Stressed Out

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"Stressed Out"
TOP Stressed Out.jpg
Single by Twenty One Pilots
from the album Blurryface
ReleasedNovember 10, 2015
Genre
Length3:22
LabelFueled by Ramen
Songwriter(s)Tyler Joseph
Producer(s)Mike Elizondo
Twenty One Pilots singles chronology
"Lane Boy"
(2015)
"Stressed Out"
(2015)
"Ride"
(2016)
Music video
"Stressed Out" on YouTube

"Stressed Out" is a song by American alternative duo Twenty One Pilots from their fourth studio album, Blurryface (2015). The track was produced by Mike Elizondo and recorded in Los Angeles, California and London, England. Elizondo initially took issue with the nature of the song's lyrical content. However, he relaxed after lead vocalist and songwriter Tyler Joseph explained the larger album concept.

"Stressed Out" is a midtempo alternative hip hop and rap rock song that contains a throwback to rock music and psychedelic pop with clear pop sensibilities. The track is built from synths and Caribbean-style keyboard line alongside rapping vocals by Joseph. Lyrically, "Stressed Out" is about the harsh end of adolescence. The song is an ode that harbors a downbeat atmosphere and lyrics speaking on transitioning from adolescence to adulthood and nostalgia for the innocence of childhood. They touch on insecurities and address millennial angst while discussing life challenges. Throughout the song, Joseph personifies the album's titular character, "Blurryface." His self-deprecating lyrics express self-doubt and anxiety, stressing over personal issues ranging from his music to the idea of growing older becoming an adult.

Upon its release, "Stressed Out" received favorable reviews from contemporary music critics. The song became one of the biggest hit singles of 2015, making Twenty One Pilots a mainstream sensation. "Stressed Out" topped multiple Billboard charts, reaching number-one on the rock chart in addition to ascending to the summit of the alternative chart while also managing to cross over and peak at number-one the pop chart. The single peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. "Stressed Out" received the nominations for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, winning the latter.

An accompanying music video for the single was directed by Mark C. Eshelman and mostly filmed at drummer Josh Dun's home in Columbus, Ohio. It features a mixture of surrealistic visuals and existential scenes while portraying the duo riding three-wheelers for a playdate and attempting to relive their childhood. In the music video, black paint can be seen on the neck and hands of Tyler Joseph, referencing the character Blurryface. With the single, Twenty One Pilots became the very first rock act to have a song reach a billion streams on Spotify. "Stressed Out" has since been certified 8x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of over 8,000,000 copies.

Background[edit]

"At the time I heard the song, I had no idea what Blurryface was, and I was kind of scratching my head going, 'Dude, uh, what's Blurryface?'"[1]

Mike Elizondo discussing the song's concept with Billboard

During the promotion of their forthcoming studio album, Joseph began wearing black paint in every video and live performance.[2] Both the lyrics of "Stressed Out" as well as the paint reference the name and titular character of their album, Blurryface (2015).[2] "Stressed Out" musically acts as an introduction to the alter ego of "Blurryface" with its haunting refrain.[3][4] His identity rises to surface during the song's nursery-rhyme pre-chorus refrain, where he sings, "My name's 'Blurryface' and I care what you think."[1][4] 

The thematic elements of the duo's second major-label studio album and identity of Blurryface and come into focus on "Stressed Out".[1] Their loose concept album had been about Joseph attempting to defeat the alter ego of the titular monster-image representing his insecurities and self-hatreds.[4] An emphasis is placed on the concept of the character, who manifests within "Stressed Out" as well as throughout their studio album and appeared in its promotional campaign.[5][1] In an interview with MTV News, Joseph elaborated, "It's a guy that kind of represents all the things that I as an individual — but also everyone around me — am insecure about. When I think about insecurities and my insecurities are getting the best of me, the things that I think of are kind of a feeling of suffocation and then also the things that I create with my hands... Very dramatic, I know, but it helps me get into that character."[2]

"Stressed Out" was written by Joseph from the perspective of the character Blurryface rather than some impersonal third-person narrator.[1] His lyricism is filled with couplets and one-line rhyme schemes pertaining to definitive generational concerns.[1] Tyler Joseph was in his mid-20s at time of the single's release.[1] He was speaking as a member of generation engulfed in college loan debt and sharing their anxieties while feigning apathy and yearning peer acceptance all over social media.[1] For a time, record producer Mike Elizondo was worried Joseph's specificity would limit the single's reception among the larger populace.[1] In retrospect, Elizondo said, "We can all kind of relate to wanting to have more of those simpler days. I think he nailed it; though the lyrical content is very specific to him, the listener is able to impose their own story onto it. That type of feeling will never go away."[1]

Recording[edit]

"Stressed Out" was produced by Mike Elizondo and recorded at Can Am in Los Angeles, California and at Livingston Studios in London, England.[6] The track was then mixed at the Casita in Hollywood, California.[7] During its recording, Elizondo had but one grievance in regards to the song.[1] Speaking with front-man and principal songwriter Tyler Joseph, he opined that to the average listener, its lyrical content came of as esoteric. Elizondo recalled, "So I had a good conversation with him trying to say, 'Hey, maybe you should change that; it's a great melody, it's a big hook of the song, but I just don't know what it means."[1] He soon relaxed on the issue after Joseph provided an explanation of the larger album concept.[1]

Composition[edit]

"Stressed Out" is a midtempo alternative hip hop and rap rock song that runs for a duration of three minutes and twenty-two seconds.[6][1][8][9][10] The musical composition has a throwback to rock music and psychedelic pop while maintaining clear pop sensibilities.[10][11][12] According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Alfred Music, it is written in the time signature of common time, with a moderate tempo of 85 beats per minute.[9] "Stressed Out" is composed in the key of A minor, while Tyler Joseph's vocal range spans one octave and three notes, from a low of E4 to a high of A5.[9] The song has a basic sequence of F–Dm–Am in the verses, pre-chorus and outro, changes to Am–G–C–E at the refrain and follows Am–G–C5–E during the bridge as its chord progression.[9] 

Opening with its drumbeat, the linear musical arrangement is structured around the phrase, "My name is Blurryface and I care what you think."[15][10] The track is built from wobbly synths, a Caribbean style keyboard line and rapped vocals by Tyler Joseph.[5] The song is punctuated by brief bursts of string section and synths as well as eerie, theremin-like sounds that underscore his vocals.[1] During its verses, Joseph's recites deceptively simple lyrics atop the track's earworm beat.[16] Joseph's rapping has him delivering confessional lines in a conversational tone.[1] Following its refrain, the eerie melody precedes the second verse.[5] The musical composition has downbeat atmosphere, with lyrical content focusing on personal themes.[5] 

Lyrically, "Stressed Out" is about the harsh end of adolescence.[8] The song is an ode with lyrics speaking on the transition from adolescence to adulthood and nostalgia for the innocence of childhood.[6][17] They touch on adolescent insecurity and address millennial angst while discussing relatable life challenges.[18][19] Joseph's self-deprecating lyrics express anxiety over everything from his music to growing older.[10][3] His poignant lyrics convey a narrative illustrating young men who discover that life as an adult is plagued with issues.[20][21] Throughout the track, Joseph personifys the parent album's titular character, "Blurryface."[2] He is a character within a story who represents Joseph's self-doubt and insecurities.[3] At the song's pre-chorus, he sings, "My name's 'Blurryface' and I care what you think."[4] Blurryface's insecurities lies in the idea of growing up and becoming an adult.[2] He sings about the desire to return to "the good 'ol days" and the tree houses of their carefree youth.[21][1] His voice pines for a time prior to stress of reality, such as student loans and the pressure to get a job and find success.[1][22] During the chorus, Joseph chants, "Wish we could turn back time / to the good old days / when our mom would sing us to sleep / but now we're stressed out."[23] The song closes with an outro where external voices suggest the need to wake up because they need to make money.[1][24]

Release and promotion[edit]

The digital release of "Stressed Out" came during the initial radio run of the album's lead single "Tear in My Heart".[1] The song was released as a promotional single on April 28, 2015, on the Google Play Store[25] and Amazon,[26] and was issued to top 40 radio stations as the album's fourth official single on November 10, 2015.[27]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon its release, "Stressed Out" received favorable reviews from contemporary music critics. Stereogum's Chris DeVille claimed, "Stressed Out", probably the most linear Twenty One Pilots song ever, still manages to merge Sublime, Portishead, and A$AP Rocky."[15] Slate's Carl Wilson considered the song's refrain "at once menacingly flat and paranoiacally self-conscious in affect."[4] Lyndsey Havens from Consequence of Sound stated, "After listening to a few Twenty One Pilots' songs, it's clear what has them so stressed out — they don't really fit anywhere, but are widely accepted everywhere. ...'Stressed Out' resonates with listeners, as the two sing about "the good 'ol days" before the stress of reality set in."[22] Describing Josephs lyrics as "poignant", Brenna Ehrlich for Alternative Press claimed, "It's a sentiment any recent entrant into adulthood can relate to."[20] Kerrang!'s Sam Law proclaimed, "A pop culture changing of the guard fading the disenfranchisement of Generation X into the (justified) neuroses of their millennial successors, deceptively simple lyrics ('I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink / But now I'm insecure and I care what people think...') and that earworm beat captured the zeitgeist with real authority. A song that feels judderingly relevant but also destined to live forever."[16] Forbes's Paul Wannemacher asserted, "the song is anthem for a generation now scrambling to make its voice heard."[21] In a less favorable review, Rolling Stone Australia writer Rod Yates called the song "a skeezy, paranoid, electro-driven creep."[28]

Billboard's Andrew Unterberger remarked, "For a definitively millennial duo, it's still crazy how much Twenty One Pilots' first true crossover smash mostly reminds of enjoyably junky late-'90s bands like Citizen King and Bran Van 3000. ...the fact that 'Stressed Out' wasn't even 21P's only No. 2 hit on the Hot 100 this year shows how much more proficient Tyler and Josh are at tapping into adolescent insecurity with blockbuster bombast."[18] At the end of the year, the single was ranked at number 62 on "Billboard's 100 Best Pop Songs of 2016" list.[18] 

Chart performance[edit]

Although it was released in 2015, "Stressed Out" did not truly take off and gradually find widespread breakthrough success until the following year.[16] In the United States, "Stressed Out" climbed from number 13 to number 9 on the chart dated January 16, 2016, becoming the group's first top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track topped Billboard's Hot Rock Songs chart for a second week, led the Alternative Songs Airplay chart for a ninth week, also crossing over to mainstream audiences, rising from number 14 to number 13 on the Mainstream Top 40, and bulleting to number 20 on the Adult Top 40 chart.[29] For the chart issue dated January 30, 2016, the song ascended from number 5 to number 4 on the Hot 100. The single entered the top 10 on both the Radio Songs and Streaming Songs charts as well.[30] A commissioned house remix by Dave Winnel helped the single reach number 9 on the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart in its February 13, 2016 issue.[31] The song reached number 2 in its 21st week on the Hot 100, only behind "Love Yourself" by Justin Bieber. The single, which led the Billboard's Hot Rock Songs chart for an eighth week, is the first single that has also appeared on the Hot Rock Songs chart to rank in the Hot 100's top two in more than a year, since Hozier's "Take Me to Church" spent its third and final week at its number 2 peak on January 3, 2015.[32] Additionally, it was the number-one song on the 2016 year-end chart for Hot Rock Songs, which when combined with "Ride" and "Heathens", gave Twenty One Pilots a clean sweep of the top three year-end Hot Rock Songs chart for 2016.[33]

In the United States, the song reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Alternative Songs chart on November 21, 2015.[22] In addition to ascending to the summit of the alternative chart, "Stressed Out" also managed to cross over and reach number one on the pop chart.[22] "Stressed Out" was the first former Alternative Songs number one to top Mainstream Top 40 in more than ​2 12 years, since Lorde's "Royals" in 2013. The single was also the first by a duo or group to do so in nearly four years, since Fun's "We Are Young" (featuring Janelle Monáe) in 2012.[34] The single song peaked at number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, just one position short of being a number-one hit. This chart achievement was repeated later that same year by "Heathens."[18]

In the United Kingdom, "Stressed Out" became the duo's first single to chart on the UK Singles Chart, debuting at number 86, entering the Top 40 at 34 within the third week and peaking at number 12 in the eleventh week.[35]

"Stressed Out" has since become one of the biggest hit singles of 2015.[21] The song made Twenty One Pilots a mainstream sensation, having topped multiple Billboard charts.[10][1] As of December 2016, it has sold approximately 2,400,000 copies in the United States alone.[36] "Stressed Out" was the tenth best-performing single of 2016, with 9.9 million units (combined sales and track-equivalent streams) worldwide, according to the IFPI.[37] Twenty One Pilots also became the very first rock act to have a song reach a billion streams on Spotify.[38] "Stressed Out" was the twenty-fifth song to achieve the rare feat of at least one billion plays on the streaming platform.[38] On July 31, 2019, "Stressed Out" was certified octuple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of over 8,000,000 copies.[39] By the end of the decade, long after its initial chart run, "Stressed Out," still manages to find audiences on radio in between new hit singles while also routinely attracting between 3 to 4 million streams per week, according to Nielsen Music.[1]

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video for "Stressed Out" was directed by Mark C. Eshelman.[6] A majority of the video was filmed at Josh Dun's childhood home in Columbus, Ohio.[8] The house subsequently become a destination for fans of Twenty One Pilots. Dun said his parents have since had to cancel their landline telephone service in order to stop calls coming in at all hours because their home number was listed in the video.[8] Many members from the combined families of Tyler Joseph and Dun appear in the music video.[8] The surrealistic video retains a mixture of existential sequences and draws visual cues from fairy tales such as Alice in Wonderland.[24] They follow a theme of the desire to forever remain a child forever in his family home to taking a journey into a disorienting environment.[24]  Twenty One Pilots released the video for "Stressed Out" on April 27, 2015.[2][23] 

The video depicts a bleak narrative set in a dreary suburban neighborhood.[24][20] The story begins on a partly cloudy day with Joseph pedalling down a street on a three wheeler.[24] Throughout the music video, black paint can be seen on his neck and hands.[2] Joseph and Dun ride big-wheel tricycles to each other's houses to record the song, but since they are considered "children" they don't have money to buy recording equipment. A friend wants to hear the song, and the only way they can do that is to physically move their equipment.[40] After arriving at a house, he enters a bedroom where Dun is waiting for him.[24] Within the mind of a young man dwelling inside the house who resembles the two save their tattoos and colored hair, they continue to perform.[23][24] At one point, the pair drink Capri Suns while sitting near the curb.[23] The scenes then leaps to Joseph and Dun lying in beds as a group of people dressed in black watch them sleep.[24] It is soon revealed that the people watching are their families.[24] All members from the combined families of Joseph and Dun make their appearance in the video. They all chant "Wake up, you need to make money" in unison during the song's bridge.[8]

Reception[edit]

Brenna Ehrlich from Alternative Press stated that in the music video, the band "pair Tyler Joseph's poignant lyrics with dreary day imagery and a typical neighborhood play-date scenario enacted by the now solemn-faced adults for maximum emotional impact."[20] Calling the visuals "perfectly paired," Diffuser's Michael Haskoor opined, "While way more minimalist than their video for the explosive "Tear in My Heart" it seems to fit well with the song's chorus.[23] Courtney Smith of Radio.com found similarities between the video and the story of Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up as well as allusions to "The Princess and the Pea".[24] "Stressed Out" received a nomination for Best Music Video at the 2016 Alternative Press Music Awards.[41]

Live performances[edit]

"Stressed Out" has since become a fan favorite at live concert venues.[42] Twenty One Pilots performed "Stressed Out" on Late Night with Seth Meyers on September 21, 2015.[43]

The song was part of their set list at Lollapalooza 2015.[44]

Twenty One Pilots performed "Stressed Out" on their 2016 Emotional Roadshow World Tour in Ohio; Tyler Joseph changed the lyrics of the first verse. In the changed lyrics, he talked about how he thought the song was overplayed, and the success of the song.[45]

Twenty One Pilots performed the song during a concert at the UNSW Roundhouse in Sydney, Australia on April 20, 2016.[42] After opening with a performance of Heavydirtysoul, the duo segued into a live rendition of Stressed Out. An unmasked Tyler Joseph rested behind a piano, moving to the melodic bounce of the track.[42]

Track listing[edit]

Digital download
No.TitleLength
1."Stressed Out"3:22
CD single[46]
No.TitleLength
1."Stressed Out"3:22
2."Stressed Out" (Dave Winnel remix)4:23

Personnel[edit]

Twenty One Pilots

  • Tyler Joseph – vocals, piano, programming, synthesizers, keyboards
  • Josh Dun – drums, percussion

Additional musicians

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[126] 5× Platinum 350,000double-dagger
Austria (IFPI Austria)[127] 2× Platinum 60,000double-dagger
Belgium (BEA)[128] 2× Platinum 60,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[129] Diamond 800,000double-dagger
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[130] 2× Platinum 180,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[131] Diamond 233,333double-dagger
Germany (BVMI)[132] 3× Gold 600,000double-dagger
Italy (FIMI)[133] 5× Platinum 250,000double-dagger
Mexico (AMPROFON)[134] Gold 30,000*
Netherlands (NVPI)[135] Platinum 30,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[136] 2× Platinum 30,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[137] 3× Platinum 120,000double-dagger
Poland (ZPAV)[138] 2× Diamond 200,000double-dagger
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[139] 2× Platinum 60,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[140] 2× Platinum 1,200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[141] 8× Platinum 8,000,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label Ref.
Worldwide April 28, 2015
Fueled by Ramen [25]
United States November 10, 2015 Contemporary hit radio
  • Fueled by Ramen
  • RRP
[142]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]