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Music / Twenty One Pilots

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And where are the other nineteen? note 

Twenty One Pilots is an alternative duo from Columbus, Ohio that currently consists of vocalist/multi-instrumentalistnote  Tyler Joseph and drummernote  Josh Dun.

Joseph originally formed the band in 2009 with childhood friend Nick Thomas on bass and college acquaintance Chris Salih on drums. After releasing their debut album Twenty One Pilots the same year and touring locally, Thomas and Salih left the band in 2011 to respectively focus on school and work, and Salih offered his position to Dun, his co-worker at the time and a fan of the band.

The now-duo's second album, Regional At Best, was released soon afterward, and while the project was largely a solo effort by Joseph, he and Dun quickly formed both a fruitful creative partnership and lasting friendship. After finding tremendous success in their home state with their energetic and engaging live shows, the duo was signed to Fueled by Ramen in 2012 and began their rise to global fame with the release of their third album and major-label debut, Vessel, in 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 the band's fanbase and their reputation as must-see live performers. Their fourth album, Blurryface, debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 in May 2015 and broke them into the mainstream with multiple Top 40 radio hits, including "Stressed Out" and "Ride", as did the success of the single "Heathens" (written for the soundtrack of Suicide Squad). In February 2018, Blurryface became the first non-compilation album in history to have every track receive at least a Gold certification from the RIAA in the U.S. ("Stressed Out" was eventually certified Diamond in 2021); in July 2019, Vessel became the second, marking the first time in music history of a band achieving this feat with two separate albums. Blurryface also stands as the most-streamed rock album in history, with over 6.7 billion plays, and stayed on the Billboard 200 for over four consecutive years. "Heathens" further made the band the first alternative act in history to have two concurrent top five singles in the Billboard Hot 100, and the third rock act in historynote  to have two singles simultaneously chart in the Hot 100's top five spots (both records achieved alongside "Ride").

In summer 2017, the band took a year-long break from social media and public appearances to focus on new music. Early the next year, fans began discovering clues establishing the concepts behind their next work, which revolved around a dystopian city called Dema and a rebellious citizen of the city named Clancy, culminating in the release of their fifth album, Trench, in 2018. After the COVID-19 Pandemic interrupted their touring schedule in 2020, the band released two singles to raise money for charity before promotion began for their sixth album, Scaled and Icy, which was released in May 2021. Subsequent concerts have slightly modified their traditional performance format by incorporating a live touring band, though Joseph and Dun remain the band's only official members. The third and final installment in their "Dema" storyline, Clancy, is set to be released in 2024.

The band have a unique sound that's hard to describe and has been categorized under genres including Emo Pop, Rap Rock, Indie Rock, Synth-Pop, and Electronicore. Their lyrics commonly deal with heavy topics such as suicidal depression, anxiety, and unstable sense of self. Their later work also contains a surprisingly deep amount of lore about Dema and its inhabitants that's mostly All There in the Manual.

Should not be confused with the similarly-named (but musically very different) Stone Temple Pilots.



  • Twenty One Pilots (2009)
  • Regional At Best (2011)
  • Vessel (2013)Singles
  • Blurryface (2015)Singles
  • Trench (2018)Singles
  • Scaled and Icy (2021)Singles
  • Clancy (2024)Singles

Non-album singles:

  • "Heathens" (2016)
  • "Level of Concern" (2020)
  • "Christmas Saves The Year" (2020)

Wish we could trope back time, to the good ol' days:

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  • Actually a Doombot: One of Clancy's letters explains that the "bishops" trapped on the sinking submarine in the "Saturday" video were decoys.
  • An Aesop:
  • Album Filler: Referenced in "Lane Boy".
    Honest, there's a few songs on this record that feel common.
  • Album Title Drop:
    • Blurryface is directly name-dropped in the pre-chorus of "Stressed Out" and indirectly name-dropped in the second verse of "Goner".
      "Stressed Out": My name's Blurryface, and I care what you think.
      "Goner": I've got two faces. Blurry's the one I'm not.
    • In Trench, first introduced in "Levitate" ("Welcome to Trench"), then again in "Leave the City" ("In Trench, I'm not alone").
    • Scaled and Icy is not dropped directly within any song, but the phrase it is derived from, "scaled back and isolated", is finally dropped twice in the album's finale, "Redecorate".
      With the bells and whistles scaled back/Like an isolated track...
      I repeat: scaled back and isolated...
  • 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 driven by Blurryface before he disappears and the car rips itself apart before exploding. Tyler is able to escape the car before it explodes and finish performing the song with Josh; however, the video's final moments feature him waking up in the backseat again. 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: Ever since the introduction of the storyline based on the dystopian city Dema, the band's album rollouts have doled out information about that story through Alternate Reality Games, the website, and the first set of music videos for Trench. While most of the songs from this album still make some sense without that background knowledge, trying to fully comprehend the albums without it was difficult if not impossible, particularly since much of that lore-building has been left up to the interpretation of fans. The band released an official video concisely explaining the lore in 2024 that has made this information a little less esoteric.
    • Trench revolves around a protagonist named Clancy attempting to escape from Dema. It also reveals that Blurryface's real name is Nicolas "Nico" Bourbaki and he is one of the nine ruling bishops of Dema who practice the religion of Vialism. You would only know any of this if you followed the album's ARG.
    • Scaled and Icy is a continuation of the Trench story, with the album itself being Dema-mandated propaganda and the album's launch experience being hosted by two of Dema's bishops. None of this is explained in the album itself, and one could miss it being connected to Trench in any way if not for some references in the last two tracks, the marketing, and the live performances.
  • 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 a full-fledged one for what would become the Trench album cycle on "" via a link hidden in a GIF on the band's 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.
  • Ambiguous Ending:
    • "Migraine" anchors its message of perseverance and solidarity with the line "We've made it this far", which recurs in its chorus. However, it ends by abruptly cutting Tyler off before he can finish singing the line ("Made it this f—"). Fan interpretations have stated that this ending brings the line into deeper question, implying (among other theories) either the long way still left to go of the psychological journey described in the song or the suddenness with which death can arrive, even in the midst of one's plans.
    • "Leave the City" was deliberately designed as this for Trench. Its lyrics build to a final declaration to eventually escape Dema, but no description is given of the next destination; as the song mainly centers in the state of knowing one's time in Dema will end, the simple vow is made to stay alive until that day comes. Its music also reflects this through stopping the crescendo in its climactic bridge before it finishes building, leaving the song incomplete. According to Tyler, these decisions are reflective of the album's namesake setting being defined as an indefinite journey between Dema and whatever comes next.
      "I really thought it was a great way to close the record. Once I started creating [the song], I knew that I [wasn’t] going to name the place I’m going: I’m talking about the world I’m from; I’m talking about the world I’m traveling through, but I never really reach the place I’m trying to get to. It’s not because I’m holding on to some secret: You’re looking at someone who is still trying to figure out where that place is."
  • 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 Welding: "The Outside"'s music video (and its accompanying supplemental material) all serve to explain the significance of a great many concepts from the Trench/Scaled and Icy mythos (including the nature of the bishops' powers, the identity of Clancy, and the significance of Ned), brings back the two kids from the "Nico and the Niners" video, and even makes multiple references to Vessel.
  • 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.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: The video for "Christmas Saves The Year" features Santa saving Rudolph from zombie snowmen by throwing hatchets at them.
  • 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/or 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!" and the "entertain my faith" bridge in "Holding on to You".
      • "I liked it better when my car had sound!" in "Car Radio".
      • "The few, the proud, and the emotional" in "Fairly Local".
      • The first half of the 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 was later 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 to displayed lyrics.
  • Author Avatar: After dancing around it for years, the supplemental material from "The Outside" confirms that Clancy is the character played by Tyler in all of the Dema-related music videos.
  • 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".
  • Badass Boast: Tyler usually avoids bragging in his lyrics, but he has been known to dabble.
    • "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.
    • From "Levitate":
      Oh, I know how to levitate up off my feet,
      And ever since the seventh grade, I learned to fire-breathe.
    • From "Pet Cheetah":
      I'ma 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.
  • Big "YES!": Tyler lets one out 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 onset of the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Bread and Circuses: Essentially the meta-concept of Scaled and Icy. In-story, the songs on the album are performed by Clancy under the coercion of the bishops as a means of entertaining and placating the population of Dema.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the second verse of "Not Today", Tyler gives an aside directly to the listener acknowledging 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: The "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" chant in "We Don't Believe What's On TV" has some of this effect, even more so when the song is played live. Audiences supply the chant after a "1-2-3" cue by Tyler, and performances of the song frequently start with Tyler explaining the cue and practicing it a few times with the audience.
  • Canine Companion: Josh's real-life golden retriever, Jim, appears in the music video for "Choker" in the same capacity (though Josh in the video turns Jim into a toy with mouth lasers).
  • Careful with That Axe: Tyler has a penchant for screaming on songs.
    • The choruses of his song "Save" are painfully screamed, in contrast to the quiet verses. The first time a chorus starts with him yelling "SAVE ME!" could practically be a Jump Scare for unprepared listeners.
    • His voice suddenly escalates into a yell on the last line of "The Pantaloon".
    • Him screaming "You're an angel!" repeatedly near the end of "Ruby".
    • This video of him singing "Forest" ends with him shouting the second half of the chorus at the top of his lungs.
    • This is present throughout Vessel, on songs like "The Run and Go", "Fake You Out", and "Car Radio". Most notable is the "so I just might beCOME SOMEONE" line in "House of Gold" because of how completely it contrasts with the happy vibe of the rest of the song.
    • "Goner" is a slow, quiet piano ballad throughout until Tyler starts bellowing out his vocals at the end and it switches gears into loud rock.
    • Tyler usually screams the last "can you save" part at the end of "Heavydirtysoul" when playing the song live.
    • This continued onto Trench, notably near the end of "Jumpsuit" and "The Hype".
    • The Lighter and Softer Scaled and Icy features less of this, but it still shows up in the final chorus of "Shy Away".
  • Cerebus Retcon: Ned was first introduced in the "Chlorine" video as Ridiculously Cute Critter mascot for the band and a deviation from the deadly serious Dema storyline. In "The Outside" music video, he is revealed as part of a species of creatures whose horns are used by Dema's bishops as a Mind-Control Device, which potentially means his previous appearances were some form of illusion or control.
  • Character Title: The band's seventh album and the final installment in their "Dema" trilogy is named after Tyler's Author Avatar, Clancy.
  • 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 Saves the Year" likewise wasn't explicitly about this but was released as part of a Make-A-Wish Foundation charity stream.
  • Christmas Songs:
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Both members are rather eccentric. For one, Tyler has been known to ask for live audience questions in the middle of concerts, and 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 tell a story of struggle and perseverance against these negative feelings.
    • Trench is even more dedicated to a single high-concept idea, namely the efforts of a protagonist named Clancy 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. Unlike their previous works, Trench is their only album where the concept was created before the songs.
    • While it contains some of the poppiest music the band has ever put out, Scaled and Icy continues to build directly on the Dema concept. The album's launch performance (particularly the presence of Bishops Lisden and Sacarver as characters) imply that its appeal and accessibility (referred to in the album and its lore as "saturation") is some form of Dema-mandated control, and also that it having far less conceptual density is by design. The final two songs on the album throw back to the sound of Trench, seemingly revealing the truth behind the façade.
  • Color Motifs: All of their album eras since Regional at Best have centered around specific color schemes reflected in the band's logo, visuals, stage attire, and music videos.
    • RAB and Vessel - red and blue
    • Blurryface - red and blacknote 
    • Trench - yellownote  and black
    • Scaled and Icy - ice blue and pink
    • Clancy - red
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The music video for "Jumpsuit" opens with Tyler standing atop the car from "Heavydirtysoul", sporting the same buzzcut he had in that video (he has his regular, more grown-out hair for the rest of the video). 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.
    • Some have noted that "Leave the City" has the same final chord as "Truce", another piano-based album finale.
    • The opening of "Redecorate" features someone reading a line from Clancy's diary.
      There was a wonderful structure to the city, and it put my cares to rest.
    • The music video for "The Outside" and the accompanying dmaorg supplemental material contain multiple nods to parts of the band's past output.
      • The end of the video shows the kids from the "Nico and the Niners" video aged up a few years.
      • The appearance of Ned's species and the explanation of their significance as the source of the bishop's mind control ties this aspect of the band's mythos into Dema.
      • Clancy's letters and notes make reference to the bishops using other people's bodies as "vessels". Further tying the video into this older album, a map of the continent of Trench shows that the name of the island they wash up on is Voldsøy, which roughly translates in Norwegian to "island of violence"; the music from "Migraine", a Vessel track that refers to such islands, briefly plays during the video.
    • The first lyrics Tyler sings in "Overcompensate", the first single of Clancy, are taken from the bridge of the Trench song "Bandito".
  • 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: 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".note 
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: Their cover of My Chemical Romance's "Cancer" turns the piano-led and powerfully-sung song into a relaxed and resigned downtempo electronic track, rearranging the lyrics to turn the lines "I will not kiss you" and "My lips are chapped and faded" into a chorus. 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:
  • Crapsaccharine World: Dema's appearance in the "Trench Trilogy" of music videos appears stark and unappealing, and the pale red-robed bishops seem Obviously Evil, but it seems like this is not how most of its residents perceive it. Clancy's letters make references to the city's beauty and describe the bishops as gentle and warm. The Scaled and Icy Livestream Experience also shows that the bishops outwardly portray radically differently than their true forms, with Lisden and Sacarver taking the appearance of '70s talk show hosts and implying that they use upbeat music like that contained in Scaled and Icy to conceal their appearance.
  • 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 beliefs heavily influenced the album, and the process of making it brought him the closest he's ever been to acknowledging a world without God. How it actually shows up in its concept is anyone's guess.
  • Crowd Surfing: It likely wouldn't be a TØP concert without this or a variant of it; there was a period where it seemed that Tyler spent more time in the crowd during shows than on stage.
    • Tyler'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 started 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.
  • "Days of the Week" Song: "Saturday" is this.
    Slow down on Monday
    Not a sound on Wednesday
    Might get loud on Friday
    But on Saturday, Saturday, Saturday
    We paint the town
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Discussed in "Neon Gravestones". While the whole song is about how the mindset of glamorizing suicide by deifying victims after they die should be opposed as much as possible, the second verse shows Tyler openly contemplating it for a moment, knowing how much people's outpouring of sympathy afterwards would be great for his image and sales.
    I could use the streams and extra conversations
    I could give up and boost up my reputation
    I could go out with a bang
    They would know my name
    They would host and post a celebration
  • Deadpan Snarker: While Tyler is very much known as a nice guy, a large part of his persona onstage, in interviews and on social media is his tendency for dry sarcasm (the Clique regularly refers to it as "sassiness"), from which no one is safe — not even Josh or members of the Clique.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The music video for "Holding On To You" and the "Beyond-the-Video" series for the "Trench Trilogy" and "Shy Away" 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 and 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 there is always hope that 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 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.
  • Devil in Disguise: Dan Lisden and Sally Sacarver in the Scaled and Icy Livestream Experience are morning Talk Show hosts that just happen to share the names of two of Dema's bishops and sport Supernatural Gold Eyes as they become more and more beaten down.
  • Digital Piracy Is Okay: Based on circumstances surrounding several of their 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 appeared 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 to download for free by the band for the first month after its release, apparently against the wishes of their 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 the creaking accordion (which doesn't sound dissimilar to a tightening noose) and the song ultimately being swallowed by noises representing Blurryface (a character representative of dark thoughts and insecurities) imply that the worst has transpired.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Heard in "Heathens". 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 is trying to avert this.
    • "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.
    • "Guns for Hands" and "Fake You Out" are about offering support to suicidal teens.
    • "Migraine" is about developing mental strategies to cope with depression and suicidal ideation.
    • "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.
    • "Redecorate" at least alludes to this, describing a number of individuals contemplating their rooms and considering tidying up if only so their loved ones needn't need to decide what to do with their belongings should they leave.
  • 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.
  • Duct Tape for Everything:
    • The Trench era heavily featured yellow duct tape throughout the band's iconography, with the in-universe explanation being that the color yellow provided some sort of protection from Dema (the Clancy diaries suggest the bishops may be unable to see the color). The music video for "The Hype" sees Tyler use said tape to patch up a destroyed house, and the "Saturday" music video features Josh attempting to use said duct tape to patch holes in a sinking submarine.
    • In February 2024, red duct tape mysteriously appeared over all of the eyes on the band's album artwork from Vessel onward (or, in the case of Blurryface, over the circle representing the bishop Keons) on most major streaming platforms. This was revealed as rollout for the band's seventh album Clancy, and Tyler (as Clancy) wears an outfit sporting red duct tape in the video for the first single "Overcompensate".
  • 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'll never know the psychopath sitting next to you
      You'll never know the murderer sitting next to you
  • Echoing Acoustics:
    • Reverb is added on Tyler's voice 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", used in the former to create a choral sound that emphasizes the song's rallying cry, and in the latter to a similar effect as in "Truce".
    • Comes back for the ominous chorus for "No Chances" on Scaled and Icy.
  • 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 a song with multiple overt shifts in 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.
  • Every Episode Ending: Every album since Vessel (with the exception of Scaled and Icy, which was created somewhat outside the band's normal conceptual direction) concludes with an intimate piano-led song ("Truce", "Goner", "Leave the City").
  • 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 (especially during the Emotional Roadshow tour), "Fairly Local" is often used to segue into "Heavydirtysoul".
    • On Trench, the outro of "Jumpsuit" segues into "Levitate".
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: Both "Lane Boy" and "Message Man" have moments towards the end where it seems like the song has finished, only for a previous section of the track to play. The former has a drum solo that mirrors the drums in the song's climaxnote , and the latter brings back the song's beat with background synths.
  • Famed In-Story: Clancy's numerous escapes from Dema eventually made him a celebrity in the city. The bishops attempted to turn this to their advantage by making him perform for them, with the result being Scaled and Icy.
  • Finger Gun: "Guns for Hands" mentions them in the lyrics; Tyler uses them frequently in performances of the song.
    '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 begins singing after the second start. However, he usually starts singing after the first start when the song is performed live.
  • Funny Background Event: While Tyler calls Jenna from a sinking submarine in the "Saturday" music video, Josh can be seen in the background attempting to patch the hull with some yellow duct tape.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • The band's standard "|-/" symbol was replaced with a sai for the Scaled and Icy era, as its initials are "SAI".
    • "FPE" has taken on a number of meanings across several albums:
      • It originated as "the few, the proud, and the emotional" on Blurryface's "Fairly Local".
      • Trench made two meanings of it: the Dema ARG included the phrase "failed perimeter escape", and the "Ned's Bayou" pop up shop labeled itself as a "Fine Pool Equipment and Pop Up Shop".
      • The Scaled and Icy Livestream Experience was advertised as a "feature performance event", and "Mulberry Street" features a convenience store named "Food Petrol Etc".
  • Genre Mashup: Electronica/alternative rock/rap with ukuleles, screamo, indie pop, and reggae thrown in every once in a while just for good measure.
  • Genre Roulette: Present throughout their discography.
    • Vessel has a number of electropop/pop rap songs (most of the album), but also has an indie-folk song ("House of Gold"), a straightforward synthpop 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 even stated that he chose to open the album with "Ode to Sleep" since it acts as a tone-setter:
      "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 don’t expect anything!"
    • Blurryface has an upbeat pop rock song ("Tear in My Heart"), a pop reggae song ("Ride"), an indie/ska song ("We Don't Believe What's On TV"), a Lonely Piano Piece that turns into a rock song ("Goner"), and an alternative/pop 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.
    • Scaled and Icy features influences from indie rock ("Shy Away"), classic rock ("Never Take It"), disco/funk ("Saturday"), Britpop ("The Outside"), and even throwbacks to the style of Regional at Best/Vessel ("Choker") and Trench ("Redecorate"), with the odd rap verse still sprinkled in.
  • 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.
    • Josh shows some in the video for "Choker" when turning Tyler into a toy.
  • God Test: "Implicit Demand For Proof" has Tyler asking God to prove his existence.
  • Going Down with the Ship: While the Dema bishops are nowhere to be seen after their submarine is attacked in the "Saturday" music video, the band attempts to keep playing even after they (and their instruments) are submerged and are the last to swim free from the wreckage.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: They avoid swearing not just in their music but in general, to a degree that more than one interviewer expressed surprise at this habit even after spending hours speaking with them. Tyler once spent a few weeks trying to turn "frick" and "shof" into widespread substitutes.
  • Grand Finale: "Trees" has been the band's go-to show closer for years, 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 Foreign Language:
    • Gratuitous Japanese: The "Guns for Hands" video has titles and subtitles in English and Japanese.
    • Gratuitous Korean: "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".
    • All over "Overcompensate". The intro of the song features different people speaking in French, German, and Spanish about the Dema-related lore of the Clancy album. Tyler later throws "corazón" (Spanish for "heart") into the bridge.
  • Growing Up Sucks: The theme of "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", "Anathema", and "Redecorate".
    • 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.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Ned's species live in one in the caves on the island of Voldsøy.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The bishops use the antlers of Ned's species to perform "seizing", taking control of dead bodies to maintain their control of Dema. Clancy's final escape in "The Outside" culminates in him using this same ability to control a dead bishop and set Dema ablaze.
  • Homesickness Hymn: "Stressed Out" is more directly about general nostalgia for childhood, but the fact that the music video was shot in both band members' childhood homes points to it being to a degree about longing for home. Both Tyler and Josh have been very vocal about their love for their hometown of Columbus, Ohio; indeed, both still live there, Josh having moved back after a few years in Los Angeles.
  • 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". The shell's purpose is not, as some have suggested, to give the impression that Tyler is actually playing a piano, but rather to give him something to jump off of after several early performances resulted in an over-enthusiastic Tyler kicking right through his keyboard.
  • 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.
  • Immortality Inducer: Clancy speculates in one of his letters that the bishops attain their long lives by using the antlers of Ned's species to "seize" and take over others' bodies.
  • 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".
  • Infodump: "I am Clancy", released in 2024 a week in advance of the final installment in the Dema storyline, has Clancy (voiced by Tyler) concisely summarize the lore from Trench and Scaled and Icy in the lead-up to the album that shares his name.
  • Jump Scare: Often a byproduct of Tyler's tendencies for Suddenly Shouting.
    • Tyler's sudden screaming in the chorus of "Save".
    • The switch-up in "Goner" where Tyler starts screaming will likely be this to listeners who were initially swayed by its quiet, melancholy piano sound.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Josh has had his hair dyed nearly every color of the rainbow by now (see this post for a few examples); currently, though, Tyler is the one sporting bright pink hair, while Josh has mostly kept his hair in its natural color since the Trench era.
  • 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 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(s).
    • "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.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the ending of "Leave the City", Tyler speaks about "these faces facing me", which could represent the Banditos as much as it could represent the Clique, namely the rows of their faces facing him at the band's shows.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: How "Heavydirtysoul" ends.
  • Lighter and Softer: Scaled and Icy is generally this, at least compared to the darker and heavier sound of Trench... until the final two songs.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The band name. See To Be Lawful or Good below.
  • Little "No": The first verse of "Neon Gravestones" ends with one to underscore Tyler's critique of Dead Artists Are Better.
    An earlier grave is an optional way?
  • The Lonely Door: A pale blue one that transports Tyler and Josh from a frozen wasteland to the stage is prominently featured in the visuals for The Icy Tour.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: "Truce" is a straight example, but "Goner" is a subversion; it starts as this before suddenly turning into a 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" (also stylized in all lowercase as "twenty øne piløts"). Following the end of the Blurryface era, they briefly utilized horizontal dashes through their Esnote , but the Blurryface stylization returned for Trench and is still used today.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "March to the Sea", "Oh Ms Believer", "Migraine".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Exists in a good sum 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.
    • Lampshaded in "Not Today":
      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.
    • 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.
    • "Good Day" is a contender for the band's strongest example of this, combining cheery sunshine pop with lyrics from the perspective of a man who has lost everything in his life that's in deep denial about it.

  • Manchild: The band members often invoke this persona, possibly due to a 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", with the grown men sharing Capri-Suns and riding tricycles around their neighborhood.
    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: The Ridiculously Cute Critter Ned from the "Chlorine" video sometimes functions as this, making multiple marketing appearances in tour advertisements and even social media filters.
  • Mid-Vid Skit: In the "Stressed Out" video, when Tyler arrives at Josh's house, the song stops for 10 seconds so the two can do their Secret Handshake and Josh can let Tyler in. It promptly starts again afterwards.
  • 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-Control Device: The antlers of Ned's species can be used as one. The lore states that this process, known as "seizing", may only work on the deceased.
  • 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 .
    • The final two songs of Scaled and Icy contrast significantly with the generally light and uplifting tone of the rest of the project, sharing more thematically and sonically with Trench.
  • Motifs: Likely overlapping with Author Appeal.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • My Nayme Is: They're always "Twenty One Pilots", never "21 Pilots". Despite this, it's still generally acceptable to abbreviate their name to either "top" (or more distinctly "tøp") or "21p".
  • New Sound Album: While their overall sound has never been entirely consistent even within the confines of a single album, Scaled and Icy generally takes a turn into a much lighter and more guitar-driven sound than their previous material, at times dabbling in '60s rock and Britpop influences.
  • No Ending: "Anathema" and "Migraine" both end by abruptly cutting off Tyler's vocals; in the latter's case, he gets stopped mid-word.
  • 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.
  • 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, Clancy. 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"
    • From Scaled and Icy: "Choker", "Saturday", "Formidable", "Redecorate"
    • From Clancy: "Overcompensate", "Backslide", "Vignette", "Lavish", "Navigating"
    • And unattached to any album: "Save", "Heathens"
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The dragon from the cover of Scaled and Icy, named "Trash" by Tyler, is affiliated with ice rather than fire and appears to live underwater in the "Saturday" music video.
  • 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.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: The bishops apparently have this power, known as "seizing", drawn from using the antlers of Ned's species. Their goal in Dema appears to be to glorify death or something similar in order to ensure that they have plenty of bodies that they can inhabit to extend their lifespans. At the end of "The Outside" video, Tyler/Clancy uses this power to inhabit the recently killed body of a bishop to exact revenge on Dema.
  • 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:
    • Discussed; "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 the 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.
    • Tyler publicly admitted during a festival concert that he wrote "Saturday" to be a radio hit, though he admits that it "didn't quite pan out".
      "You win some, you lose some. Saw it on a few commercials, though, made it all worth it. Commercialism!"
  • 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" typically 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, only occasionally reaching out to additional collaborators (most commonly Paul Meany of Mutemath) 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".
    • The lyrics that comprise the verses and bridge of "Heavydirtysoul" were used by Tyler in a street poetry video released two years before the song.
    • The bridge from "Bandito" reappears as part of the intro to "Overcompensate."
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over:
    • The character of Blurryface, representative of people's inner darkness and essentially depicted as a villain, 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" videonote .
  • Religion of Evil: The bishops who govern the city of Dema draw their authority from a "hijacked religion" called "Vialism", whose central dogma is that self-destruction is the only way to paradise. Citizens of Dema eventually allow themselves to be killed in order to be possessed by the bishops, granting them a longer life.
  • 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 systems
    Repeating simple phrases that someone holy insisted
    Want 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 
    • Céline Dion's backing 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 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 tracks, including live performances.note  The Scaled and Icy Livestream Experience featured real backup singers for the first time.
  • 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-Referential Track Placement: "Nico and the Niners" is the ninth track on Trench.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their first album.
  • Shadow Archetype: Blurryface was created as 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 as a way for him to face them head-on.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story:
    • The three-part story revealed in the music videos for "Jumpsuit", "Nico and the Niners", and "Levitate". The visuals display Tyler/"Clancy" 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 Scaled and Icy Livestream Experience starts and ends with Tyler on the set of the Good Day Dema Talk Show; while the concert appears to be some kind of resistance and the bishops/hosts appear worn down a bit, there appears to be no change at the end.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Their name comes from a plot point in Arthur Miller's All My Sons, in which the protagonist knowingly sells faulty plane parts that lead to the death of twenty-one pilots.
    • Some of their songs lifted lyrics from a few rap songs popular at the time specifically to critique them; see Take That! below.
    • "Slowtown" contains the line "When using Pokémon cards, please do not use the holographics."
    • In "Pet Cheetah", Tyler states that he named his titular animal Jason Statham.
    • The bridge of "Saturday" includes a section of a call between Tyler and Jenna where he says he wants to watch Friends with her.
    • In "The Outside", Tyler calls himself Megatron.
    • One of the tracks on Clancy is titled "The Craving (Jenna's Version)".
  • Significant Anagram:
    • While the official meaning of the "Sahlo Folina" phrase in "Bandito" is a cry of need in Trench to enable creative expressionnote , many have also stuck to the theory that the phrase is a subliminal nod to their roots, as it doubles as an anagram for "all Ohio fans".
    • Many fans discovered upon the release of Scaled and Icy's title that it's an anagram for "Clancy is Dead". When questioned about this in an interview, Tyler simply responded, "No comment!"
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase: Tyler ends each live show by saying, "We are Twenty One Pilots and so are you."
  • Silly Love Songs:
    • Starting with Blurryface, at least one song on each album has been one of these for Tyler's wife Jenna ("Tear in My Heart", "Smithereens", "Saturday", "Formidable").
    • "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-writer credits for 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 Something Leonard Bernstein: Their songs are very prone to this considering just how quickly Tyler can rap, but notable offenders include his second verse on "Ode to Sleep" note  and his brother Zack's verse on "Kitchen Sink"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 outro is so different from the rest of the song that it was 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.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Used by Ned after giving Tyler his antlers in "The Outside".
  • Stop and Go:
    • In the Vessel version of "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 in "Migraine", the song stops as Tyler holds the S sound 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.
    • The final chorus of "Saturday" includes several very quick half-bars of silence.
  • Stop Motion: The video for "Christmas Saves The Year" uses this in a Shout-Out to the classic Rankin/Bass Productions Christmas specials.
  • 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.
    • "Saturday" features some from Tyler's home studio, with him talking with his wife before bed as she encourages him to keep working if he's feeling inspired; they can watch Friends some other time.
  • Subliminal Seduction:
    • The start of "Nico and the Niners" has Josh's lowered and reversed voice saying, "We are banditos. You will leave Dema and head true east. We denounce Vialism." This is a possible invoking, as the message could be implied to be intentionally hidden, perhaps from the bishops.
    • The concept of Scaled and Icy. The Livestream Experience for the album's release features two Talk Show hosts promoting the album's "saturation"; these hosts have the names of two of Dema's bishops and slowly appear more and more demonic, suggesting the project's sunnier songs are meant as some form of social control.
  • Sub Story: The "Saturday" music video features the band giving a performance on a submarine operated by Dema that is attacked and sunk by Trash the Dragon.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion:
    • Done in a self-aware manner 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.
    • Also done in the modified verse Tyler performed in Cleveland:
      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 crapnote .
  • Suddenly Shouting:
    • In "Migraine", which is immediately lampshaded and apologized for:
      Pardon - me for yelling...
    • 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
    • In "Polarize":
    • Played straight and then inverted in "Goner", which is also an inversion of Last Note Nightmare.
      DON'T LET ME BE!
      I WANNA BE KNOWN BY you.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes / Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness: Lisden and Sacarver in the Scaled and Icy Livestream Experience, Trash the Dragon on the cover of Scaled and Icy and the "Saturday" music video. "The Outside" music video reveals that this is a sign of possession by those using the antlers of Ned's species; both the dragon and the two TV hosts were being controlled by the bishops. Clancy/Tyler gains these eyes when he uses the antlers himself to possess Keons and burn down Dema at the end of the video.
  • 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 On To 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.
    • "The Hype": Tyler opens up his chest to show him and Josh playing several small shows in and around a suburban home that eventually explodes, only to reform after the band members strike a T-pose.
    • "Choker": Tyler visits a toy shop with Josh and his dog, Jim, behind the counter; Tyler steals a small dragon figurine, only to be captured by Josh with a Net Gun. Oh, and Josh turns Jim and Tyler into toys with his Throat Light.
  • Take That!:
    • At one point in "Holding On to You", Tyler raps the titular hook of "Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It" by Dem Franchize Boys and promptly calls it "lyrics that mean nothing", likely using it to draw contrast between creative, intellectual music and music that's popular but less meaningful.
    • Tyler's apparently not the biggest Drake fan.
      • "Heavydirtysoul" includes the image of "mindless zombies walking around with a limp and a hunch, saying stuff like 'You only live once'"note .
      • Tyler has spoken on this further, jokingly or otherwise, in several particular tweets as well as this interview moment.
      • Tyler's verse on Jocef's "Live", itself dedicated to criticizing self-aggrandizing rappers, contains the lyric "We do not last forever, even though Drake thinks we do," in reference to his song "Forever".
  • Talk Show: The Scaled and Icy Livestream Experience opens with an uncomfortable Tyler on a morning talk show, Good Day Dema, hosted by two vapid hosts with the names of two Dema bishops. The performance implies that this show is some form of attempted control. It also conveys that Tyler really isn't a fan of these shows (though his song "Good Day" is used as the show's intro jingle and fits perfectly).
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Many of the band's songs deal with a form of this. "Friend, Please" is the most direct, but several songs from Vessel ("Guns for Hands", "Migraine", "Fake You Out") directly offer listeners support and ideas for how to manage depression and despair.
  • Textless Album Cover: Twenty One Pilots and Scaled and Icy.
  • 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: Tyler and Josh.
  • Throat Light: One from Josh seems to be the source of whatever turns Tyler and Jim into toys in the "Choker" video.
  • 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.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Their band name comes from the play All My Sons by Arthur Miller. In it, 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.
  • Token Heroic Orc: Clancy's letters repeatedly reference Keons as the kindest of all of Dema's bishops. "The Outside" music video shows that Keons attempted to save Clancy/Tyler from the bishops' control — and possibly take out the other bishops — by possessing Trash the dragon and attacking the submarine party in the "Saturday" video. The bishops foiled this attempt and seemingly stabbed Keons to death, but Clancy takes over his incapacitated body and uses it to exact revenge by burning down Dema.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Tyler really likes Taco Bell.
    • Josh has an affinity for Oreos and enjoys treating himself to "Encoreos" at concerts in the brief break between the main show and encore.
  • 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 a 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 
    • The chorus of "No Chances" is delivered either by this or an actual chorus.
  • Unflinching Walk: Averted in the "Heavydirtysoul" video, where Tyler watches the exploding car (alongside Josh). 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:
    • The "Jumpsuit" video sees the Banditos throwing yellow petals to stun Nico, giving Tyler a chance to make a run for it.
    • 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 the second verse of "Heathens", Blurryface returns.
      After all I've said
      Please don't forget
      WATCH IT.
    • The opening line from "Redecorate" is a quote from Clancy's first journal, indicating that Scaled and Icy is still in some way connected to the universe built by Trench.
      There was a wonderful structure to the city, and it put my cares to rest.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • In the Happy Wheels Let's Play, Josh said that he one time had this job on a cruise ship, but never finished that story.note 
    • The "Saturday" video ends with most of the crew and passengers of the submarine still floating in the open sea. Come the video for "The Outside", just Tyler and Josh are washed up on shore.
  • 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 mind
    So I'll take this beat I should delete to exercise.
  • You Are Not Alone: A message of solidarity in the face of hardship and turmoil runs through several of their songs.
    • "Migraine":
      Shadows will scream that I'm alone,
      but I know we've made it this far, kid.
    • "Leave the City":
      Though I'm far from home,
      in Trench, I'm not alone.