Ode to Twenty One Pilots

vocaltune.com

Yes, the obsession continues.

Someone recently sent me an interview with Twenty One Pilots lead singer, Tyler Joseph. He is so young, yet possesses a remarkable depth and authenticity. He is plagued by the anxieties and insecurities of our age, which makes him a powerful voice for the inhabitants of this age.

I was particularly interested when the interviewer asked him what the mission and purpose of Twenty One Pilots was; what explains the origin of their lyrics, their musical style? He struggled to answer, wading through the numbers game that dominates the music industry — profits, number of fans — and admitted these tempts him. But, he said, what really drives him is the idea that their music makes people think about life’s deepest and most universal questions. He said if their music lifted just one person up, making his or her life better and more full of joy, then that was the mission of Twenty One Pilots. “I don’t just want to entertain people,” he said, “I want them to think with me, to think about universally true things. I’m a seeker. I ask questions and hope they lead to joy.”

There’s no doubt the Christian worldview inhabits the lyrics, but Tyler is exceedingly careful not to speak with overtly religious language. He is very aware of the constraints of reaching a broad audience in a radically pluralistic world. His circumspect approach seems quite intentional. After listening to the interview, I wrote in my journal:

It’s like their music is composed and performed — “offered up” — on “the altar to an unknown God” St. Paul identified in the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17:23). It’s a natural space to plant faith in the midst of our increasingly pagan culture, without being preachy. It’s a place where faith can encounter, give voice to and respond to the great questions and anxieties of our day. Their (lay) genius, to me, is that they are out there in the midst of that culture, singing with abandon of and to an unknown, hidden and humble God.

I also wrote a poem in my journal after hearing the interview. It’s my summary take on what I see to be their artistic mission. If I could send them a message, which I have concluded I cannot, it would be this poem.

Prophets of Zeitgeist

Voice of angst, prophets of zeitgeist
in authenticity, integrity unsacrificed
inscribing, singing a silent Christ
by twining faith in life, deftly spliced.

Rappers of deepest dark reality
facing who we are, we long to be
discovered by Truth who sets free
we, a restless, twisted humanity.

Not thru preaching, but evoking;
not thru imposing, but provoking
us to think thoughtfully; soaking
greying despair in colorful cloaking

by words that cut, yes make us bleed
though then only to heal and feed
souls yearning for an immortal creed
that won’t break the most fragile reed.

Your call and mission seem clear:
daring us hope in a world of fear;
outing a hidden God, so silently near
who whispers, “I am with you, here
wiping, drying, shedding every tear.”

 

9 comments on “Ode to Twenty One Pilots

  1. Jennifer says:

    Have you heard Tyler rap the Gospel? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FHYI3kdK_g&t=03m22s
    Don’t give up on contacting them! Seriously! Oh, and I met a woman at one of my students’ Baptist church event the other day and it turns out this woman’s 14-year old daughter read one of your commentaries on 21p that YOU wrote and it inspired her and her friend to spend the rest of the day doing a Bible study on the song. I will keep trying to contact them for you if you don’t. NO QUITTING ON THIS!!

  2. trudymm says:

    As it stands, luv, luv, your creation
    It’s fa sho a marvelous sensation
    Thoughts captured in so cool a translation

    My initial reaction was to punt,
    But in regards to the poetic impulse, it’s hard to stunt
    To pass would have produced a moan and a grunt

    Whether it’s my own
    Or be it to another as an addition or tag on
    The rhyme is in every fiber of every single bone

    As graces are given for such
    The Holy Spirit provides just the right touch
    Resulting in an end product coming across kosher and clutch

    So decided to play
    In a whimsical one line way
    Although spiritual seriousness is more of my forte

    😎TJN
    Voice of angst, prophets of zeitgeist
    in authenticity, integrity unsacrificed
    inscribing, singing a silent Christ
    by twining faith in life, deftly spliced.

    ✌️tmm=Determined that the superfluous be excised

    😎TJN
    Rappers of deepest dark reality
    facing who we are, we long to be
    discovered by Truth who sets free
    we, a restless, twisted humanity.

    tmm=A spiel that’s precise, spouted out, coming across quite innocently

    😎TJN
    Not thru preaching, but evoking
    not thru imposing, but provoking
    us to think thoughtfully; soaking
    greying despair in colorful cloaking

    ✌️tmm=Acting like agents involved in cultural brokering

    😎TJN
    by words that cut, yes make us bleed
    though then only to heal and feed
    souls yearning for an immortal creed
    that won’t break the most fragile reed.

    ✌️tmm=Having great expectations,even if it’s from one planted seed

    😎TJN
    Your call and mission seem clear:
    daring us hope in a world of fear;
    outing a hidden God, so silently near
    who whispers, “I am with you, here
    wiping, drying, shedding every tear.”

    ✌️tmm=Your powerful words do reach our conscience and most certainly emphatically sear

    There will B times when we’ll get ourselves in a big mess
    Da remedy is 2 repent, waste no time in going 2 confess
    Jesus will not spurn a contrite and humble heart
    Where we leave off, now cleansed we get a fresh start
    \😇/
    |
    / \ http://gigapostolate.weebly.com/ tmm/PTL

  3. Sarah Ashour says:

    I’ve loved reading all of your twenty one pilots commentaries. Your reflections give me confirmation that I wasn’t just imposing theological interpretations on their songs; T0P’s lyrics are truly deeply spiritual!

    This post in particular reminded me of how “Hometown” spoke to me lately. The lyrics “where we’re from, we’re no one – our hometown’s in the dark” reminds me of Luke 4:24, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Twenty One Pilots are the prophets of the modern culture, telling the world to “put away the gods your fathers served” and to find the fire to reanimate the culture of death and a spiritless civilization. Their hometown is the whole world, in the dark of sin, which speaks a whole different message than the one of hope that Twenty One Pilots seeks to bring.

    I was also reminded by this song of Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37. I wonder how much of a coincidence it is that Tyler and Josh often perform in skeleton hoodies?

    • Sarah: Fabulous! Thanks for your fascinating read of Hometown and the Ezekiel skeleton image. From that video Jennifer included in the comments today it seems the skeleton image is directly connected in Tyler imagination to Christ’s dying and rising, bringing humanity, dead in sin, alive.
      I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts here and love your self-description as a “Theology-minded book hoarder with a nerdy side. Lover of Christ and His Church.”🙂 Peace!

  4. nunu says:

    i love 21 pilotes

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