Over the Years: Twenty One Pilots

- Music

by Karla Damian

Twenty One Pilots released two new singles, “Overcompensate” and “Next Semester,” which will be featured on their next full-length album, Clancy, set to come out on May 17. The two songs are different from each other, however, they still sound like “Twenty One Pilots.” But how did they begin? Let’s take a look at their music history.

Their debut album, which is self-titled, is known for its piano arrangements that carry the sound for this 2009 release. The lyrics introduce Tyler Joseph’s religious beliefs and personal battle with mental health. Joseph’s iconic talk-rap and screams are presented in this album as well. During this time, the band was a trio consisting of Joseph, Nick Thomas, and Chris Salih.

Their second album, Regional at Best, is a fan-favorite, but isn’t available on any streaming platforms. Current drummer Josh Dun joined Joseph during this 2011 era which is observed through the duo’s more pronounced focus on drumbeats. Some songs in this album feel more cheerful, but again, the lyrics are somber. The others are melancholy and complement the deep meaning behind the words. Other than piano and drums, the duo begins to play around with their sound by putting more focus on synth and interesting noise effects throughout the album.

Vessel released in 2011 and it solidified their sound which is a mixture of piano, drums, synth, sound effects, singing, talk-sing, talk-rap, rap, ad-libs, and screams. They’re also holding onto their application of meaningful prose which are found in songs like “Car Radio,” “Guns for Hands,” and “Truce.” A common feature throughout this album is switching up the beat while Joseph transitions from singing into rapping or vice vera. This album also brought out the ukelele Joseph is commonly associated with and it’s heavily used in “House of Gold.”

Blurryface launched the band into stardom four albums into the band’s history. “Stressed Out” has almost three billion views on YouTube, but don’t let that overshadow the other works on this album. Tracks like “Goner,” “Hometown,” and “Not Today” demonstrate the duo’s versatility within their own genre of alternative rock. This album shifts to a darker theme sound-wise, and introduces the character of “Blurryface” who, according to Joseph, “represents a certain level of insecurity.” Additionally, Joseph begins to use new instruments like bass guitar and the tambourine, which are heard in songs like “Heavydirtysoul” and “Ride.”

Their fifth studio album, Trench, carries the darker sound from their previous one. Joseph and Dun experiment with their sound further and it’s especially noticed in “Pet Cheetah.” The utilization of bass guitar transferred into this album too, and it’s placed in the forefront with the drums. On top of that, the production on each track is customized to each song with unique mixings of instruments, arrangements, and special effects. The duo also commences the clear world-building of “Dema,” which is evidently heard in “Nico and the Niners.” From the visual perspective, the music videos that follow the storyline are “Jumpsuit,” Nico and the Niners,” and “Levitate.”

Scaled and Icy came out in 2021 and explores a new optimistic approach with both the lyrics and composition. To match that, it’s more pop-sounding with a touch of 80s and indie inspiration, but still is that same Twenty One Pilots alternative-rock genre. There are a few exceptions to this, such as “No Chances” and “Redecorate,” which give off the band’s staple style of darker themes. Furthermore, Joseph debuts himself playing the electric guitar which is heard in “Never Take It.”

With Clancy coming out in about a month, anticipation is accelerating because the duo announced a tour along with “Overcompensate” and “Next Semester.” They both sound different from each other, but each contain those core Twenty One Pilots elements. The former seems to resemble Trench and the latter sounds influenced by early-2000s rock. These leave the new record’s sound up in the air, but the 13 tracks on it allow space for the duo to play around like they have in the past.

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