So describes the ebb and flow of the career of Columbus, Ohio based band Twenty One Pilots.
Two years after debuting the album that allowed their rise to stardom, the band has called an end to its touring cycle. It’s been a long time coming for “Blurryface,” a road paved with disappointing losses and unequivocal wins. All the while, the band (singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun) was working under more public scrutiny than ever. An examination of their past two years will allow you to decide for yourself whether they lived up to the challenge or shrunk under the pressure.
On May 11, 2015, Twenty One Pilots began the Blurryface Tour. Interesting, since the album would not be released for another six days.
In the weeks leading up to the album’s release, a strange and mysterious entity made it’s way through the internet. Twenty One Pilots fans (the self proclaimed Clique) the world over collaborated theories revolving around the character known only by one name: Blurryface.
Through Twitter and Periscope, Blurryface leaked information about the upcoming album, including lyrics and song titles. Eventually, Blurryface began tweaking the album release itself, boldly deciding to change the date.
Blurryface’s ‘prophecies’ came true, leading the Clique to the conclusion that Blurryface’s internet stint was powered by Tyler and Josh themselves.
Soon after the album’s release, Blurryface went dark on social media for a while, allowing Twenty One Pilots to drop the gimmicks and let their music shine.
And, boy, did it shine.
It happened in a heartbeat. So quickly that thinking back on it feels like a blur.
“What happened, Rae? What are you talking about?”
Faster than the first verse of “HeavyDirtySoul” (314 words per minute, if you were wondering), the song hit the airwaves and took over the radio as the world had formerly known it. On January 16, 2016, it hit number 9 on the Hot 100 chart, marking the band’s first Top 10 hit.
Since then, it has been on the charts for over 100 weeks consecutively.
The single’s popularity was followed by the rise of the entire “Blurryface” album. It hit number 1 on the Alternative Albums chart on June 6, 2016.
And we haven’t even discussed the award nominations.
APMAs, BBMAs, MTV Awards, VMA Awards, EMA Awards.
So. Many. Acronyms.
And then there was the big one. No acronym needed. Grammy Awards. Yes, in 2017, Twenty One Pilots were nominated for a whopping five Grammy’s. Although they only received one (Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for, in a surprising turn of events, “Stressed Out”), they did it in the best way possible:
Twenty One Pilots also headlined festivals like Hangout, Reading & Leeds, and Firefly, performed on Saturday Night Live, and played two sold out Madison Square Gardens shows for 2016-17’s Emotional Roadshow World Tour. After it ended, the band returned to their hometown of Columbus, Ohio for five sold out shows in venues including The Basement (capacity 300) in a short run called Tour de Columbus.
But, of course, like any other band, they have had their fair share of pitfalls.
Being a chart topping artist comes with a lot of scrutiny from the press. One of the most apparent moments of this came on January 12, 2017 when NME announced that Twenty One Pilots were nominated for Worst Band.
Well before that could happen, however, more trouble came for the band. A polarization was occurring in the once strong and all-inclusive Clique. Older fans became hostile at the new, “fake” fans who had come to the band’s corner after hearing one of their songs on the radio. This struggle hit an all time high before Tyler Joseph himself addressed it live on stage by changing the lyrics to “Stressed Out.”
“I wish I’d wrote a different song no one’s ever heard/I wish my mom would just admit she’s sick of every word/Overplayed, overstayed, it was a smash hit/Funny how overplayed songs sound like crap/I was told the “true” fans don’t like this song/But I hope they sing along.”
Apparently, this started the Clique’s journey to self repair.
Finally (and probably most significantly), Twenty One Pilots got into some real trouble when “Heathens,” their smash hit written for DC’s 2016 summer blockbuster “Suicide Squad,” was leaked on Reddit over a week before its intended release date.
The song, reportedly, had only been shared with a circle of people including the band members, their manager, and Fueled By Ramen (their record label and subdivision of Atlantic Records) and Atlantic (also technically their record label and distributors of the “Suicide Squad” soundtrack) executives. When Atlantic filed a lawsuit against the person who leaked the track, Reddit refused to share the IP address, indirectly asserting that if the song had been leaked, it would have been with the assistance of Twenty One Pilots themselves or one of the other few people given a copy of the track.
For the final days in July 2016 all through August, the hashtag ‘#thecliqueisgoingtojailparty rang though social media. On September 1, Atlantic dropped the lawsuit, claiming to have found evidence leading to the culprit.
A ‘culprit’ who was never announced.
Just throwing that out there.
Even amidst all the scandal, the “Blurryface” era proved to be a critical one for Twenty One Pilots. With it’s official end coming this morning with the release of the final “Sleepers” video (glorified tour diary), the Clique rests in heavy anticipation waiting for the next release.
May it come soon, and may it be glorious.