Artist Spotlight: Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots had me hooked mid-listen the first time I heard them on Chicago’s alternative radio station, Q87.7 (now 101.1WKQX). I knew I’d heard their name before, but I made the mistake of never giving them a listen. In recent months, you might have heard their songs “Holding Onto You” and “House Of Gold” on the radio, but Twenty One Pilots are not new to the music scene. The Ohio duo, made up of Tyler Joseph on vocals and piano (plus the occasional ukulele and synths) and Josh Dun on drums, have been making music together since 2009. They picked up momentum after signing with Fueled By Ramen in 2012 and releasing their first full-length album, “Vessel,” in 2013.

“Vessel” is a perfect example of what makes Twenty One Pilots a game-changer in the music industry. These guys are on their lyrical A-game. It’s poetry. Poems turned to lyrics, fueled by intense energy and set to catchy melodies and incredible instrumentation. While some songs are heavy on the piano and synths, others are led by ukulele and drums. But what stays the same from song to song is the poetry. Put that all together and it’s a perfect balance of electronic pop and alt rock—though fans often refer to their sound as “schizophrenic pop.” Between my love for poetry and my love for alt-pop-rock, I’m convinced I was destined to hear them on the radio on that perfect Chicago spring day.

The coolest thing you’ll find when you listen to Twenty One Pilots is Tyler Joseph’s rapping. Because his lyrics are written as poems, they’re usually too long to be sung. In order to fit them all in, he raps—and it totally works. You can hear the passion and the pain. One of my favorite lyrics looks great on the page, but it’s even more awesome to hear it performed:

“You think twice about your life, it probably happens at night, right? Fight it. Take the pain, ignite it. Tie a noose around your mind, loose enough to breathe fine and tie it to a tree, tell it, ‘You belong to me, this ain’t a noose, this is a leash, and I have news for you, you must obey me.’” –Holding Onto You

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Above all else, Twenty One Pilots want to make you think. They want you to take the good that comes with the bad. So check out “Vessel” (especially “Ode To Sleep” and “Car Radio”) and the first single off their upcoming album, “Blurryface,” “Fairly Local.” Let the melodies and the lyrics sink in. If you ever get the opportunity to see these guys play a live show—go. Tyler and Josh are known best for their energetic performances. Until I can make it to one of their shows, I’m going to crank them up on my car radio and continue attempting to rap along with Tyler. Live duet pending.

Twenty One Pilots’ new album, “Blurryface,” drops next Tuesday, May 19. It’s definitely an album you do not want to miss.

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