CONTRIBUTION: Kris Kielich Talks Twenty One Pilots

Hi everyone! My pal Kris and I have decided to do a collab of sorts over one of our favourite musical acts, Twenty One Pilots. We both agreed on writing a piece about how Twenty One Pilots' popularity has blown up over the last couple of years and we both shared our experiences with the band. Hopefully we can do more of them in the future! His piece is below, and mine will be on his website. Enjoy! 


When I went to go see Twenty One Pilots for the first time, I had to walk four blocks and, what felt like, 15 minutes to get to the end of the line. I had never in my life seen as long a line for a concert as this one, nor had I seen such devotion from a fan base. Sure I’d been to plenty of shows with rowdy and passionate fans. Really, it would be strange not to see an outpouring from fans at any given show, but this was something different. What I witnessed walking those four blocks was a group of people that had been so utterly connected and emotionally affected by something on such a deep level, that they seemed to share something more than a love for the band. And by the way, 85 per cent of the people at this show were my age or younger. To me, these ingredients posed an interesting question: What is it about Twenty One Pilots that captures the hearts of millennials so firmly? 

Well to start, here’s my disclaimer: there are probably many articles discussing this exact phenomenon and many are probably better researched than mine. I’m writing this from a gut perspective, based on how I view and hear their music and lyrics and how I think it ties to youth culture and society as a whole in this day and age. It’s a personal piece, but one based on observation and, you know, existing as a millennial in the world. So bear with me here. 

When I first heard Twenty One Pilots, I was surprised at how interesting their sound was. It was this sort of rap-reggae pop thing that I really had never heard before. I wasn’t particularly wowed by it, but I do remember seeing a Facebook post from Hayley Williams (who can do no wrong in my eyes) saying to keep an eye out for the band because they were going to be big. I thought they might get big in the sense that Fueled by Ramen is a pretty successful label at taking smaller bands and making them big, but the biggest band to ever have been a part of FBR was Fall Out Boy, and they’ve had some big hits and a huge fan base, but not quite as big as the monsters of top 40 radio. Even when Fall Out Boy put out poppier albums, they only seemed to reach a certain status among fans and on the radio. 

When Twenty One Pilots released Blurryface, somehow, they took their weird amalgam of genres and made it not only cool, but pushed hit after hit on the charts. They changed seemingly overnight from “mildly successful act” to “national phenomenon.” I turned on the radio, and “Tear in My Heart” and “Stressed Out” played over and over again. From following the music scene, I saw the band start to play larger and larger venues and take major spots on festivals. And as I looked around, my generation seemed to be in a frenzy. Even more than that, kids younger than myself seemed absolutely taken by these two guys from Ohio. 

So what is it then, I asked myself? Is it the high energy shows? Well, any show that people want to see is going to be a cathartic experience, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. Perhaps (at least mostly for the female fan base) it’s the heartthrob-ish and self-effacing nature of both of the gentlemen in the group, with vocalist Tyler Joseph coming across as shy and very much like an everyman, but possessing a charm and honesty that’s uncommon. And drummer Josh Dun being the hair dyed rebel, a muscular guy with impressive chops and a wistful nature. Perhaps this too, helped their cause. But of course this is only surface level and a shallow look at things.  

I truly believe that millennials and people in their early 20’s now are one of the first generation to take all the pressures and anxieties that constantly surround them and push them inward. They look deeply inside themselves and realize that the world is much different than it was when their parents grew up. We’re bombarded by bad news seemingly every day and constantly feel pressure on a social level to look and act in certain ways expected of us. I think that goes double for younger kids as well. In some ways they’re not old enough to properly handle the feelings and stresses that assail them daily. And I think this is what truly cuts to the core of Twenty One Pilots and their fan base 

I think the resonance is so strong for this band now because the band’s image and lyrics deal with longing for nostalgia, dealing with mental stress, and nonconformity. To millennials, these subjects are escapes; ways out of the lives they feel are being pressed upon them either intrinsically or externally. It's music about acknowledging that life is painful and can hurt as bad as you let it hurt. But it’s also about pushing through, and Joseph and Dun say “We’re with you. This happens to us too. We think we’re weird and we’re anxious all the time too, but we’re with you.” The same goes for them musically. They prove that weird can be popular too. Look at the way they took a reggae-pop/ukulele/hip-hop style and brought it to the top 40. It’s the weird kids with anxiety becoming the most popular in the school, and who doesn’t love supporting the underdog?  

Twenty One Pilots is all about owning who you are in all your faults. “The few, the proud, and the emotional,” is the resounding chorus from their song “Fairly Local". I think the few have started to realize it’s truly better to accept and be proud of your emotions and feelings, not fight them. And soon, the few became the many. The band is all about creating a better personal world, inside and out. To me, when I looked at the thousands who turned out in Buffalo for their show, I saw a group of kids and adults who weren’t afraid to express themselves and delve into their pain, and yet came out proud and strong on the other side. Too often we mask how we truly feel, but rather than hide away your anxieties, Twenty One Pilots invites you to create, express, and motivate yourself to be your best self. Remember the good times, and you will make it through the bad. That’s a phenomenon I can get behind. I’m still not a huge fan of the band, but I can appreciate their message, and it’s the way they made people feel that will linger long after the band is gone.


You can check out Kris' website over at www.merrymuzak.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter over at @riskwithaK.

Wanna collab? Send me an email over at jmaxwell36@Hotmail.com and let's get writing! 

Favourite Records of 2015!

Hello everyone and I hope you had a happy whatever it is you celebrate!

As we come to the end of 2015, I felt like being one of the many bloggers who does a round up of some of the best this year. Today I'm sharing some of my favourite albums that were released in 2015. It's really hard to narrow down a favourite given that so many great artists released something new, or were introduced to the music scene. With that in mind, this list is in order of release date (because I just couldn't choose). Enjoy!

Jazmine Sullivan-Reality Show


This album really surprised me and kind of almost came out of nowhere for me.  This album was completely out of the norm to what I usually listen to, which is why I think I loved it so much. This soulful R&B record talks about love, relationships and hard times on the street. Sullivan has a beautiful singing voice while still incorporating elements of rap into it which makes it stand out that much more.

Fall Out Boy-American Beauty/American Psycho

It's without a doubt that I'd be including Fall Out Boy's latest effort into my list. American Beauty/American Psycho was a slightly different record given that there was more experimentation with sound, primarily with guitar distortions and heavier drum beats. Given that there was a lot of pressure for a follow up to Save Rock & Roll, I'd say the band did so gracefully in such a short amount of time.

Sleater-Kinney-No Cities to Love


I was so excited to hear of the announcement of Sleater-Kinney coming off hiatus in 2014, and they came back forcefully with the album to follow, No Cities to Love. This record is a new and fresh sound to the usual Sleater-Kinney, but is reminiscent about their earlier material. It's clear that the hiatus was good for them to regroup and recreate a once lost sound.

Marina & the Diamonds-Froot


I was so excited about the announcement of Marina & the Diamonds' new album. Her previous effort, Electra Heart was a smash hit around the world and her inventive sound and clever lyricism was something that made her stand out among other pop acts. Froot is a dynamic and mature record, reflecting on growth from past relationships and how to move on. She keeps her same fun dance songs but also brings about some seriousness to other tracks. This consistency makes for a beautiful and mature record.

All Time Low-Future Hearts


After continuous touring and constant support for their last effort, pop-punkers All Time Low released their fifth studio album Future Hearts this year. This record features a very staple pop-punk sound that the band often uses creating a lot of familiarity. However, the band extended help from Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte as guest vocalists to spice up the record.

Alabama Shakes-Sound & Color


Alabama Shakes released their sophomore album, Sound & Color this year to rave reviews. Initially under my radar, I heard the song I Don't Wanna Fight and it blew me away. Brittany Howard's wailing at the beginning of the song left chills all over me, and the rest of the record managed to do just that. The band has done incredibly well throughout the year, even earning themselves four Grammy nominations! All for a very well deserved record.

Mumford & Sons-Wilder Mind


Wilder Mind is the third studio album from folk rockers Mumford and Sons. This record was a step in a different direction for the band. And while they still maintain the same alternative sound, there's a lot less banjo on this record almost making it remind a lot of fans (as well as myself) of a folk Coldplay album. That said, this record still carries the same rock sound that Mumford & Sons has always had. The album opens with the song Tompkins Square Park with a haunting guitar riff, almost reminiscent to Thistle and Weeds from their first studio album, Sigh No More. Ultimately, this record seemed to have been a challenging effort for the band in a way that helped them step outside of their comfort zone, but still making for an excellent record of 2015.

Best Coast-California Nights


This was another record that came out of nowhere for me. I was familiar with Best Coast after having seeing them open up for Green Day in 2013 on the Uno, Dos, Tre tour. I vaguely remember their set and nothing had particularly stuck out to me. However, if I could turn back time now, I would. Best Coast has easily one of the coolest and most casual pop-rock sound I've heard in a long time, and California Nights embodies that. This was easily a record I could (and still can!) listen to from start to finish without skipping a track. Its laid back sound and easy going lyrics make for a great every day album to listen to and has become one of my favourite records.

Twenty One Pilots-Blurryface

This year Twenty One Pilots became the band that everyone loved that no one knew about. The internet ultimately helped to blow up this band with thanks to Twitter and Tumblr. Their major label release, Vessel, gained enough attention for a highly anticipated follow up which would be Blurryface. Already dealing with darker content, Blurryface explores that further with this record. Heavier drums and heavier synths, Blurryface has taken a new turn for the band while still keeping their intense content. This album has increased Twenty One Pilots' popularity enough so that they're doing multiple sold out tours in North America and the UK.

Florence & The Machine-How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

I had always ben a huge fan of Florence & The Machine ever since I got Kiss With a Fist as a free iTunes download. Since then, she's been one of my favourite singers. Although I wasn't very pleased with her last release, she made up for it on How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. This record has a more rock sound to it, and an extension in her vocal range, and kind of goes back to Florence's original sound. Songs like Delilah and Third Eye are the perfect dreamy songs to dance around to, while songs like What Kind of Man carry a more intense sound with the cascading drum beats.

Nate Ruess-Grand Romantic

I was so excited about the announcement of Fun. frontman Nate Ruess doing a solo album, and it delivered. Grand Romantic is a beautiful telling of coming into your own through love and life orchestrated in the most beautiful way. While elements of Fun's music is still very obvious, Ruess managed to spin his ideas and sound into his own. 

Carly Rae Jepsen-E.MO.TION

Probably one of the biggest wild cards of the year, Carly Rae Jepsen's follow up to Kiss was easily one of my favourites this year. Although her catchy songs reign yet again (see I Really Like You), E MO TION covers a lot of, well, emotional issues that happen during a relationship. From falling in love head first, to messy boy problems. The production on the album is phenomenal, and I'll even go on to say it has a better production and better 80's inspired sound than Taylor Swift's 1989. YUP. I SAID IT!

Tame Impala-Currents

This was another record that jumped right at me. What drew me the most to this record was that every single song has a different groove to it that will either make you want to dance around all over the place or just sit back and close your eyes for a while. It's a concept that runs the whole record but it makes it that much more enjoyable.

Mac Demarco-Another One

Canadian mellow rocker Mac DeMarco became an overnight hit with his 2014 release, Salad Days. Although primarily focusing on touring for the remainder of the year and into 2015, he managed to sneak in the release of a mini EP called Another One. This record falls similar to Salad Days with its mellow sound and grooving guitars, almost making it a part two to Salad Days.

Halsey-Badlands


2015 was certainly the year for Halsey. After signing on to a major label, the singer released her debut album, began a sold out tour in support, and even opened for The Weeknd on select dates of his tour. Halsey peaked the interest of a lot of music fans with her cheeky lyrics and dark, brooding music. Badlands makes just that. With lyrics about desperate relationships, heart break, and sex, Halsey explores the darkest corners of life and love on Badlands and creates something stunning out of it. More upbeat and lighter songs like Roman Holiday and New Americana deliver almost a counter balance to the far more darker songs like Control and Strange Love which make her story telling that much more interesting.

The Weeknd-Beauty Behind the Madness

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After having an incredibly successful song used in the film adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey, The Weeknd soon became on everyone's radar. The Canadian R&B sensation released his second studio album titled Beauty Behind the Madness. The record is filled with soulful slowed down songs that keep a consistent rhythm like Often and The Hills, but also some more upbeat tracks like Can't Feel My Face. With its popularity, this record has gone on to define The Weeknd and his rise to fame, resulting in being on the cover of Rolling Stone and having a sold out North American tour.

City & Colour-If I Should Go Before You

City & Colour's fifth studio album was easily one of the most highly anticipated records of 2015. Dallas Green has outdone himself yet again with If I Should Go Before You. This time, however, he's stepped into a more rock territory as opposed to his typical soft acoustic. This is really evident in songs like Wasted Love and Mizzy C. It's an exciting twist in sound for the singer/songwriter, further helping to open his musical variety.

Selena Gomez-Revival

This was another album that was out of my spectrum that I didn't think I'd be including on this list, but here we are. Gomez has returned with a much more mature sound on her new album, featuring some sultry numbers (Hands to Myself and Good For You) and more dance heavy anthems (Me & the Rhythm) making it for a more interesting record. Although some of her past efforts have been on the cute and fun side, Revival has felt the most sonically cohesive out of all of her albums and has her sounding more grown up and less bubble gum pop. Revival really grew on me and has given me a brand new impression of her as an artist.

Vanessa Carlton-Liberman

When the name Vanessa Carlton comes to mind, a lot of people associate her with her most famous song to date, A Thousand Miles. However, Carlton is know not just for her one hit. Her latest album, Liberman is a completely different direction in comparison to her previous pop efforts. Liberaman is a beautiful folk inspired record with a new and more darker tone to her voice. Another truly underrated record of the year, but certainly worth exploring.

Coldplay-A Head Full of Dreams


Rumours surfaced last year that Coldplay's next album could very well be their last. Whether or not that rumour remains true, if A Head Full of Dreams is their last effort, then I'd be okay with that. Coldplay's latest album is a brand new twist to their usual soft alternative sound. Their last release, Ghost Stories, was easily their most quiet and, personally, not my taste. This new record creates a more upbeat and fun sound for the band, with a heavy use of electronics and synths and even featuring a duet with Beyonce. Enough said. If Coldplay are pulling out all the stops, then they've done so perfectly with this record.

Those are some of my favourite records this year, what were some of yours? Leave a comment!

Jessica

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