Twenty One Pilots
Blurryface


3.5
great

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
May 20th, 2015 | 1040 replies


Release Date: 05/17/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: My name is Blurryface and I care what you think

Twenty One Pilots have been around longer than most people realize. They dropped their self-titled debut in 2009, and since then they’ve gradually ascended in popularity. It wasn’t until 2012’s Vessel that they really got on most people’s radar, and a lot of that had to do with them signing to Fueled By Ramen, which marked their first experience on a major label. No matter who you are, when you start touring with acts such as Neon Trees and Walk The Moon, your name is going to get out there quickly. Thus, it stands to reason that Blurryface is their most anticipated album to date. ‘Fairly Local’ and ‘Tear In My Heart’ led the charge, and did a reasonably good job of rounding up momentum for the band’s fourth LP. After months of snowballing expectations, the threat of Blurryface failing to deliver loomed not only as a possible outcome, but also as a likely one. After all, mainstream music – even at its most forgiving – is a fickle creature. However, Twenty One Pilots managed to take something that quite honestly should have failed and turned it into a resounding success.

So what’s their secret" The obvious assumption is that the album must be very consistent; that it is devoid of filler or perhaps even a home run from start to finish. However, none of that really qualifies as being the case. The true strength of this record lies in the creativity that spawned it. Blurryface is more than just an album title – it’s a character within a story who represents Tyler Joseph’s doubts and insecurities. This becomes apparent on ‘Stressed Out’, in which Joseph expresses concern over everything from his music (“I wish I found some chords in an order that is new / I wish I didn’t have to rhyme every time I sang”) to growing older (“I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink / But now I’m insecure and I care what people think”). He then ties all the loose ends together by introducing his alter ego: “My name is Blurryface and I care what you think.” Understanding Blurryface’s psyche goes a long way in grasping the record musically, because quite frankly it’s all over the map. The album jumps between hip-hop, rock, pop, and even reggae as if genre boundaries don’t exist. Tyler Joseph alternates between rapping, singing, and screaming like they’re all the same, and he even alludes to the idea on the curtain-opening ‘Heavydirtysoul’ when he states “this is not rap, this is not hip-hop / just another attempt to make the voices stop.” Despite the music’s schizophrenic nature, it’s all true to the Blurryface persona – and in that sense, it’s artistic. This album transcends the realm of music to become a cathartic vessel for Tyler Jospeh – and on a larger scale, anyone who immerses themselves in the experience. After all, everyone has a Blurryface alter ego.

Outside of its musical and thematic creativity, Blurryface is also chockfull with lyrics that are actually crucial to the album’s vitality. When you have a work that relies on emotional proximity, what is written on paper is equally as important as the notes being played. That’s where Twenty One Pilots absolutely hit the nail on the head; everything here is expressed perfectly for the given situation. The lyrics aren’t Shakespearian poetry but they don’t have to be in order to get the point across. Take the closing track ‘Goner’ for instance, in which Joseph starts out singing in a hushed, dejected voice, “I’m a goner…somebody catch my breath” only to erupt in screaming triumph “I’ve got two faces…Blurry’s the one I’m not / I need your help to take him out / Don’t let me be gone!” All the themes that were already divulged in previous tracks serve to work in his favor, taking a depressing lyrical passage and showing listeners the light utilizing a character he invented. It’s brilliant, and it’s one of the main reasons why ‘Goner’ is the indisputable highlight of Blurryface. The album has other moments like these, and they’re the primary reason it’s worth exploring for fans of any genre who enjoy a well executed, musically embedded plot line.

If we’re going to take a step back from all the in-depth analysis and refocus solely on the music, Blurryface is admittedly far more ordinary. Yes, they blend hip-hop, rock, and an array of subsidiary genres in a way that doesn’t grate your ears. But honestly, it’s been done before and the concept is decades old. It’s refreshing to have a mini rap-rock revival on our hands in the vein of early 2000s Linkin Park or Chronic Future, but when all is said and done that’s about as much credit as they deserve. They’re definitely crossing barriers, but that’s not as amazing of a feat when those walls have already been broken down by the musical pioneers of yesteryear. That doesn’t mean there aren’t ridiculously catchy choruses (‘Tear In My Heart’ will be a stadium-packer) or compelling beats (‘Fairly Local’ and ‘Stressed Out’ both implore movement), but their experimental appeal is quite limited compared to the “genre busting” label that will almost certainly be slapped upon them from every corner of the music critiquing globe.

Another problem facing Blurryface is the uneven quality present across the tracklisting. This isn’t one of those albums that you are going to listen to without skipping a single song. Once the novelty wears off, you’ll find yourself returning to the cornerstone tracks while giving the remainder of the album a casual nod as you pass on by. The first half actually holds up quite well, but it’s difficult to justify the fourteen track length when you consider that many of the songs towards the back break up the natural flow. Moderately interesting but ultimately forgettable inclusions such as ‘Polarize', ‘Message Man’, and ‘Hometown’ will eventually turn into nothing more than lull inducers, and on an album that relies so strongly on emotional engagement, that’s a devastating blow. Luckily, it happens late in the album and is quickly picked up by the top-tier ‘Goner’ – which leaves an incredible and long lasting impression. However, it goes without saying that Blurryface has a noticeable amount of fat that - had it been trimmed - would have elevated the album to another level.

Once everything is taken into consideration, it’s safe to say that Twenty One Pilots have officially crafted their breakthrough record. Although they may not have invented the concept of fusing rock and hip-hop, it’s a refreshing change of pace for a mainstream environment that isn’t accustomed to such eclecticism. Plus, they wisely inject that formula with intermittent doses of other far less common genres (see: reggae) to keep things looking to the future and not back to the dreaded nu-metal days. Over all else though, Blurryface thrives on the intangibles. Despite being an emotional wreck, Tyler Joseph is precise in detailing feelings of insecurity that others would never even venture to describe. The emotional component is so large that it separates listeners into two camps: those who can relate to what he’s saying and can gain something from it, and those who will dismiss the whole thing as a pedestrian exercise in rap-rock. That makes Blurryface one of the more intriguing albums of the year, because emotion isn't really a quantifiable trait. In this case, it's best to simply listen and find out which side of the fence you're on.



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user ratings (747)
Chart.
3
good
other reviews of this album
humblerodent (4.5)
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tyman128 (3.5)
"Don't let me be gone"...



Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
May 20th 2015


28394 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Kind of frustrating that a band with this much exposure doesn't have a single decent soundcloud/bandcamp track to embed. Oh well. Here's what I recommend:



"Tear In My Heart":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nky4me4NP70



"Stressed Out":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXRviuL6vMY



Couldn't find anything for the album version of Goner either, which is the best track =(



Digging: John Nolan - Abendigo

Mort.
Contributing Reviewer
May 20th 2015


14075 Comments


Great review man, good read

This doesnt sound like my thing at all tho

Digging: Skycamefalling - 10.21

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 20th 2015


28394 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thanks mort, always appreciate the positive feedback! I can imagine this not being a lot of people's thing, the whole rap/rock fusion thing seems to be a very polarizing style.

TheGreatQ
May 20th 2015


2737 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Excellent review, Sowing! I was really hyped when I saw you were going to review this.

AndrewSchmidl
May 20th 2015


17 Comments


Great review! I agree with the point you made about filler in the album. It's upsetting that an album with a storyline has this much filler.

hogan900
May 20th 2015


2865 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Great review as always sowing!

Can't really get into this, not a big fan of the lyrics.

Pangea
May 20th 2015


2713 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review as expected. I'm more excited to listen now although i doubt this will be as good as their debut

toasterlights
May 20th 2015


22 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review. Dang people keep calling it filler but I enjoy all the songs. I think a little more musical variety would help the second half keep up better. Polarize and Goner are my favs

mazalthan
May 20th 2015


87 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Really, really enjoyed you reviewing this Sowing. All of your points regarding filler, and album length align with my thoughts exactly. Overall quite the enjoyable listen, especially "Goner" which is pretty outstanding. Also, if you are into "Goner," you should definitely take a gander at Tyler's self-released/recorded EP pre-21pilots as it is amazing: http://soundcloud.com/the-techno-nut1/save-new-version-tyler-joseph

Dylan620
May 20th 2015


4262 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"This album transcends the realm of music to become a cathartic vessel for Tyler Jospeh" (emphasis mine)



I see what you did there.



Excellent review Sowing. One of my best friends was hotly anticipating this record; I should ask her how it holds up to Vessel, since I love that album.



P.S.: Slight typo at the end of my quote...

Digging: Sparklehorse - It's a Wonderful Life

humblerodent
May 20th 2015


251 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review Sowing

Feather
May 20th 2015


4881 Comments


Great review as always. I disagree with goner being the best track, but I completely agree with the forgettable tracks you mentioned. dirtyheavysoul, the judge, lane boy, stressed out, not today and we dont believe are definitely my favorites.

TheSpaceMan
May 20th 2015


11574 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

great review for a band I cannot stand

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 20th 2015


28394 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Wow, thanks for all the wonderful feedback everyone! Being completely honest, I had a tough time reviewing this and didn't feel like it exemplified my best work...but I'm glad most of you disagree.



This album is definitely unique which I think contributes to the difficulty in reviewing it. So much of it is based on lyrics and intangible emotions. You can just tell that this album means the world to Tyler Joseph, and that feeling of importance permeates the entire experience. It took me a few listens to warm up to it but now I think it's great.

psandy
May 20th 2015


280 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

My name is psandy and my initial impression of this band has prevented me from ever taking these guys seriously. I've even seen them in concert, I just can't do it. I'll probably end up giving this a try, but Car Radio, man. Euughh

psandy
May 20th 2015


280 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Love the review as always though.

Shiranui
May 20th 2015


550 Comments


"[..]those who will dismiss the whole thing as a pedestrian exercise in rap-rock."

Why are the Madden twins singing autotune in an American Idiot memorial suit?

theNateman
May 20th 2015


3512 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Shiranui Wat



oh and awesome review Sowing, just made my crusade to make my review for this stand out from the crowd that much more difficult

Digging: The Smashing Pumpkins - Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1

Feather
May 20th 2015


4881 Comments


psandy: Car Radio happens to be many fans favorite song (Its definitely one of my favorites)

Gameofmetal
Staff Reviewer
May 20th 2015


10406 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Car Radio is the only one of their old songs (I have listened to two of the singles for this mind you) that I've heard and I think it's pretty tight. Might check this out at some point but it isn't real high on my list atm.



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