Before we begin I just want to make sure everyone is clear as I feel this could be the post that gets some hate. This is just me thinking out loud and have sat with 11 tabs open on chrome fact checking the hell of this bitch. Thank you.
The Glass Ceiling refers to this invisible, but very real feeling, wall or barrier that is seen to keep a group rising above the curtain or certain level of hierarchy. This is no different in music, in the 1950 to the early 60’s, Rock and Roll was something trying to be held down by the system that was in place and was then broken by The Beatles as Pop and Beatlemania lead the charge into the summer of love. David Bowie broke this two along with the likes of Nirvana and The Sex Pistols. But since Nirvana, all music genres have found a home somewhere on radio airplay, the idea of the mainstream does not seem as important. With nothing from the outside of current mainstream music charts this glass ceiling has been allowed to return and for 10 or 12 years it has been fixed in place until……..
“My Name’s Blurry face and I care what you think” April 29th 2015 these words ring out on audio for the first time via a YouTube music video and then something magical happened.
Now for the people who don’t know who we are talking about we’ll play a guessing game? Ready ok.
-They are from Columbus, Ohio
-The Fan base is referred to as “Skeleton Clique”
-The group are currently working on their 5th studio album
-The pair took their trousers off at the Grammy’s to pick up their award for Best Pop Duo
Any guesses? No?
We are talking about Twenty One Pilots and how two guys from middle America broke the glass ceiling to create one of the largest cult followings in recent music memory. Now for someone who likes to pride himself on being different and not being controlled by radio airplay to know what’s cool at the time, that can backfire in the cases of the duo from Ohio. The pair of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dunn have become mega stars since their fourth studio album BlurryFace. The group’s fans crashed the label (Fueled by Ramen) trying to pre-order the album and all that was available then was the album’s Title and track listings, This was on March 17th. The single, Fairly Local was dropped the same day and then over the next month 2 more singles were released to “radio airplay” These being Tear in my Heart April 14th and Stressed out April 28th and that last one is the important one. But first let’s clear some things up before we go on.
1. The dates we are talking about are radio releases. I know Heavydirtysoul was brought out on youtube before Tear in my Heart, but HDS didn’t make it to a radio release and as a single was brought out on December 9th. So this doesn’t count.
2. We are talking about mainstream radio play mainly looking at the British singles chart and the Billboard Hot 100, so alternative charts are nice but don’t help support this point.
So going back to Stressed Out, this was the spark to the all the matches. The songs simple beat, slow words and simple message won the hearts of not only the Clique, but the rest of the world and the duo went from the outer rings of the alt scene to mainstream mega stars, now some could and would argue that this would’ve happened sooner rather then later, that Twenty One Pilots were bubbling under the surface just waiting to score that big moment. They could be right but that’s not what the charts show. What the charts show is that the first single of the Blurry Face album, Fairly Local charted at 84 on the Billboard but not at all in the UK, Tear in my Heart almost the same, jumping to 82. Then here’s where the magic happened, Stressed out charted at number 2 for Billboard, 12th in the UK and had top 20 placing in over 29 countries from Argentina to Slovakia, Germany, Canada and Singapore. Stressed out broke the glass ceiling. They had never seen anything like this before. Vessel, their previous album, went Gold in the UK and Canada and Platinum in the US. With Blurry Face the album is 3x Platinum in the US, Gold in the UK. Stressed Out as a single is 5x Platinum and gold in the UK (the UK’s brackets 400,000 however also counts streaming, whereas other countries like the US, Germany and Spain don’t) However this still doesn’t affect the achievement that the pair have accomplished. From my first experience of listening to the Twenty One Pilots, small but solid collection I have become a fan. Compared to other artist at a similar level I feel have had a much stronger ad affective run in the mainstream. This is I would believe comes from their very loyal and dedicated fan base, a topic in which I could easily do a post on in the future. With the support of the Skeleton Clique the pair have had a strong preset and that has always been a hand. However there are critics, some who are calming that this mainstream success has come from watering down the product, with small parts of the Clique agreeing with this statement. A joke has formed from these claims, that Death by the Enemy, the rumored title for their follow up album, will not nearly be as RAW as Vessel, more a medium to well done as if the pairs music was something you could get of the menu at your local stake house. But the fear that it could be more watered down in further attempts to keep this mainstream audience, isn’t that hard to believe, Heathens being an example of things to come?
I personally don’t know what will happen next, only Tyler and Josh know that and personally I am not sure where I stand with the RAW-ness of the content, I have noticed the change from Vessel to Blurry Face and although being introduced to the group from BlurryFace, after being played Vessel have gravitated over the new material. I am looking forward to seeing what will happen next.
Cover artwork by @yanaisnotcreative