I’m not sure if I’ve discussed Twenty One Pilots and their inexplicable rise to fame in 2016 in enough detail, honestly. I mean, seriously, who’d have thought that a weird hip-hop group from Columbus would’ve been so successful in 2016? And I don’t just mean successful with critics or anything – in the mainstream? They’ve notched three titanic singles since January of this year and don’t show any signs of slowing down; “Stressed Out,” “Ride,” and “Heathens” have all landed in the top ten, and they continue to pump out material. They appear to be the Next Big Thing, which means that I have no choice to come to terms with them and their music. And since I had a Blurryface review cooking and it ended up getting scrapped, I figure I should talk TOP here and now.
Aaaaaaand here’s the skinny: they’re mostly pretentious, arrogant, know-nothing cornballs with a derivative sound and style, only good at writing pop hooks and fucking up perfectly fine songs with terrible lyrics and vocal melodies. Blurryface was mostly an unmitigated disaster; a few good choruses here and there, but mostly cluttered with annoying lyrical tidbits (“YOLO zombies” is my favorite – have we beaten that dead horse enough yet?) and some questionable singing (“RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYDE!”) What it mainly displayed to me, though, was that they’re the most derivative band since Interpol: jacking the styles of better, more interesting bands, and morphing it into a saccharine, overly-simplified version of the real deal. Which’d be OK if they did something interesting and thought-provoking with these ideas (they don’t.) But frankly they’ve endured an unreasonable deal of hate from both sides: from the idiot drooling “fans” whining about them selling out, and the contemptible, dipshit hipsters on the other moaning about credibility and realness. I might dislike them, but they’re not the Antichrist, c’mon people.
As for “Heathens” in particular, you’ve got your standard terrible vocal pitching to make it “creepier;” voice manipulation in the “Everything In Its Right Place” style, except not cool or interesting at all; overwritten lyrics that’d impress a little kid who just watched Suicide Squad and think TOP are the coolest band EVAR; some guy going “WATCH IT” for no reason (but I don’t wanna see Suicide Squad, it’s getting terrible reviews!); even a nice little 20-second climax that’s about as hard-hitting as a loaf of bread smacking a bag of marshmallows on a water bed. I swear, this band confuse me the more I listen to them. They’re clearly taking lots of ideas from lots of good artists, but nothing ever, ever comes of it. It’s a shame; I’ve always like “Stressed Out” (though it’s grown off me) and I’d had high expectations for Blurryface going in. Maybe they weren’t even worth caring about in the first place. (Oh, and “Cancer” sucks too, but you already knew that ’cause the original one sucked too! Ahhhhhh, making fun of MCR. My favorite pastime.) Keep up the mediocre work, fellas.