If you haven't heard of Twenty One Pilots, an alternative band composed of only two members (vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Joshua Dun), you've probably been living under a rock. Their hits like Stressed Out, Ride, and Heavydirtysoul have been climbing the charts, and they even appear on the Suicide Squad soundtrack with Heathens. And though you may be tempted to switch the radio station when the lyric "Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit" floods the soundwaves, here's why Twenty One Pilots' music isn't hardly as depressing as it may seem to the naked eye-- or rather, ear.
When Twenty One Pilots made their self-titled album in 2009, they weren't anywhere near as well-known as they are currently. The most well-known songs on that album may include Oh Ms. Believer, which is a song about a character with a twisted mind, a mentality colder than ice, and from what I can tell, terrible anxiety. Tyler Joseph is trying to help her, as they travel through the snow together. This may seem like an impossibly depressing theme to have in the (arguably) most popular song from that album, but hear me out; this is a fairly slow song, with calming undertones, long notes, and piano in the background. Now, let's say the listener suffers from anxiety-- there are hardly any songs actively describing the illness, so the fact that this song is describing someone who suffers from it is special on its own. But now imagine the listener is suffering from an anxiety attack while listening to Oh Ms. Believer. The slow tune and calming lyrics may help the listener overcome the current attack. This can be applied to several of the songs on Twenty One Pilots' self-titled album, like March To The Sea, which describes feeling like dying with every step, with every breath, and feeling stuck. I don't know about you, but I've felt stuck too many times in my life. March To The Sea also contains a generally slow tune, heartbeat-like, and lyrics that someone with mental illness could relate to easily. Moving on to Vessel (2013), which opens with Ode To Sleep, an angsty song with an encouraging chorus. It tells the listener to stay awake, and not to let the dark take them as a prisoner. It evolves into a type of dance-able song, with a clear climax to it, as the ending trails off into an apology. In Migraine, Tyler Joseph describes feeling alone, and being attacked by his own wicked mind. Some of the lyrics even show suicide and depression being brought in as a theme, which although may seem "depressing" to somebody who does not suffer from mental illness, these lines are all too easy to relate to for somebody who does. Furthermore, in Car Radio, Tyler brings in the idea of feeling trapped in his own head. Someone with a mental illness like depression can relate to feeling like their thoughts are too loud to drown out. A lasting theme in these songs are an upbeat tempo, but sad or "depressing" lyrics. On their most recent and arguably most well-known album, titled Blurryface, Twenty One Pilots introduces a character that embodies the insecurities that almost everyone bottles up. In the song that gets played on the radio the most, Stressed Out, Tyler explains how much he wishes he had appreciated his childhood when he could have. This is the first song where Blurryface is directly referenced, and he is known to care about what everybody thinks, which is a classic trait of insecurity. In Doubt, the listener can relate to being afraid of so many things, as Tyler explains in the opening verse. The listener is told not to forget about Tyler, because even when he's in doubt, he's no good without them. In a society that primarily listens to songs about letting go and having fun, being in love, and having a good time, Twenty One Pilots targets those who cannot relate to those songs as their audience, and chooses to encourage them, rather than "trigger" them-- and they do a good job at it, too.