If you’ve tuned into a radio at all in the past few months, then you’ve probably heard of Twenty One Pilots. Since performing their song, “Car Radio” at the 2014 MTV Music Awards, the band has been rising in the ranks of mainstream music. For an alternative band that doesn’t fit into any one genre, making headway on the most popular song charts is something of a phenomenon in such a short time. Of course, they’re not the only, nor the first alternative band to breakout into the mainstream music world. It’s a story as old as time: the underdog breaks free from the typical restraints of the music industry and reaches a large enough fan base to make a place for themselves.
This band isn’t your ordinary, heart melting underdog tale, though. For many, Twenty One Pilots is so much more.
Twenty One Pilots was originally formed back in 2009 by three high school friends Nick Thomas, Chris Salih and Tyler Joseph in Columbus, Ohio. Back in Ohio, they built up an impressive following and a fan base to be proud of. Only two years after forming the original band, Chris Salih and Nick Thomas left the group. Tyler Joseph pushed through the change and added drummer, Josh Dun, to a –now- two-man band. Just a year later, in 2012, they signed with Fueled by Ramen, a popular record label known for producing some of the most recognizable alternative songs of our generation. It was here that they released the songs that would skyrocket their success.
“Stressed Out” was released in 2015, off the Blurryface album. The song climbed all the way to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2016. Shortly after, their song “Ride” managed to hit number six on the same chart this past summer. It didn’t stop there, though. Twenty One Pilots officially became the first alternative band to have two simultaneous top ten singles when “Heathens” was released on a soundtrack for recent film, Suicide Squad.
They came, they saw, and they’re conquering.
But, what is it about this band that sets them apart from the rest? With such a dedicated fan base and an obvious passion for what they do- what makes them a band so extraordinary that they save the lives of their fans? And, no, that isn’t just a metaphor.
For many of their young followers, Twenty One Pilots represents a great deal more than what most bands offer at face-value. Their unique sound, one that is impossible to categorize into any one genre, is something to admire but it’s the story behind the songs and the lyrics that hold true significance. Take the song “Car Radio” for example. Like most of their songs, it is paired with a beat that disguises the depth of its meaning. You have to look a little deeper, listen a little harder:
“Sometimes quiet is violent
I find it hard to hide it
My pride is no longer inside
It’s on my sleeve
My skin will scream
Reminding me of
Who I killed inside my dream
I hate this car that I’m driving
There’s no hiding for me
I’m forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real
I could pull the steering wheel…”
This is just one of many lyrically powerful songs written by Tyler Joseph. He’s a genius, one whom has spoken publicly about mental health issues that he faces on a daily basis. Depression doesn’t hold him back, though. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Tyler uses the dark battles within his mind to create beautiful music and connect with people all around the world that go through the same struggles.
Twenty One Pilots doesn’t claim to normalize depression or mental health issues as a whole. It doesn’t cure people of their chemical imbalances or tell them that everything is okay. For many fans, life may never be okay, but Twenty One Pilots offers comfort in not being alone. Tyler and Josh’s music reminds fans that there is purpose to life and that it is worth living.
They take it a step further than the rest. Of that much, I can be sure.
So, the next time you’re cruising down the street and singing along with “Stressed Out” or “Ride” remember that those lyrics may have reached somebody in a dark place and given them the courage to keep going. Remember that the power of music can be something magical. Maybe even life-changing.