Twenty One Pilots are the band of the moment, connecting with a huge portion of the general public like no other in 2017.
They are best known for their ubiquitous hits “Ride,” “Heathens,” and especially “Stressed Out".
Twenty One Pilots were one of the biggest phenomena in music in 2016. Even as recently as five years ago, Joseph and Dun were a regional Midwestern niche act with a cult following among the young readers of Alternative Press, the emo/pop-punk bible. Now the band is everywhere: dominating concert tickets, album sales, multiple magazine covers, crazy shows and television performances and online viewing figures globally.
Their fourth album, 2015’s Blurryface, debuted at no. 1 on Billboard’s album chart and lurks in the top 20 to this day. This past summer, joining a cohort that includes Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and nobody else in the rock category, they snuck two songs — “Ride” and the dreamy Suicide Squad–soundtrack jam “Heathens” — into the Hot 100’s top five simultaneously.
Many listeners would object to Twenty One Pilots being called rock at all, given that Twenty One Pilots use no electric guitars (there is the occasional ukulele). But you encounter a song like Blurryface highlight “Tear in My Heart,” with its stabbing piano chords and trance keyboards and loopy finger-snapping breakdown, and you recognize the grandeur, the outlandishness, the stadium-packing aggression immediately. This is rock ’n’ roll very much against its will, and maybe against your will, too.
Forward-thinking mainstream music has always been the sound of disparate styles colliding, and in this era of hyper-accelerated culture, that synthesis is happening faster than ever. One of the most commonly cited symptoms of the MP3 era is that genre doesn’t matter anymore.
Adore them or despise them but no band represents that convergence of sounds more colorfully or consistently than TOP. While drummer Josh Dun steers the songs all over the stylistic map, Tyler Joseph toggles between rapid-fire nasal rapping and full-throated singing, spiraling and preening across stages when he’s not pounding his piano or strumming a ukulele.
The Ohio duo breathed new life into rock by revolutionizing it — combining elements of rap, electro-pop, pop-punk and reggae to make something truly unusual and new. It’s rare to enjoy commercial success alongside deep artistic freedom, but Twenty One Pilots have managed to carve a space in pop music that’s uniquely their own, and the fans are listening.
"Looking back to when Tyler and I first met and started talking about what we wanted to accomplish, I feel like we're at a place now where we've surpassed even those dreams and visions” admits Dun.
"It's really cool… because there wasn't a second option or a Plan B."