Twenty One Pilots are a very unique band, sound wise. People who hear Heathens and then go buy some of their music might be shocked to find out how very much UNLIKE Heathens it truly is. The best way to describe the band would be emo-electronic-anthemic music with Reggae and hip hop influences paired off with some straight-up depressing emo music at times. This is not to undermine the band, they may have one of the most versatile sounds out there right now, hands down, and that is to their credit when every band out there sounds like they release the same single, over and over, for half a decade with no one noticing.
But the truth is, Heathens is a deep track that resonates with many for some wickedly unique and interesting reasons. Let’s explore all aspects of the song a little more deeply, shall we?
The Clear-Cut Message of Heathens
That is the message of Heathens, even used as a sort of filler sound in the bridge and breakdown of the song itself, Heathens is one heathen communicating to a non-heathen (a.k.a. a good person) about how they need to get away from him and all he knows, as this “outcast” will not fit in.
The heathens he knows will literally smell the goodness on you, and you will be torn asunder like sharks. Considering it was the soundtrack song to Suicide Squad, it is a song that fits the tone of the movie it is selling perfectly.
Actually, let’s be honest, the track ended up more enjoyable than the film itself, and that is really saying something.
Cool twist, too. Despite all the warnings, we stay as listeners, and by staying, he ends the song with the damning exclamation:
It looks like you might be one of us.
It is a cool, punch-to-the-gut moment in the song, and sends a very clear message that equates to you are only as good as the company you keep.
The Subliminal-Yet-Familiar Melody Behind Heathens
It’s funny the first column of Do You Hear What I Hear I wrote was based around a song that was composed in C Major, and here we are, yet again, with a song that is based in C. Whereas Pursuit of Happiness by Kid Cudi is C-A-G, there is only a slight difference between songs here (and totally unintentional on my part which is strange. I must be drawn to C major for some reason). Heathens is a C-A-E. One chord difference between the two tracks, but if you listen to the songs side by side, you wouldn’t think them similar at all which is a testimony to the production and the bands and artists themselves.
They may all work on the same type of canvas, but the end result of art is wonderfully different. But the song plays off the same basic “3 chord earworm” that most successful songs work off of. You don’t break something that works perfectly, and Heathens proves that by staying true to that 3:33 length formula and three chord skullduggery.
Truth is, this is built as a perfect “hip hop influenced” pop song in every way, and indubitably pulls it off.
The Post-Heathens Problem
The post Heathens problem is an interesting position for Twenty One Pilots, the band, to find themselves in. You would think the end result of making a great song would be joy, but that is rarely the case. When a band like Twenty One Pilots makes a song that is SO WIDELY WELL RECEIVED, they need to ask themselves something. Do we keep making the music we WERE making (which, if you hear it, lacks the Heathens sound) or do we make more songs that sound and feel like Heathens? Ominous, intimidating, and catchy as fuck?
That is where the band is mentally right now. Because, many people picked up their music as a result of Heathens and as great as some of it is (Lane Boy, Ride) some of it just drags ass and can get a little, um, emotional (which is not bad but breaks the vibe of songs like Heathens up big time).
So we could very well be on the verge of a new Twenty One Pilots, or they could just keep doing their thing the way they do it and when they hit gold like this, great, and when they don’t, fuck it, because they have massive and committed fan base that would probably literally follow them off a cliff and how many bands can truly say that? Watch the Car Radio video if you doubt the validity of that statement.
Where To Next (Musically) for Twenty One Pilots?
Well, that is what makes Heathens so badass and worthy of all this examination. Because more than a song, it opened major doors for this band, and where those doors go is anyone’s guess at this time. Not just the simple fact that it is a rock and hip hop influenced song that kicks ass, but the fact that it helped potentially make their audience a great deal larger.
In the end, that exposed them to a gaggle of new fans who are now eagerly awaiting what this band will drop next and what it will sound like.
At this point, that’s anyone’s guess, and that is half of what makes music so fucking fantastic. It is Forrest Gump’s metaphorical box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get, but you know you like chocolate so that is good enough.
So whatever it is Twenty One Pilots, watch it, because now we are ALL watching you!
No pressure, though, guys. You got this.
And he doesn’t even look that stressed about how far he just raised his own bar. That’s good.