twenty one pilots
[Photo by: twenty one pilots/Spotify, Chris Joseph/YouTube]

If you’ve been wondering for over 10 years just what the twenty one pilots song “Johnny Boy” is about, fear no more. Singer Tyler Joseph‘s father, Chris Joseph has provided the answer we’ve all been seeking. 

A number of theories have sprouted up over the years about the contents and meaning of the 2009 hit from twenty one pilots’ S/T album. At last we finally have what it’s actually about. 

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Back in 2009, when twenty one pilots released their debut self-titled album, the band and the world were much different. Josh Dun had yet to join the band, Hannah Montana: The Movie has just hit theaters, Jersey Shore and Glee first premiered and Kanye West has just interrupted Taylor Swift‘s VMA’s speech. 

The United States was also attempting to recover from the massive economic crisis of 2007-08. This is where the “Johnny Boy” meaning comes from. 

In a recent The Pop Song Professor interview, Chris Joseph says that “Johnny Boy” is about him. 

“One song, it’s called ‘Johnny Boy,'” Joseph begins. “It was at a point where I was in a private school. It was when the economy wasn’t doing well. I was an admissions director and they needed to, well, I didn’t have that position anymore. They said ‘Hey, we gotta get rid of this position.’ And I was without a job for a while. A lot of people were out of work at that time.” 

“He [Tyler] wrote the song ‘Johnny Boy.’ Like, here’s his hero, he puts in the song here’s my hero. He talks about being able to fix a chair and do all these things, but ‘I’m seeing him in a humble state right now.’ I was looking for a position at that time. We weren’t starving by any means. It didn’t last that long but that song really bothered me,” Joseph laughs before reciting the hook “Get up, Johnny Boy.” 

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“But that song was interesting from his perspective. Looking at his dad.” 

There are plenty of theories that have circulated for over a decade about what the song could mean. Some have speculated that it’s about a gay man, while others even thought it was about John The Baptist

Generalizations about the song dealing with an ‘Everyman’ and someone down on their luck have come the closest to the songs’ true origin. 

“I was Johnny Boy,” Chris Joseph adds. “‘Get up, Johnny Boy’ because you know it was during a time where things were tough because you know we made enough money to get by and I was unemployed for a matter of months. And he felt his dad…he probably felt insecure seeing that I was looking for another job. That might put it in perspective for you.”

Watch the interview below. 

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Chris Joseph’s story adds up as the recession would be around the time Tyler Joseph was writing the first twenty one pilots record. 

Reading the lyrics now and applying the knowledge that they are about Tyler’s father makes a lot of sense. Check them out below and listen again to one of twenty one pilots’ most classic tracks. 

“Johnny Boy” Lyrics

He stays home from work this time
He never really told his wife
He never really told a lie
But this time, he decides that it’s alright
It’s alright

No one really knows his mind
And no one knows behind his eyes
The man deserves a medal
But he’s never really won a prize before
He goes to lock the door

He has fallen in love
He knows it’s enough
But the world looks down and frowns

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Get up, Johnny Boy, get up, Johnny Boy
Get up, ’cause the world has left you lying on the ground
You’re my pride and joy, you’re my pride and joy
Get up, Johnny Boy, because we all need you now
We all need you now

Someone said, “Where you goin’?”
And someone said to you, “Goodbye.”
They deflect the disrespect
When they say that they blame it on the times
They blame it on the times

We all know you’re qualified
To fix a chair and love your wife
They all know you’re qualified
But they lie when they blame it on the times
Oh, we blame it on the times

Oh, he has fallen in love
He knows it’s enough
But the world looks down and frowns

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Get up, Johnny Boy, get up, Johnny Boy
Get up, ’cause the world has left you lying on the ground
You’re my pride and joy, you’re my pride and joy
Get up, Johnny Boy, because we all need you now
We all need you now

I will carry all your names and I will carry all your shame and
I will carry all your names and I will carry all your shame and
I will carry all your names and I will carry all your shame

Get up, Johnny Boy, get up, Johnny Boy
Get up, ’cause the world has left you lying on the ground
You’re my pride and joy, you’re my pride and joy
Get up, Johnny Boy, because we all need you now

Get up, Johnny Boy, get up, Johnny Boy
Get up, ’cause the world has left you lying on the ground
You’re my pride and joy, you’re my pride and joy
Get up, Johnny Boy, because we all need you now

Tell us what you thought twenty one pilots’ “Johnny Boy” was about in the comments below!

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