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Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots

Perfecting a genre-busting approach to alternative rock, Twenty One Pilots weave hip-hop, electronic, pop, punk, and rock together in a thrilling blend that is often enriched by a deep fictional mythology that serves as a metaphor for the real-world struggles and emotions at the music's core. Rising from Columbus, Ohio on the strength of a sizable grassroots following, Twenty One Pilots cycled through lineups and styles before the core duo of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun made their mainstream breakthrough with their chart-topping fourth effort, 2015's Blurryface. Featuring the Grammy-winning single "Stressed Out" and its follow-up chart hit "Ride," the release was certified multi-platinum and became one of the best-selling albums in the world that year. Their 2018 follow-up, Trench, fared nearly as well, going platinum and peaking at number two. The band enjoyed a couple more chart-topping hits prior to 2021's Scaled and Icy and the lore-expanding 2024 set Clancy.

Formed in 2009 by high school friends Tyler Joseph, Nick Thomas, and Chris Salih, Twenty One Pilots built an enormous regional following across Ohio and the Midwest, spurred on by constant and energetic touring, shrewd use of interactive social media, and connecting with fans on a grassroots level. The trio self-released their eponymous debut album of rap-infused, high-tech pop in December 2009 before Thomas and Salih left the band in 2011. Frontman Tyler Joseph recruited replacement drummer Josh Dun and Twenty One Pilots continued as a duo. Later that year, their second album Regional at Best surfaced, the first with the new lineup.

Expanding their audience with a series of videos made by their friend Mark Eshelman, the band's brand grew and caught the attention of the major labels. In 2012, they signed to Atlantic subsidiary Fueled by Ramen, releasing the Three Songs EP and working with Adele producer Greg Wells on Vessel, their debut album for the label. Vessel was released in January 2013 and featured the platinum singles "Holding on to You," "House of Gold," and "Car Radio."

For the recording of their third album, Twenty One Pilots opted to work with various producers on an almost song-by-song basis. Recruiting Ricky Reed, Mike Crossey, Tim Anderson, and others, this process took them to studios throughout Los Angeles and London. The LP, the Billboard 200-topping Blurryface, arrived in 2015. The album's Grammy-winning smash hit "Stressed Out" reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 2016, with "Ride" following at number five that summer. "Heathens," their Grammy-nominated contribution to the soundtrack for the DC Comics film Suicide Squad, not only helped notch the third alternative rock chart-topper for the duo, but the single's rise to number two on the Hot 100 made Twenty One Pilots only the third rock band to have two concurrent Top Ten singles. At the end of the year, the duo collaborated with tourmates MUTEMATH for the TOPxMM EP, which featured reimaginings of "Heathens" and four Blurryface tracks.

After a period of silence during which time fans pieced together clues and theories about the group's next release, Twenty One Pilots re-emerged in 2018 with the single "Jumpsuit" b/w "Nico and the Niners," the first offerings from their fifth LP, Trench. The album rose to number one in Mexico, New Zealand, and across Europe, while topping the U.S. Alternative, Rock, and Tastemaker lists. Continuing the extensive mythology started on its predecessor, Trench dove even deeper into the lore, giving fans a plethora of easter eggs to pore over. The album was promoted with the extensive Bandito Tour, which was eventually cut short in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On lockdown with the rest of the world, the duo set to work on some new music. In April, they issued the standalone single "Level of Concern," which topped both the rock and alternative singles charts, and ended the year with the holiday cut "Christmas Saves the Day."

"Shy Away," the official lead single from Twenty One Pilots' 2021 LP Scaled and Icy, earned them another number one. Recorded long distance while Joseph and Dun were hunkered down during quarantine in their respective homes, the album shifted focus to simpler emotional themes related to functioning in a world during a global pandemic, only briefly teasing at the weighty lore on a handful of tracks. Months later, fans were treated to a short set of acoustic cuts on the globetrotting Location Sessions EP, which featured tracks recorded in Mexico City, Brooklyn, and Berlin. As the world slowly opened up, they embarked on the Takeover Tour, which saw the pair playing at various venues in the same city from week to week. While on tour, they released Scaled and Icy (Livestream Version), which bundled the original album with live versions and inspired mash-ups recorded during a May livestream event. Those invigorated versions would inform the creativity found on their MTV Unplugged performance, which was recorded in June 2022 and released in 2023.

In early 2024, Twenty One Pilots began teasing their next album with social media hints, cryptic billboards, and clues sent to fans. They also released "Overcompensate," which started with the line, "Welcome back to Trench," setting the fandom into a frenzy at the prospect of returning to the setting of 2018's album of the same name. Return they did, announcing their seventh studio album was titled Clancy, the hero of the long-running story. Additional singles "Next Semester" and "Backslide" followed, with the album arriving that May. ~ Neil Z. Yeung

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