It’s no secret that Twenty One Pilots have blurred the lines of concrete genres with their expansive sound, but the band doesn’t keep the experiments restricted to the music. From green screens to live performances, their music videos are as diverse as their songs. Here’s a ranking of the duo’s videos from worst to best.
The footage used for “Truce” features vocalist Tyler Joseph singing and playing piano on a dimly lit neighborhood street with live stage shots of both members are peppered in. While there is nothing actually bad about this video, it just fails to measure up to the others in their arsenal, the live video aspect feeling like a cliché.
While this track instrumentally gives off an upbeat, reggae vibe, the video for it is anything but, showing a stark contrast of a forest performance in the dark and in daylight. The one unique thing about it is Joseph plays bass, a talent minimally showcased in their live performances as he normally runs, crashes and dances across the stage while Josh Dun holds it down on the drums.
9. “Tear In My Heart”
Although this may be one of the more pop-centric tracks of their discography, you shouldn’t expect bright dance sequences, pastel backdrops or glitter. The duo keep it real with a live performance in Chinatown as Joseph copes with the feeling that everyone is watching him and getting bloodily beat up by his very own “butcher with a smile,” played by his wife, Jenna.
8. “Fairly Local”
This was the first taste of Blurryface (unless you count the teaser for “Goner” circa 2012), both literally as the album’s first single and figuratively as Joseph dons the red beanie and black hands as the character of Blurryface. The imagery was all a perfect representation of what to expect during Blurryface’s album cycle in terms of the duo’s appearance to their live show.
7. “Car Radio”
Joseph pulled a Natalie Portman in V For Vendetta and sacrificed his luscious locks for the sake of on-screen art. After the deed is done (in the red and blue tint of a Vessel era-inspired bathroom shot), he covers the cut with the duo’s famous ski masks and jumps out on stage where the crowd is waiting, split down the middle and facing each other in silence. He joins them before they eventually erupt like you’d expect the crowd to do at any Twenty One Pilots show. (Bonus points if you can spot Waldo.)
6. “Lane Boy”
The creative use of live footage for “Lane Boy” is less “Truce” and more like “Car Radio.” This time around, Joseph has the assistance of two people in hazmat suits and thousands of Bunbury Music Festival attendees willing to crouch down in a wave-like fashion. Each suit sports one word—fame or success—making this video as open metaphor as Joseph asks the crowd via subtitle: “Why do I kneel to these concepts? Tempted by control, controlled by temptation. ‘Stay low,’ they say, ‘stay low.’” Once the thought is complete, the crowd jumps up with Joseph, leaving Fame and Success in the dust as he dances through the end of the track.
5. “Guns For Hands”
“Guns For Hands” is a simple yet refreshing twist on the traditional performance video, embodying the Vessel era with Dun in red and Joseph in blue on a white background with nothing but their instruments. The ski masks are portrayed as a shield to be taken off when ready, which you may think would hinder their ability to perform but if the video’s use of duct tape for makeshift face masks doesn’t, then nothing will. Seriously though, how do you successfully play drums with tape covering everything but your nostrils?
4. “Ode To Sleep”
The best part about this video is that it shows the band’s growth in just three short years. The footage is set up like a movie montage with a narrator somewhat sarcastically claiming the opening scene of their first out-of-state show was only filmed in June 2011 to be used in a music video at a later date. Acrowd of twelve witnesses the early performance style, and while they may not have been able to support Dun’s drum kit like their crowds of thousands can today, there’s no difference in energy the duo exude for each show.
3. “Holding On To You”
This all black-and-white number is special as it holds the title of the first official Twenty One Pilots music video, and thankfully it did not disappoint. Contemporary dancers in intricate skeleton makeup perform routines incorporating Joseph and Dun while flipping through the air. The video’s most exciting shot: when said dancers pull on rope tied around Joseph’s neck as he declares “This ain’t a noose, this is a leash / And I have news for you: you must obey me.”
2. “Stressed Out”
This track speaks to a multitude of ages with the simple message that growing up kind of sucks sometimes. The video aids in driving that home as Joseph and Dun relive their childhood as adults: riding Big Wheels through the neighborhood, sucking on Capri Suns, making up secret handshakes and performing in their bedrooms amongst trophies and class photos. One of the coolest parts, however, is that the duo incorporate their brothers in each at-home performance sequence and then their whole family to really make that “Wake up, you need to make money” line sink in.
1. “House Of Gold”
The seemingly normal opener of “House Of Gold” sets the backdrop with the visually stunning sunrise over a field of farm equipment. Joseph sings and strums along on his ukulele until it’s finally revealed that he’s just a severed torso, floating legless above the field and singing to a yellow house. Dun, who also just happens to be a severed torso, crawls toward Joseph and up under a blue pickup truck to use its undercarriage to keep the beat. The duos legs are shown off in other areas, walking and playing drums on a tractor wheel bass drum respectively. The cinematography of this one is the most impressive of their music videos, but the bizarre yet intriguing storyline and usage of a green screen mutilation really make it stick out from the bunch.