Twenty One Pilots have been dropping singles left and right from their album, Blrurryface. “Stressed Out” is a thought-provoking, calming tune that joins the previously released poppy, upbeat “Tear in My Heart” and dark, spooky-sounding “Fairly Local,” which have respectively peaked at No. 82 and No. 84 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
One of the things the Columbus, Ohio-based duo has mastered is an expansive sound accompanied with diversified lyrics that cover more than the average artist does. In “Stressed Out,” the lyrics are easily relatable to anyone new to the adult world (or even longtime residents) as it touches on the fears and reluctance towards growing up.
The video begins with vocalist Tyler Joseph rounding the corner onto a desolate street via a Big Wheel complete with red and white handlebar tassels. He pedals away while discussing his insecurities when it comes to his own music. In an interview with MTV News, Joseph says the character of Blurryface is represented through the black paint he has been wearing—and will continue to wear for videos and performances during the album’s cycle—on his hands and neck. Blurryface represents the insecurities that he and people of a whole have, and is specifically referring to being insecure about what he makes with his hands, so it makes sense that it would be further addressed through this song (“I wish I found some better sounds no one’s ever heard / I wish I had a better voice and 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 sing”).
Joseph arrives at drummer Josh Dun’s house while continuing on about his fears (“I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink / But now I’m insecure and care what people think.”) and then launching into the pre-chorus, which includes the first straightforward reference of the album’s name as a character:” My name is Blurryface/ And I care what you think / My name is Blurryface, / And I care what you think.”
Formerly sporting both red and blue for the Vessel era, the band has shifted to solely red. When asked why they chose to wear red armbands onstage, Joseph explains, “The more and more I got to know the character Blurryface, the more I realized that the color blue was not a part of who he was. And because of that, red represents him on this record.” This is prevalent when evaluating the usage of red throughout the video from the hat, backpack and socks Joseph wears to the walls of Dun’s living room and the shirt/pants combo both wear for one of the last scenes. It’s also very prevalent in the imagery of Joseph as he appears to channel Blurryface’s distorted voice and red eyes at the end of the video. The same usage of red and voice distortion is shown in “Fairly Local,” so it appears that this will be a one of the main themes for the upcoming album’s videos and audio editing approach.
The next few verses of the song and the rest of the video drive home the context of the track as being about the fears of adulthood and longing for simpler times (“Out of student loans, and tree house homes we would always take the latter”). The band portrays this in a perhaps unintentionally humorous way starting with a pause in the music for a secret handshake when the band members first get together all the way to both of them riding the aforementioned tasseled Big Wheels and then sucking on Capri Suns on the side of the road.
They also outwardly struggle with growing up by getting together for their “play date” and spending that time performing in Dun’s living room with his self-scribed drum kit sporting the band’s name with a question mark and a sponsorship by SJC Custom Drums. Here, Joseph belts the chorus: “Wish we could turn back time to the good old days / When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out / Stressed Out.”
The most impressive aspect of Twenty One Pilots, outside of their undeniable musical chemistry and way of creating awesome tracks, is Joseph’s uncanny ability to rap about random things and somehow make it work in the context of the song. Continuing with the theme of longing for childhood, he puts this into action when discussing a candle: “Sometimes a certain smell will take me back to when I was young / How come I am not even able to identify where it’s coming from / I’d make a candle out of it if I ever found it / Try to sell it / Never sell out of it / I’d probably only sell one / It would be to my brother because we have the same nose / Same clothes, home grown, these stones grow from a creek we used to roam.”
The duo also incorporates their immediate family in the video, which further lends to the nostalgic feel. Joseph and Dun lay on beds lined up back to back while Joseph references states of sleep (“We used to dream about the space, but now I’ve been laughing at the face / Saying ‘Wake up, you need to make money!’”). Their sisters, fathers, mothers and brothers lean over and shout the quoted line. Joseph runs through the chorus again as the camera cycles through their childhood homes, showing school pictures and various trophies before ending on the same desolate street it began on with Joseph walking away from Dun’s drumming. The camera then pans to Joseph in the same red beanie he had worn throughout the video but with the aforementioned red eyes and distorted voice to channel Blurryface.