I Fucking Love Twenty-One Pilots (Or: How Millennials Are Better at Music Than Your Generation)

Here we go, shots fired right off the bat. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no sophist when it comes to music. There’s a lot of music I love, greatly admire and fully appreciate. In 6th grade, I was the kid listening to Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Nick Drake — the whole nine yards of classic rock. Some of my favorite bands of all time run across the scope of history and genre. I’ll make a short, completely non-exhaustive list for you so you see where I’m coming from here: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Wes Montgomery, Billy Talent, The Doors, Wagner, Mozart, Bad Religion, The Offspring, J Cole, Eyedea, Guns ‘n Roses, Rush, The Beatles… I listen to everything from Elliott Smith to Nicki Minaj.

Millennials are hitting their 30s now, and I think it’s about time to point out some things we’re putting out there, aside from whining about student loan debt. So my friendly assertion to you is this: millennials are better at music than your generation. Boomers had The Beatles; Gen X had Nirvana; Millennials have Twenty One Pilots. Before getting into why Twenty One Pilots is more talented musically, more insightful lyrically, and better overall entertainers, let’s talk straight stats. Twenty One Pilots have had 6 top 100 hits on the Billboard charts, the most of any rock band in 47 years. Three of those hits were top 10 — ‘Stressed Out’, ‘Heathens’ and ‘Ride’. The last band to accomplish that was The Beatles — but The Beatles did it when rock was the biggest, edgiest genre around, Twenty One Pilots did it in an environment where the rock audience has been in freefall for years. Their first major label album release was only three years ago.

Now, for the good stuff. Twenty-One Pilots is the culmination of all popular American musical accomplishment leading up to to their formation in 2009. Their genre is hard to pin down. It has rock beats, but combines them with crisp instrumentality, synth, rap and dance, all put together with incredibly personal and thoughtful lyrics. The musicality of the two gifted musicians who make up Twenty-One Pilots is impressive. Tyler sings, raps, plays bass, piano, synth and ukulele, all at an expert level. Jimmy Page was a great guitarist, but I saw him in It Might Get Loud — he couldn’t keep up with Jack White guitar-wise, though admittedly he’s passed his prime, and White can sing in addition. Tyler dumps on all of them and he’s 27. Heresy you say? Let’s continue.

Twenty-One Pilots has mastered a melding of disparate genres that is the hallmark of what put Led Zeppelin on the map in the first place. Led Zeppelin combined blues riffs with lyrics about Lord of the Rings and boning and threw in some very 70s haircuts. Now, let me be clear, Led Zeppelin blows me away. But Twenty-One Pilots pulled off, in my opinion, a much more difficult synthesis, combining practically every popular musical style in America into something fresh and coherent. Not only that, their unique style has enormous range and variety, from the melancholic and sweet “House of Gold” to the intense electronic speed rap of “Heavy Dirty Soul”.

Let’s take this comparison a little further, into the live performance. The Song Remains the Same showcased Zeppelin at their best. Twenty-One Pilots’ live show nukes them into pudding. Zeppelin’s showstopper was Jimmy Page pulling out a violin bow and playing guitar with it. At the last Twenty-One Pilots show I saw, Josh, the drummer, tossed a piece of plywood onto the crowd and built a drumset on it, and crowdsurfed around the pit playing the drums, all while the singer, Tyler, ran around the stage doing standing backflips. Their energy is incredible, and their showmanship is creative and original. They repeatedly change costumes to coincide with the mood of every song. Their live show is the best live show I’ve ever seen and I once saw Angus Young climb the scaffolding and swing on a giant bell three stories in the air at an AC/DC show.

Now, the first time I encountered Twenty One Pilots, I was at a festival and I had no idea who they were. When they went on, everyone below 25 years old went absolutely insane. I’ve been to a lot of shows, but this was Beatles level, girls crying, mass hysteria. That was my introduction to this band. As I said when I introduced this article, I listen to a lot of music from a wide variety of genres and time periods. I don’t come to the conclusion I’m about to say lightly. Twenty-One Pilots is the best band of my generation, and the best band of my generation is better than the best band of your generation. You could bring up The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Rage Against the Machine, anything you want — I’ve listened to them and I’ve listened to our guys. They win.

Obviously there’s a little bit a playful mischievousness at play here, but, seriously, if you’re one of those older people who haven’t listened to new music in 30 years, if there’s one band you should listen to it’s these guys. You might not get it, you don’t have to. This ain’t your toe-tapping Lawrence Welk Show world anymore.

Their first major studio album was Vessels, followed up by the highly acclaimed Blurryface. Their third album is expected to release in 2018.

Just for fun, here’s you guys who don’t understand the young people. Note how they dissect Tyler’s lyrics like Pablo Neruda poetry. Because it is poetry, unlike your generation’s best band. P.S. spoiler alert, they fucking love it, too.

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