The Many, the Proud, and the Emotional: An Examination of Twenty One Pilots – Featuring Guest Collaborator Jessica Maxwell

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Wow, so I feel like I’m in one of those movies where I blow the dust off an old tome after it not being touched in 600 years. Welcome back friends! It’s been awhile since there’s been anything published here. Believe me, I ‘m definitely going to try and make a more concerted effort to keep the songs going again. But today I have a special piece for you all. I’ve been working with my very talented friend and fellow music writer Jessica Maxwell on a collaborative piece on Twenty One Pilots. We’ve both seen the band, and thought it would be interesting to examine just why these two dudes have gone from quirky indie outfit to omnipresent pop stars seemingly over the course of a few months. We wrote essays from different perspectives and talked about our own observations and musings on the band, and we decided we would publish each other’s writing. So here is Jessica’s side of the collab, which, if I do say, is very well done and very down to earth (the way it should be.) I definitely hope to team up with her again in the future, but in the meantime you can check out her super awesome website at soundsaboutwrite.com. She does amazing concert reviews as well as pieces on musical theatre, and much more! If you enjoy my writing style, you should feel right at home on her site. She just published my side of the Twenty One Pilots collab, so head on over and check that out too! Now without further ado, here’s Jessica’s take on the Ohio duo:

 

The first time I saw Twenty One Pilots, I had no idea who they were. What I was watching on stage was a guy with a ukelele wearing a floral kimono and screaming this weird music, accompanied by a drummer with neon-colored hair. I was both confused and intrigued. This was in 2013. Before Blurryface, before the radio play, the Jimmy Kimmel performance. This was when no one had remotely any idea who these guys were.

Earlier that year, Fall Out Boy had announced they were coming off a three year hiatus. Pop-punk fans alike rejoiced, and after they released their fifth studio album, Save Rock and Roll, they announced they would be going on a headlining arena tour with Panic at the Disco. My little emo heart soared at the announcement and I was quick to get tickets. When the day came, my friends and I asked each other if we knew who the opening band was. Twenty One Pilots? Never heard of them. On this rainy September evening in a crowd of hundreds, we had a hard time figuring out their music. Why was this guy jumping around on stage rapping so quickly and wearing a ski mask? This wasn’t the pop-punk stylings of Fall Out Boy or Panic at the Disco, what did this band have that they could compare with the bands they were opening for? That was the best part; they didn’t.

Twenty One Pilots are one of this generation’s most unique bands to date. With more modern pop-punk bands coming to popularity like Real Friends, Moose Blood, and Modern Baseball, there’s been sort of a steady stream of the common pop-punk thread that we saw emerge in the mid-2000’s with the likes of Yellowcard, My Chemical Romance, and Fall Out Boy. And yet, a band like Twenty One Pilots has managed to make it’s way into this same mould. When you visit Hot Topic, you’d be hard pressed to not find some of their merch there. When you turn on the radio, you’re likely to hear their songs Stressed Out or Tear in My Heart. So how has this happened? How did this band who once opened for Fall Out Boy manage to gain enough recognition that they just recently sold out two shows at the infamous Madison Square Garden? It’s been an interesting observation.

One thing that’s been for certain, is that there has been a vast increase in an interest in the pop-punk genre. It seems that in the last four years the newer teenagers are taking a keen interest in the genre, hence why there are so many younger kids seen at Twenty One Pilots shows. Another observation is the online community. Though it’s safe to say that my generation grew with the likes of Myspace and very early inklings of Facebook, the forthcoming teenagers have multiple options of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and most notably Tumblr. The Tumblr community alone has helped to increase a band’s popularity with the ease of GIF making and humorous text posts.

So what exactly makes Twenty One Pilots so much more special? They put out albums, they tour, their songs are on the radio, just like any other band that they may be associated with. What gives? It goes deeper than that. For starters, their music is unlike anything you may have heard. I’ve always told people that their music is difficult to be classified because one song can have intense rapping, another can have cute ukelele hooks, another may have a reggae vibe. There’s really no classification, which could be the reason that their fan base has spanned the way it has. The diversity in music equals for a diverse fanbase.

As well, their lyrical content has a much larger focus on one’s stability be it physical or mental. Songs like “Stressed Out”, “Car Radio” and “Migraine” are just some of the songs that touch on those subjects. During a day and age where it feels like the world is falling apart, these songs have become anthems for those who choose to listen. Not only do these songs talk about it, but there is the discussion of hope, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A beacon of hope.

With the unique presentation both on stage and off and their diverse musicality it’s no denying the well deserved popularity has been bestowed on Twenty One Pilots. With relatable and hopeful music for the devoted fans (who refer to themselves as the ‘clique’), these kids have something to hold on to. A latch that they can pull on when they’re feeling down, and a whole group of kids who feel the same way and communicate about the music that makes them happy again. There is a line in their song Fairly Local that goes ‘for the few, the proud, and the emotional’, the true sign that this is for those who have stuck by, who are here to stay, and who are always going to listen.

 

Thanks again Jessica! Again, you guys can check out my piece over on her site soundsaboutwrite.com. And while you’re there, stay awhile and check out all her other great articles. Seriously, do it. You won’t regret it.

 

 

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