Wishing we could turn back time
That “Cheerleader” song has been streamed over half a billion times, Taylor Swift is dominating the billboard Hot 100, 13 year olds are whip and nae nae-ing and somehow Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” didn’t get the Grammy nod for album of the year.
My bad blood (see what I did there) comes from my opinion that music (pronounced: popular music) has lost its soul. What was once an art and form of raw expression has now been commoditised and authenticity has taken a back seat to profitability. The art (pronounced: business practice) of creating music which only serves the purpose of being catchy in order to translate to popularity which in turn translates to profitability has been perfected. I’ve even caught myself muttering shake it off, shake it off at some stages. One can’t blame the man though as there would be no supply without demand. Ultimately, it’s the masses who decide what the billboard hot 100 looks like and if you ask me the masses have terrible taste; mostly.
But once in a blue moon, authentic artists break through all the noise to create music which touches the ugly truth of a subject to lead us through the experience and into a new possibility using only art. What’s even greater is where such artists are able to manoeuver the murky waters of the pop machine and remain true to the art – authentic in expression.
One such group is Twenty One Pilots, consisting of Joshua Dun and Tyler Joseph. The duo reminds me of Linkin Park in their ability to seamlessly merge the opposing genres of rock and rap, but I only compare the two for all intents and purposes as the music they make is quite different.
You may have heard of Twenty One Pilots thanks to the break out success of their latest concept album, Blurryface. However, the band is not new to music with Blurryface (released May 2015) being their fourth studio album. Although some would argue that their latest album is different from their first album, what excites me is that their evolution into chart toppers has taken place gradually and organically with the reasons for which they create music not changing at all: To make people think and encourage to find joy in whatever they believe in.
The third single off Blurryface, “Stressed Out” was the Twenty One Pilots tipping point. The song peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is currently at number 7 having spent 28 weeks on the chart. Although the track has pop sensibilities you’d be hard pressed to find anything on the Hot 100 that had a similar sound, lyrical content or theme.
I wish I found some better sounds no one’s ever heard,
I wish I had a better voice that sang some better words,
I wish I found some chords in an order that is new,
I wish I didn’t have to rhyme every time I sang,
The first verse immediately reveals themes of insecurities in a frank manner. There is no escapist fantasy, extravagant emotion or the downtrodden despair; which usually feature majorly in pop music. Throughout the album, Blurryface is a character, and that character is a compilation of our negative attributes and everything we are insecure about. Tyler confronts this character throughout the album in an effort to understand and defeat him.
Check out the music video below and be sure to download “Stressed Out” on iTunes. Tweet them letting them know that they need to come to South Africa.