The sound of Twenty One Pilots, involving raw drums, distortion, spacy synthesizers, rap, and the occasional scream, has a dark edge to it. Band members Tyler Joseph and Josh Dunn have tattoos, dyed hair, and occasionally wear masks. At first glance, this may not be a band you think you’d like your children to be listening to. Yet the more I learn about their music, lyrics, and personal history, the happier I am that I did not dismiss this band and their newest release,Blurryface.
The music mixes genres and redefines what we may think of as catchy; they create a sound very different from other current popular music. Reflecting on this, Tyler sings in the song “Fairly Local,” “this song will never be on the radio.” Yet songs like “Tear in My Heart” and “Stressed Out” are receiving significant radio play despite being outside the strict norms of contemporary pop radio. This is a testament to the creativity and craftsmanship of the music.
In an MTV interview, Tyler explains that the album Blurryface is about a character by that same name. This character represents Tyler and everyone around him when insecurities get the best of them. Those insecurities include feelings of suffocation and insecurity about the things he creates. In their videos, Tyler paints his neck and hands black to represent these insecurities. Twenty One Pilots explore topics common to all of humanity and emotions we all feel sometimes.
Amid the rawness, distortion, tattoos, and masks, I found life and hope in the music of Twenty One Pilots. That surprised me until I learned that Tyler and Josh are Christians. A quick YouTube search reveals that both Tyler and Josh have been involved atFive14 Church in Ohio for years. In an article (“Twenty One Pilots: Masters of the Culture of Encounter”) Priest Damian Ference explains that ”the band is encountering a culture that is resistant to music that explicitly preaches Jesus. So rather than being immediately ignored, the band reaches out with their authenticity and common human experience to bring life and hope to millions around the world.” (WEA)