When twenty one pilots was on the come up, their unique sound instantly hooked millions of young fans. Even if you aren’t a twenty one pilots fan, you have to recognize the care and thought Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun have put into their music over the past decade, and their keen awareness of musical trends and how they evolve. They blended the pop-punk sound of the 2000s with the fresh electronic pop genre that emerged in the 2010s, incorporating elements of modern hip hop and rock that created a uniquely contemporary and youthful sound. The band has had some massive hits over the years, but as we prepare for the release of their sixth studio album ‘Scaled and Icy’ on May 21st, we wanted to highlight some of the songs that might not have reached the tip top of the Billboard charts, but are beloved by true fans.
“Levitate” was the third single from the band’s fifth studio album ‘Trench’. The song and the full tracklist was actually accidentally leaked before the release date by the music streaming service TIDAL. Luckily, the reception for this song was great, and so the band officially released it the next day to continue building the hype. This track almost has hip hop feel to it with its smooth beat, heavy hitting drums, and Joseph’s exceptional flow.
This experimental track opens with industrial production and intense raps which give way to the true melody of the song. This track comes off of ‘Blurryface’ and further explores the character of Blurryface Joseph is creating.
Tyler Joseph has stated that “Bandito” was the hardest song to write off ‘Trench’, beginning the writing process while on tour for ‘Blurryface’. The record is a concept albums, a technique twenty one pilots frequently employs, whose story centers around a group of rebels escaping the mystical city of Dema. This song tackles themes of acceptance, self discovery, and the price of freedom, emotionally grounding the album.
7. Friend, Please
“Friend, Please” comes off of the band’s self-titled debut LP. The electronic soundscape they craft is interesting and melodic, but Tyler Joseph’s lyricism is really put on display here. In the song, the speaker pleads with a close friend to not commit suicide, explaining all the ways life is worth living. Though the song may have originally been written as an address to a specific person, it has taken on a larger significance within the fan community because of its positive message.
6. Ode to Sleep
Tyler Joseph has said “Ode to Sleep” is his favorite song to perform live. Perhaps it’s because of the dynamic energy in the song, where dark turbulent verses shift to an upbeat, sunny chorus. This is the first track on ‘Vessel’, and in the words of Joseph, “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!”
5. Air Catcher
This is definitely one of the most underrated songs in the band’s discography. Coming off their first album, the band almost never performs it live anymore, but according to Joseph it was the first song they ever played live. This song explores Joseph’s hesitancy to acknowledge his attraction, singing about a metaphorical parachute that protects his heart from getting broken.
4. We Don’t Believe What’s on TV
This is one of the jubilant songs in the band’s discography which features a twinkling ukulele. Written for Joseph’s mom, the song marks a turning point on the album, shifting to a more upbeat mood. The explosive “Yea Yea Yea!” in the chorus makes this one a fan favorite to scream along to at live shows.
3. Message Man
This song is a true testament to the band’s writing, an anthem for it of sorts. twenty one pilots often tackle issues of depression, anxiety, and other heavy mental health issues. The sheer energy of their music can sometimes distract from those poignant themes, but here Joseph calls for the listener to dive deeper into the lyricism of their work. The reggae influence is also notable and an interesting direction for the band.
“Semi-Automatic” has a wonderful push and pull dynamic as Joseph describes his personal failings and triumphs that are beyond his control. It’s a song about self discovery and awareness, but the funky electronic feel makes it danceable and easy to keep on your playlist.
1. Addict With a Pen
This is one of the ultimate fan favorite tracks, and it’s because it is so profoundly emotional. Joseph begins by writing to God, asking him to absolve his sins despite losing his connection to his faith. There’s a quiet desperation in this track that feels so relatable and yet so tragic. It’s one of those songs that evades casual listening with its ability to tear you open and strip back the walls we put up. The band still proudly performs this song, and it’s because it has become so dear to their fans.