: Referenced in "Lane Boy".Honest, there's a few songs on this record that feel common.
- Album Title Drop:
I've got two faces. Blurry's the one I'm not.
- Blurryface is directly name-dropped in the pre-chorus of "Stressed Out" and indirectly name-dropped in the second verse of "Goner".
- In Trench, first introduced in "Levitate" ("Welcome to Trench"), then again in "Leave the City" ("In Trench I'm not alone.")
- Alliterative Title: "Message Man".
- All Just a Dream: A common interpretation of the "Heavydirtysoul" video, as Tyler spends most of it in the backseat of a car presumably driven by Blurryface before it disappears and the car rips itself apart before exploding. However, the video's final moments feature Tyler waking up in the backseat. Also ambiguously a Dream Within a Dream, as the driver of the car is not shown after Tyler wakes up.
- all lowercase letters: Up until the Blurryface era, their name was often stylized as "twenty | one | pilots", and "twenty one pilots" is still occasionally listed as the official band name.
- All There in the Manual: Trench has the deepest mythos out of any of the band's albums thus far, revolving around a protagonist named Clancy attempting to escape from a dystopian city called Dema ruled by a theocratic government of nine bishops. You would only know all this if you followed the album's Alternate Reality Game, and trying to fully comprehend the album's visuals and lyrics without this knowledge is nigh-impossible.
- Alter-Ego Acting: Blurryface. He had a Twitter accountnote that would tweet surreal text, images, and occasionally livestreams, often relating to upcoming single releases.
- Alternate Reality Game:
- The Blurryface Twitter account, whose tweets and likes usually cryptically hinted toward upcoming activity, displayed some common ARG traits, driving Clique members to speculate over hidden meanings in its messages.
- In April 2018, fans found one for what would become the Trench album cycle on "dmaorg.info" via a link hidden in a gif on the official merch page. The site was continually updated in the lead-up to the album announcement with images, coded messages, and journal entries about a dystopian community called "Dema" written by someone named Clancy. More information and theories about the documents' significance can be found here.
- Animal Motifs: As of Trench, vultures have become increasingly prominent in the lyrics, marketing, and story. Tyler also notes he dabbled in several different animal-based metaphors on the album, referring to himself as "a lion" in "Cut My Lip" and writing a whole song about his "pet cheetah".
- Anti-Love Song: "Air Catcher" is about avoiding falling in love in order to protect oneself from worse pain.
- Arc Words: "Stay alive", which features prominently in "Lovely", "Truce", and "Leave the City" 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 believe that the audience has the ultimate power in a live performance. As a result, nearly every song has some form of audience interactivity.
- Tyler often requests fans to perform certain actions at specific points in the song such as crouching and jumping ("Lane Boy", "Car Radio") or getting on each others' shoulders ("The Run and Go", "Not Today").
- The band regularly drops the vocals and the instrumentation for key lyrics of many songs for the fans to make them their own:
- The refrain of "We're broken people" in "Screen".
- The bridge of "Tear In My Heart".
- "SWAT!" in "Holding on to You".
- "I liked it better when my car had sound!" in "Car Radio".
- "The few, the proud, and emotional" in "Fairly Local".
- The entire first verse of "Migraine".
- "We Don't Believe What's On TV". See Call-and-Response Song.
- "Here we, here we, here we fucking go", a fairly common fixture in the Scottish music scene, caught on as a popular chant for the song "Trees" after its use by one Scottish audience went semi-viral, to the point that it is now acknowledged and encouraged by the normally mild-mouthed Tyler.
- Tyler leaves much of "Leave the City" to the Clique, increasing the resonance of the final line. ("These faces facing me, they know what I mean.")
- On the Trench-supporting Bandito Tour, the rarely-performed "Truce" was reincorporated into the setlist as an audience-only singalong using displayed karaoke-esque lyrics.
- Auto-Tune: Vocoder distortion features prominently on "Air Catcher", "Lovely", "Doubt", the Regional at Best version of "Trees", and their cover of "Jar of Hearts".
- See Voice of the Legion below.
- Badass Boast: Tyler usually avoids this, but has been known to dabble in braggadocio.
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.
- "Clear" contains a little boast about his lyrical skill:
Wrote this in three minutes, three words to a line,It's just poetry divided, I'm the kind of guyWho takes every moment he knows he can fight itAnd music to use it for others to use it.
- From "Message Man":
Oh, I know how to levitate up off my feetAnd ever since the seventh-grade, I learned to fire-breathe.
- From "Levitate":
Imma get mine and get going.I'm showing my faces in just enough places.I'm done with tip-toeing, I'll stay in my room;My house is the one where the vultures are perched on the roof.
- From "Pet Cheetah":
- Big "YES!": Tyler near the end of "Fairly Local" and "Goner".
- Book-Ends: A strange example; the original version of "Goner" ends with some of the same noises that start "Heavydirtysoul", the opening track on Blurryface, of which a new version of "Goner" is the closing track.
- Bottle Episode: The music video for "Level of Concern" was filmed in Tyler and Josh's personal home studios due to the Covid-19 quarantine.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Tyler does this in the second verse of "Not Today", which serves as an aside to the audience addressing how the band's songs are often happy-sounding but also exhibit Lyrical Dissonance.
- Brutal Honesty: At one live show while the band was playing "Stressed Out", Tyler changed the lyrics to voice his thoughts on how overplayed the song had become and how it had alienated the Clique due to the Hype Backlash it caused.I wish I wrote a different song no one's ever heard
I wish my mom would just admit she's sick of every word
Overplayed, overstayed, it was a smash hit
Funny how overplayed songs sound like crap
I was told our true fans don't like this song
But I hope they sing along, I hope they sing along.
- 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: Tyler's got quite the larynx.
- This tendency is present throughout Vessel, on songs like "The Run and Go", "Fake You Out", and "Car Radio". Most notable is "so I just might beCOME SOMEONE" line in "House of Gold" because of how completely it contrasts with the mellow vibe of the rest of the song.
- The Title Drop in Tyler's song "Save" is yelled so loud compared to the quiet preceding lyrics that it's practically a Jump Scare.
- Tyler's voice suddenly escalates into a yell on the last line of "The Pantaloon".
- Tyler screaming "You're an angel!" repeatedly near the end of "Ruby".
- "Goner" is a slow, quiet piano ballad throughout until Tyler starts bellowing out his vocals at the end.
- This video of Tyler singing "Forest" ends with him shouting the second half of the chorus at the top of his lungs.
- Though not present as much on the album it's from, Tyler usually screams the last "can you save" at the end of "Heavydirtysoul" when playing the song live.
- It continues onto Trench, notably near the end of "Jumpsuit" and "The Hype".
- Charity Motivation Song: "Level of Concern" doesn't feature a call to action in the lyrics themselves, but a portion of the proceeds from the song were donated to a relief fund for live music workers impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.
- Christmas Songs: Tyler's cover of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" for a hometown church concert.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Both members are very eccentric. Tyler has been known to ask for live audience questions in the middle of concerts, 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.
- Trench is even more dedicated to a single high-concept ideanote , namely the protagonist Clancy's efforts to escape from the control of the dystopian city of Dema. Songs like "Nico and the Niners" that refer to details about Dema's theocratic government of nine bishops are all but impossible to understand without reading the supplementary materials.
- Color Motifs: All of their album eras since Regional at Best have centered around specific color schemes reflected in the band's logo, stage attire, and music videos.
- RAB and Vessel - red and blue.
- Blurryface - red and blacknote .
- Trench - yellownote and black.
- Continuity Nod:
- The music video for "Jumpsuit" opens with Tyler standing atop the car from "Heavydirtysoul". The car also reappears in the Bandito camp in "Levitate".
- In the music video for "Nico and the Niners":
- The possessions Tyler takes with him from Dema include his red beanie from "Stressed Out" and white sunglasses from "Ride".
- Tyler and Josh do their famous Secret Handshake first seen in the "Stressed Out" video.
- Tyler makes reference to his lost car radio from the song of the same name in "Levitate".I got back what I once bought, back in the slot, I won't need to replace.
- Cool Mask: The ski masks. Also a subversion of Malevolent Masked Men, as Tyler and Josh are anything but.
- 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".
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: Their cover of My Chemical Romance's "Cancer", which turned the piano-led and powerfully-sung song into a far more relaxed and resigned downtempo electronic track and rearranged the lyrics to place an emphasis on the line "I will not kiss you". A common comparison between the two is that the original sounds like the narrator is still fighting, while the cover sounds like the narrator has already given up.
- 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.
- Their early concerts prominently featured covers and remixes as a means of filling out the setlist and grabbing the attention of uninvested audineces. Examples include Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts", Katy Perry's "E.T.", The Isley Brothers's "Shout". Later live shows featured covers including Ace Hood's "Bugatti", Beyoncé's "Drunk In Love", Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It", and Daft Punk's "One More Time".
- For an appearance on Norway's NRK Radio, Tyler and Josh performed an acoustic medley of Alicia Keys' "No One", Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours", DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win", Akon's "Don't Matter", R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)", Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life", and Nelly's "Ride Wit Me". At another radio performance for the Netherlands' Radio 3FM, the band's tech crew performed acapella backup for a mashup of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and Capital City's "Safe and Sound.
- "Mad World" was part of their set during their spring 2014 tour, and some later shows wrapped up with a cover of Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness".
- During the Blurryface era, the band sometimes mashed up "House of Gold" with Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Ride" with Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" or House of Pain's "Jump Around".
- Beginning with the 2016 Emotional Roadshow, the band began using covers to include their opening acts in their sets. They first added a medley of Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself", The Beatles' "Twist and Shout", and Céline Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". These were later swapped with another medley including Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping", Blackstreet's "No Diggity", and The Black Eyed Peas' "Where Is The Love?"
- For Rock Sound Presents: The Black Parade, a cover album made to commemorate the 10th anniversary of My Chemical Romance's album The Black Parade, the band recorded and released a reimagined version of the song "Cancer".
- The 2018 Bandito Tour featured covers of the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" and The Beatles' "Hey Jude".
- For BBC Live Lounge, Tyler covered Damien Rice's "9 Crimes", a song he referenced in a pre-Twenty One Pilots song "Drown".
- Crisis of Faith: The topic of "Implicit Demand For Proof" and "Doubt".
- Trench as a whole has been speculated to be this for Tyler, with him even saying in interviews that a shift in his Christian belief heavily influenced the album. How it actually shows up in its concept is anyone's guess.
- 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 crowdstanding (having the front row hold his feet as he stands and sings), and live performances of "Holding On to You" are now regularly done in this fashion.
- 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.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The music video for "Holding On To You" and the "Beyond-the-Video" series for the "Trench Trilogy" of music videos.
- Determinator: Invoked often with their song lyrics.
- "Migraine" concerns a great sense of depressive isolation in its lyrics, but it ultimately carries an optimism about it, as the song evokes a feeling of perseverance in its listeners with the promise that "we've made it this far, kid".Life has a hopeful undertone.
- "Truce" encourages its listeners to acknowledge that life goes on and even in the darkest of times, there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel, and we will all survive and get through our hardships.The sun will rise and we will try again.
- The video to "Jumpsuit" has Tyler refusing to bow to Dema's efforts to control him, resisting the apparent brainwashing power of the bishop and fleeing until he is physically run down:I'll be right there, but you'll have to grab my throat and lift me in the air.
If you need anyone, I'll stop my plans, but you'll have to tie me down and then break both my hands.
- "Migraine" concerns a great sense of depressive isolation in its lyrics, but it ultimately carries an optimism about it, as the song evokes a feeling of perseverance in its listeners with the promise that "we've made it this far, kid".
- Digital Piracy Is Okay: Based on circumstances surrounding the last few releases, this appears to be the band's general philosophy, at least when it comes to their own music.
- Blurryface was leaked about a week before its planned release, which contributed to the album being released two days early. A few cryptic tweets from Tyler appears to indicate that he was not concerned by the leak and may have even had something to do with it.
- "Heathens" was leaked a week before its planned release. Though the label again moved up the release date to release the song not long after, Atlantic Records also filed a subpoena to Reddit in order to find the culprit and source of the link, only to withdraw the request a few days later. The band's silence on the issue and the fact that Atlantic itself acknowledged that the leak could have only come from a small group of people that included the band, their team, and their own executives led many to believe that Tyler and/or Josh could have been directly responsible.
- About a week before Christmas 2016, Tyler and Josh teamed up with rock band Mutemath to recreate five of their songs live ("Heathens", "Heavydirtysoul", "Ride", "Tear in My Heart", "Lane Boy"). These live performances were made available free to download by the band for the first month after its release, apparently against the wishes of the label.
- When Trench leaked a few days before its official release, Tyler and Josh hopped on Instagram Live for a "Q&A" comprised of Tyler angrily pacing and yelling at the audience for "indulging in the L Word", expressing heightened indignation that so many people heard Trench before he did, and asking fans who listened early to spread the word about the album.
- Downer Ending: The original version of "Goner" seems to insinuate Blurryface winning with its ending, as the recurring sound of a tightened rope (noose?) creaking and the song ultimately being swallowed by noises representing Blurryface (read: insecurities) insinuate the worst has transpired.
- Dramatic Gun Cock: Heard in "Heathens" alongside Blurryface saying "watch it". During live performances, Tyler and Josh often make gun-cocking motions with their instruments in time with the song (Tyler with his bass, Josh with his drumsticks). Tyler also does it in the music video, alongside Harley Quinn with her baseball bat.
- Driven to Suicide: A common theme in their songs.
- "Guns for Hands" and "Fake You Out" are about suicidal teens.
- "Migraine" is about overcoming suicidal urges.
- "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.
- "Taxi Cab" has a few lines that imply this, as the cause of a faith-affirming near-death experience.
- "Neon Gravestones" aims to refute the glorification and romanticization of suicide, encouraging those suffering to seek help and advice from those who have lived through similar challenges.
- Drone of Dread: Among the assortment of noises Blurryface is represented with, one is a low drone. In "Goner", the drone can be heard in the background of the first two verses and then fading out at the end, symbolizing Tyler defeating Blurryface.
- Dysfunction Junction:
- Referenced in "Polarize".My friends and I have got a lot of problems.
- The topic of "Heathens".Just because we check the guns at the door
Doesn't mean our brains will change from hand grenades
You're loving on the psychopath sitting next to you
You're loving on the murderer sitting next to you
- Referenced in "Polarize".
- Echoing Acoustics:
- Reverb is added on Tyler's vocals as he sings "I hope I'm not my only friend" in "Truce", amplifying the line's isolation.
- Reverb is all over the songs of Trench, but the echoes are particularly noticeable on "The Hype" and "Leave the City"; the former to create a choral sound that emphasizes the song's rallying cry, while the latter used to a similar effect as in "Truce".
- 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 songs on Trench contain more extended instrumental components than most of the band's preceding discography, extending the runtime on songs like "Chlorine" and "Bandito".
- Establishing Character Moment: Invoked with "Ode to Sleep", which was chosen as the opening track on Vessel since it's an extremely fickle song when it comes to sound and style, and it would be the first showcase of the intense Genre Roulette action on the album.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: In the "Heavydirtysoul" video, the car Tyler is riding in falls apart, catches fire, and eventually explodes near the end of the video.
- The Everyman: The protagonist of "Johnny Boy".
- Evil Sounds Deep: Blurryface is represented by Tyler's voice being pitched down. This can be heard in songs such as "Stressed Out", "Fairly Local", "Message Man", and "Heathens".
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Three Songs EP, which consists of three songs from Vessel.
- Repeated in the Trench era, where they grouped the pre-release singles on Spotify on an EP simply called My Blood And A Few Others From Trench.
- 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.
- Face Palm: Tyler on the back cover of the Vessel booklet, as seen here◊.
- Fading into the Next Song: In live performances, "Fairly Local" is often used to segue into "Heavydirtysoul".
- 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.
- Four More Measures: The official album version of "Tear in My Heart" has two starts at the beginning of the song, and Tyler starts singing after the second start. However, he usually starts singing after the first start when the song is performed live.
- Genre Roulette: Present throughout their discography.
- Vessel has a number of synthpop/alternative hip hop songs (most of the album), but also has an indie-folk song ("House of Gold"), a straightforward electropop track ("Trees"), and a Lonely Piano Piece ("Truce"), and that's not even getting into the genre-shifts occurring within songs ("Guns for Hands", "The Run and Go", "Ode to Sleep"). Tyler has even stated that he chose to open the album with "Ode to Sleep" since it acts as an Establishing Character Moment, so to speak:"The reason why this is the first song on the album is that I feel like it kind of prepares the listener for the rest of the album, it almost puts them through a boot camp of what to expect... which is dont expect anything!"
- Blurryface has an upbeat pop rock song ("Tear in My Heart"), a reggae song ("Ride"), an indie/ska song ("We Don't Believe What's On TV"), a Lonely Piano Piece that turns into a hard rock song ("Goner"), and an alternative/reggae song that turns into drum-and-bass ("Lane Boy"), just to name a few.
- Trench features a hard-edged rock anthem ("Jumpsuit"), an experimental reggae/rap song featuring the ukulele ("Nico and the Niners"), a pure hip-hop track ("Levitate"), and a groovy pop rock song with elements of disco and funk ("My Blood" — and those were just the promotional singles.
- Vessel has a number of synthpop/alternative hip hop songs (most of the album), but also has an indie-folk song ("House of Gold"), a straightforward electropop track ("Trees"), and a Lonely Piano Piece ("Truce"), and that's not even getting into the genre-shifts occurring within songs ("Guns for Hands", "The Run and Go", "Ode to Sleep"). Tyler has even stated that he chose to open the album with "Ode to Sleep" since it acts as an Establishing Character Moment, so to speak:
- 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, with more than one interviewer expressing surprise at their self-control even after spending hours speaking with them. Tyler's particularly fond of using "frick" and "shof" as substitutes.
- Grand Finale: "Trees" has always been the band's go-to show closer, and the song's climax usually involves Tyler and Josh pounding on drums while standing on platforms being held by fans in the pit amid a rain of confetti and fog. It's as much of a spectacle as it sounds.
- 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?"
- Gratuitous Spanish: "Domingo en fuego" ("Sunday on fire") from the bridge of "Polarize".
- Growing Up Sucks: "Slowtown" and "Stressed Out".
- Half the Man He Used to Be: In the music video for "House of Gold", Tyler and Josh are depicted as levitating, bloody upper torsos.
- 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".note
- 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.
- During the Trench era, the camouflage jackets adorned with yellow duct tape.
- Imaginary Enemy: Blurryface is a personification of Tyler's insecurities and anxieties. Tyler gave him a name in order to give those feelings "a seat at the table" and a way for him to face them head-on.
- 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.
- The Banditos do this again to him in the music video for "Levitate" to celebrate his escape from Dema and induction to their group.
- Incredibly Long Note:
- "Addict With a Pen", which is often extended even further in live performances.
- "Ruby", "Ride", and "Goner" have some pretty impressive ones, too.
- There are eight 12-beat ones in rapid succession at the end of "Kitchen Sink".
- Tyler throws a few more into "Bandito".
- Jump Scare:
- The switch-up in "Goner" where Tyler starts suddenly screaming his lungs out will likely be this to listeners who were initially swayed by its quiet, melancholy piano sound.
- Tyler's sudden screaming in the chorus of "Save".
- Kaleidoscope Hair: Josh Dun has had his hair dyed nearly every colour of the rainbow by now. See this post for a few examples.
- La Résistance: In the storyline of Trench, the Banditos are this against the city of Dema... sort of. It's unclear whether they have any plans to actually fight back against the city beyond helping some of its residents escape. A group of Banditos also do nothing when Tyler is recaptured at the end of "Levitate", though it is also unclear what their motives are for not intervening.
- Last Note Nightmare:
- "The Run and Go" and "Jumpsuit" end with Tyler screaming the final line.
- "Goner" inverts this; it's a soft, piano-led song with Tyler singing quietly that suddenly turns into a loud rock song with Tyler now screaming over the music... until the final word ("you"), which Tyler sings softly as the flurry of instruments suddenly stops.
- Lead Bassist: Tyler following the release of Blurryface.
- 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.
- Letting the Air Out of the Band: How "Heavydirtysoul" ends.
- Literary Allusion Title: The band name. See Moral Dilemma below.
- Lonely Piano Piece: "Truce" is a straight example, but "Goner" is a subversion; it starts as this before suddenly turning into a loud rock song around the 3-minute mark.
- Lucky Charms Title / Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: The group initially stylized their name as "twenty | one | pilots", but following the release of Blurryface, it turned into "TWENTY ØNE PILØTS". Following the end of the Blurryface era, they briefly utilized horizontal dashes through their Es◊note , but the Blurryface stylization returned for Trench.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "March to the Sea", "Oh Ms Believer", "Migraine".
- Lyrical Dissonance: Exists in pretty much all of their songs. 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 knowThis one's a contradiction because of how happy it soundsBut the lyrics are so downIt's okay, thoughBecause it represents, wait, better yet, it isWho I feel I am right now
- Lampshaded in "Not Today:"
- Their self-titled album is probably the most melancholic sounding in theme, vocals, and instrumentals. One of the happiest-sounding songs on the album, "The Pantaloon", is also one of the saddest lyrically, talking about how your elders get older and start to lose their mind, and how eventually you'll do the same.
- "Legend" is a very upbeat and joyful song written about the passing of Tyler's grandfather.
- Manchild: 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.
- Mascot: Ned from the "Chlorine" video functions as this for the band during the Trench era, making multiple marketing appearances in tour advertisements and even social media filters.
- Memetic Hand Gesture: This finger sign◊, which forms the logo.
- 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 midair.
- 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. The protagonist indirectly kills twenty-one pilots by selling plane parts which he knew were faulty, knowing that had he not sold them he would have lost money 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.
- Motifs: Likely overlapping with Author Appeal.
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.
- 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 one of few things universally important to every person's life, so it's easy to convey what he means when discussing it in music.
- The imagery of "jumpsuits", "neon", and "vultures" all appear prominently across multiple songs on Trench due to their role in the "Dema" world and storyline.
- 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":
- Motor Mouth: There are several instances where Tyler shows off some serious technicality in his rapping skills. See here for good examples.
- His brother Zack's verse in "Kitchen Sink" is similarly fast-paced.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Pop punk/electronica/alternative rock/rap with ukuleles, screamo, baroque pop, and reggae thrown in every once in a while just for good measure.
- No Ending: "Anathema" and "Migraine" both end rather abruptly by cutting off Tyler's vocals; in the latter's case, he gets stopped mid-word ("Made it this f—").
- Nobody Loves the Bassist: Original bassist Nick Thomas was a childhood friend of Tyler who had not played the instrument professionally before being asked to join the band to fill out the roster. As a result, the band's early music leaned heavily into drums, piano, and synth, and it all but abandoned the instrument after Nick left. Tyler later learned to play bass himself, leading to the instrument being reintegrated into the band's sound starting with Blurryface and Tyler becoming a Lead Bassist, subverting the trope.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Implicit Demand For Proof", "Anathema", "Ode to Sleep", and "Truce" are the only four songs in their discography not to feature in the lyrics in any form.note The titles for the first three albums also do not appear within any of their respective songs.
- Not Christian Rock: Both members are Christian, and their earlier work (pre-Vessel in particular) is clearly influenced by this, but they are not an explicitly Christian band. However, this hasn't stopped people from interpreting their newer work under this light.
- 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.
- Once More, with Clarity!: The end of the "My Blood" music video after The Reveal that the protagonist's brother was an Imaginary Friend.
- One-Woman Song: "Ruby".
- One-Word Title: On the album side, Vessel, Blurryface, Trench. 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"
- From Trench: "Jumpsuit", "Levitate", "Morph", "Chlorine", "Smithereens", "Bandito", "Legend"
- And unattached to any album: "Save", "Heathens"
- Parental Love Song: "House of Gold" is about Tyler's love and dedication for his mother.
- Performance Video: Although they have lots of videos that technically count as this, "Guns for Hands" is probably their most straightforward example of this trope.
- The Prankster: Both Tyler and Josh like to perform childish (but harmless) practical jokes on their crew, opening bands, and each other while on tour. These have ranged from wrapping their openers in toilet paper during their sets to throwing bananas into each other's dressing rooms.
- Precision F-Strike: Although the band avoids any kind of cursing in pretty much all their songs, there is one instance in "Ode to Sleep" where Tyler calls himself a "whore".
- Pun-Based Title: "Slowtown"note .
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: In "Truce":"Take pride in what is sure...to...die."
- Radio Friendliness:
- "Screen" and multiple songs on Blurryface ("Fairly Local", "Tear In My Heart", "Lane Boy") feature Tyler musing on how only certain types of songs get played on the radio, reflecting the feedback from their label that their sound was too weird to make that leap to mainstream audiences.note
- "Chlorine" from Trench received a radio edit that trimmed its runtime by cutting out the spoken introduction and the last two verses.
- Radio Song: Most prominently, "Car Radio", which uses the radio as a metaphor for distraction. For other examples, see Radio Friendliness.
- Rearrange the Song:
- In live performances, "Heathens" is usually kicked off with a stripped-back piano rearrangement, while "Stressed Out" and "Holding On To You" usually close with one.
- The original 2012 version of "Goner" was rearranged and expanded quite a bit before it became the final song on Blurryface. The original had less instrumentation (only an accordion, piano, and background strings) and fewer lyrics.
- Record Producer: Tyler himself fits into the "DIY" variant, as he self-produced the first two albums without any formal training. The amateurish results led Fueled by Ramen to partner the band with Greg Wells to rerecord many of their old songs for Vessel. Tyler has since co-produced every subsequent Twenty One Pilots song with no more than one additional collaborator to help refine his original demos.
- 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".
- Many of the lyrics for "Heavydirtysoul" were used by Tyler in a street poetry video released two years before the song.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over:
- The character of Blurryface wears red and black clothing (as well as the occasional red eye) as well as black paint on his hands and throat. The album's era also was marked by the band colors changing from red and blue to red and black, as Tyler discovered that blue was "not a part" of Blurryface's persona.
- The bishop in the "Jumpsuit" video.note
- Religion Rant Song: Though both members of the band are Christian, there are a few songs that have been interpreted as questioning either God or religious authorities. This is especially prevalent on "Doubt".Gnaw away at the bishops, claw away at their systemsRepeating simple phrases that someone holy insistedWant the markings made on my skin to mean something to me againnote
- Re-release 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 re-recorded with some changes for Vessel. "Lovely" was also re-recorded and released as a promo single in Japan. This led to the pulling of Regional at Best from circulation by Fueled By Ramen, making physical copies of the original versions sought-after collectors' items.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Tyler and Josh, respectively.
- Rhyming with Itself:
- In "Taxi Cab", "cab" is rhymed with itself three times in succession.
- In "Migraine", Tyler repeatedly rhymes "Friday", "Sunday", and "days".
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: "Ned" from the "Chlorine" music video looks like a mix between a goat, cat, and Furby.
- Running Gag: Kicking each other out of the band. note
- Sampling: One of the band's first tracks, "Time To Say Goodbye", sampled from 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.
- "Legend" features Tyler sadly reflecting on his grandfather's late-stage dementia.
- Sdrawkcab Speech: "Nico and the Niners" features reversed speech prominently throughout its composition. Playing it forwards mostly just reveals lyrics of the song itself, but a hidden message related to the narrative of Trench is featured in the openingnote .
- Secret Handshake: Tyler and Josh have a complex one that lasts 10 seconds, as shown in the "Stressed Out" video and again in the "Nico and the Niners" video. On some occasions, fans have been brought onstage to do the handshake with Josh during their concerts.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Tyler on most tracksnote .
- Self Empowerment Anthem: "Not Today" is their most played-straight example.
- "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.
- Self-Titled Album: Their first album.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story:
- The three-part story revealed in the music videos for "Jumpsuit", "Nico and the Niners", and "Levitate". The visuals display Tyler escaping from Dema, only to be seized by a bishop and dragged all the way back.
- The "Jumpsuit" video also contains an individual example with Tyler attempting to run from a bishop only to trip and fall, with the video ending with the bishop walking away and dragging Tyler with him.
- The dmaorg.info letter released the day of the "Chlorine" music video reveals that Clancy has also been brought back to Dema.
- Signing-Off Catchphrase: At live shows: "We are Twenty One Pilots and so are you."
- Silly Love Songs: "Tear In My Heart" and "Smithereens" are the only songs in their discography that definitely fit the label of "love song".
- "Lovely", "Ruby", and "We Don't Believe What's On TV" could be interpreted as either this or friendship songs. note
- Singer-Songwriter: Tyler may not technically count due to releasing his music as part of a band, but he more or less operates as one. The heavy lyricism of many of the band's songs fits the singer-songwriter mold, and with the exception of a few samples and some co-written songs with producer Paul Meany on Trench, Tyler has had the sole songwriting credit on every track in the band's discography.
- 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 Completely Different: "Time to Say Goodbye" is an Andrea Bocceli sample-based song that mixes electronic beats with operatic Italian music. It's weird even by the band's standards (which is probably the reason why it wasn't featured on a proper album).
- 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
- Song Style Shift: Prominent throughout their discography, most notably on "Ode to Sleep", which seems to switch between two or three totally different sounds multiple times, and "Chlorine", whose final verses are so different from the rest of the song they were cut for the radio edit.
- 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".
- Stop and Go:
- In "Ode to Sleep", when Tyler says "I go up, up, up, up", all sound between each "up" cuts out.
- On the "represented best by my depressing thoughts" line from "Migraine", the song stops as Tyler holds the "s" in "depressing" for three counts (as counted by Josh in the background).
- Near the end of "Car Radio" (directly following the bridge; 4 minutes in), the piano starts precisely cutting out after the drum hits.
- Music video example: after the first pre-chorus of "Stressed Out", the entire song grinds to a halt so Tyler and Josh can do their famous Secret Handshake.
- Studio Chatter:
- The laughter at the end of "Johnny Boy".
- Some mumblings from Tyler in "Be Concerned".
- In "Migraine", as Tyler holds the "s" sound in "depressing", you can hear Josh counting off in the background before the song resumes.
- In "We Don't Believe What's On TV", Tyler can be heard clearly saying "Alright, second verse" before said verse starts.
- 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.
I wish I wrote a different song no one's ever heard.
- Also done in the modified verse Tyler performed in Cleveland:
I wish my mom would just admit she's sick of every word.
Overplayed, overstayed, it was a smash hit.
Funny how overplayed songs sound like crapnote .
- Suddenly SHOUTING!:
I AM NOT AS FINE AS I SEEM!Pardon me for yelling...
- In "Migraine", which is immediately lampshaded and apologized for:
So I just might beCOME SOMEONE
- In "House of Gold":
Before you walk away, there's one more thing I want to sayOUR BRAINS ARE SICK BUT THAT'S OKAY!I WANNA BE KNOWN BY you.
- In "Fake You Out":
I DON'T KNOW WHERE YOU ARE! YOU'LL HAVE TO COME AND FIND ME, FIND ME!
- In "Polarize":
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Truce", the final track on Vessel, is a quiet piano ballad that's a far cry from the upbeat electro-rock songs preceding it.
- Surreal Music Video:
- "Holding Onto You": Deliberately Monochrome, involves dancers wearing skeleton make-up wrapping a noose around Tyler's neck until he and Josh become skeletons as well.
- "House of Gold": Tyler and Josh are cut in half on a farm, but their floating torsos and disembodied legs keep playing the song until the sun goes down.
- "Tear In My Heart": Chinatown explodes in slow-motion, passerby's faces randomly distort, and Tyler gets beaten to a pulp by his wife in a restaurant.
- "Heavydirtysoul": A hooded stranger drives past Josh repeatedly on the same stretch of highway while Tyler sings in the back seat. The car falls apart and eventually explodes, only for Tyler to wake back up where he started.
- "Chlorine" breaks completely from the Trench narrative and features Tyler and Josh filling up an empty swimming pool so that a small goat creature can go for a swim.
- Take That!:
All these songs I'm hearing are so heartlessDon't trust a perfect person and don't trust a song that's flawless.
- Apparently, Tyler's not the biggest Drake fan.
Mindless zombies walking around with a limp and a hunch,saying stuff like "you only live once"note
- This moment in "Heavydirtysoul":
- In "Lane Boy", possibly:
- Apparently, Tyler's not the biggest Drake fan.
- 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, though "March to the Sea" merits a special mention for its position in the final line of the song.
- Trademark Favorite Food:
- Two First Names: Tyler has three in his full name, 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.
- Voice of the Legion: Tyler's voice is drastically deepened in "Stressed Out", "Fairly Local", and "Message Man" when singing as Blurryface. note
- Unflinching Walk: Averted in the "Heavydirtysoul" video, where both Tyler and Josh watch the exploding car. The behind-the-scenes video even shows Tyler debating on whether or not he should look at the explosion.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Tyler and especially Josh are prone to going shirtless in live shows.
- We Need a Distraction: In the lyrics and music video for "Nico and the Niners", the Banditos use impromptu concerts as a "complete diversion" to help people escape Dema.
- Wham Line:
After all I've said
- After the second verse of "Heathens", Blurryface returns.
Please don't forget
Promise me this: if I lose to myselfYou won't mourn a day, and you'll move on to someone else.
- After a lengthy criticism of societal glorification of suicide on "Neon Gravestones", Tyler suddenly gets seriously personal.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: From the famous "Happy Wheels" video; Josh said that he one time had this job on a cruise ship, but never finished that story.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 that relate to their purpose, explaining it would take away from its power as a metaphor.
- The titular metaphor of "Pet Cheetah" makes zero sense within the context of the Trench narrative, nor is its meaning really explained at all. This is because the song is about Writer's Block, and the creative nonsense lyrics serve as a means to make use of the beat.
- Writer's Block: "Pet Cheetah" is a very meta song about overcoming this.Eight days straight, eight hours each, and not one line.I can feel pressure start to possess my mindSo I'll take this beat I should delete to exercise.