The word “Hollywood” often evokes romantic notions of celebrities strutting down red carpets, while cameras flash and click like thousands of twinkling stars. These “superior humans” live in a world of Gatsby-like proportions, a gold-crusted bubble where the inhabitants are not susceptible to the strife of us mere mortals.
But upon closer examination, this world of celebrities and parties and adoring fans does not glow so brightly. Its foundation is full of cracks, teetering on the edge of stability and destruction. When the cracks split open, the world of the famous and successful looks a lot like the real world, yet maybe even a little darker.
This imperfect world of fame is often conveyed through song, as musicians use lyrics and melodies as their creative outlets. By sharing their songs with the world, we—as a society—are given a glimpse into the artist’s life, an invitation into their most intimate thoughts.
Twenty One Pilots, an alternative duo consisting of Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph, is one such musical group that expertly weaves real problems like depression and addiction into songs, many of which have become synonymous with our generation and its ups and downs.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Dun describes why he thinks the duo’s music is so popular.
“Music is such a crazy thing. There are some things that I’ll never understand. Why is this popular? Why is that cool? And sometimes there’s not a really definitive answer. With this, I think it’s just being vulnerable. We try to be as honest as we can, even at the risk of not appearing to be super cool. I think people want honesty. I know that when I look at a band that I enjoy or look up to, I want to see the real versions of them onstage, and I want to see the real versions of them in interviews, and I don’t want to see a fake version, a version that is created out of them trying to be cooler than they are,” Dun said.
Songs (and bands like Twenty One Pilots) that are honest and raw are the ones that stay with people the most because humans seek connections. We know when feelings are genuine, when a person has let his/her guard down and welcomed other people in. We relate to their vulnerabilities, and we are empathetic. There is true beauty in being able to identify with another person’s struggle, another person’s honesty.
One particularly powerful example of this is in the lyrics of arguably Twenty One Pilots’ most popular song, “Stressed Out.” "I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink, but now I'm insecure and I care what people think."
The words are just one example of the relatable nature of Twenty One Pilots’ music. Anyone who has ever been a teenager (a.k.a. the majority of the population) was probably insecure at one point in time, felt the pressures of conformity. What’s refreshing is knowing there is someone else out there who has shared in this struggle, even if that person is famous. Because musicians are people too, and in the words of “Car Radio,” “we’re all battling fear.”