I have never loved a musical group as much as I love twenty one pilots.
They are a bit of an acquired taste. When my boyfriend first introduced me to them, it sounded like a punk boy screamo-whining about his sad life. Whenever one of their songs shuffled on in the car, I tried to skip it before my boyfriend heard the first chords. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I couldn’t stand the music.
Of course, something changed. As I was trying to fall asleep the night before flying home after my first semester of college, I got one of their songs stuck in my head.
You are surrounding all my surroundings
Those six words repeating over and over. I felt like I was floating, suspended in a dream.
I woke up the next morning and listened to the song—“Holding On To You.” Then the next one on the album. Then the next.
From that day forward, I have been an adamant twenty one pilots fan. Their style is not one I would have ever chosen to listen to obsessively; their lyrics are what got me. They give words to what goes on deep inside my head.
And I have grown to absolutely love their sound. I guess you can’t separate the music from the lyrics. That screamo-whiny thing I talked about? Yeah, they do it every once in a while. But…it fits. They deal with some hard topics that make you want to scream. So they do. By giving voice to some of the darker feelings I would rather run away from, twenty one pilots carefully reminds me that I’m not the only one experiencing them and that I can turn those feelings into something meaningful (see “Kitchen Sink”).
Their new album, Blurryface, is coming out May 19 (that’s right, in one week!). I have been watching their social media accounts for single releases and music videos. The weeks leading up to the release have been exciting. But there is also some trepidation.
My boyfriend voiced the concern first: “What if I don’t like the album?” I fought with that. I have loved their work so intensely up to this point that the possibility of being disappointed by this new album is one I don’t even want to acknowledge. I want to write Tyler and Josh a letter asking them to please not do anything I wouldn’t approve of. Just make me happy. Just stay the same, thanks.
Then I read through a series of tweets from Nayyirah Waheed, including these: These words changed my perspective on the purpose of art, specifically in relation to twenty one pilots’ upcoming album. Their art isn’t for me; first and foremost it is an expression of and for Tyler and Josh. Although they purposefully put the focus back on the fans, recognizing the value of their support, this is not something Josh and Tyler need to do. As fans, there are limits of what we can ask and expect from artists; there are boundaries around the work and personal lives of artists, and we need to respect those boundaries.
I am learning to acknowledge the autonomy of artists, giving them space to create. Instead of expecting them to make this album to meet my expectations, I am receiving each song as a gift and simply appreciating the artistic choices they have made in its production. There is so much beneath the surface of twenty one pilots’ songs: story and intense intentionality. Their songs are worth investing in. They are a band worth believing in.
What are your thoughts on the relationship between artists and their fans?