twenty one pilots’ highly anticipated sixth full-length, Scaled And Icy, is finally here. Moving away from the darker tones of Trench and Blurryface, the album reverts back to the playful alt-pop sound of their charming third album, Vessel.
In 2018, Blurryface became the first album to have every song certified either gold, platinum or multi-platinum. Shortly after, in 2019, fans passionately pushed to reach the same milestone for Vessel. They succeeded and made twenty one pilots the first band in history to have every song on two different albums certified.
Moving away from the format of a huge concept album, Scaled And Icy is a welcome return to Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun’s roots. Despite the shift to a lighthearted, summer-infused sound, they don’t completely ignore the darker narratives they have spent the last six years cultivating. The title Scaled And Icy is an anagram of “Clancy Is Dead,” a callback to the protagonist of Trench.
The record brings breezy alt-pop sensibilities to the forefront. However, it also stays true to the duo’s brand of crafting songs with important lyrical messages. A product of quarantine, Scaled And Icy homes in on the effect a pandemic has on an individual. It focuses on topics such as anxiety, doubt and the need to keep your loved ones close.
Opener “Good Day” ends with the statement “I think that I’m all right/It’s a good day.” Where other opening tracks from the duo such as “Ode To Sleep,” “Heavydirtysoul” and “Jumpsuit” start off strong, “Good Day” slowly builds on itself. Despite bright keys and bouncy vocals, the lyrics give a more emotional take. “Lost my job, my wife and child/Homie just sued me/Shoot my life in shoot ’em up style/Her favorite movies.”
The second single of twenty one pilots’ new era is “Choker.” The song is imbued with the same emo tones of Blurryface but in a more mellow sonic field. Lines such as “I see no volunteers to co-sign on my fears” mirror the frank discussions of mental health issues that helped the band initially gain popularity.
“Shy Away,” which was the first introduction to twenty one pilots’ new era, is a catchy, synth plea to step out of your comfort zone. “Shed your modesty/And the only thing to leave behind/Is your own skin on the floor.” Somewhat reminiscent of the stylings of “Car Radio,” the pop-rock track is an encouragement to bravely go out into the world and find your purpose. “The Outside” continues the sentiment of “Shy Away” while implementing more groovy R&B influences.
Newest single “Saturday” offers an upbeat, carefree vibe that emphasizes bouncy instrumentals. With a message of needing to support those around you, it also features a dialogue between Joseph and his wife, Jenna. While the television show Friends is mentioned, ultimately Jenna tells him that if he feels inspired to keep working on the song, he should do so instead of watching the sitcom with her.
Getting more opinionated, “Never Take It” focuses on the increasing divide in society caused by news outlets. “Now that they know information/Is just a currency and nothing more/Keep the truth in quotations/’Cause they keep lying through their fake teeth.” Decidedly more rock than the five tracks that precede it, “Never Take It” is a testament to twenty one pilots’ genre-hopping abilities. Continuing with the rock-tilted stylings “Never Take It” introduced is “Mulberry Street.” It transforms addictive rock guitar riffs into a song that could fit right in on the original Vessel tracklist.
Synth heaven can be found in “Formidable,” with warm riffs and harmonizing vocals. Theorized by fans to possibly be an ode to Joseph’s daughter, the track is all about being awestruck by someone. “I’m just worried my loyalty will bore you/Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can die with you.” The next song, “Bounce Man,” is just as the title suggests: a bouncy track telling the story of a man going to Mexico. Incorporating more folk, it’s a standout simply for its potential to be the next song every ukulele player wants to cover.
“No Chances” sees a dramatic shift back to the musical stylings of the Blurryface and Trench eras. Kicking off the song with Joseph’s signature emo rap, it also includes eerie gang vocals and ominous instrumentals. Along with the similar sonic vibe, the lyrics follow the heavier interpretations present in the band’s last two albums.
“Redecorate” continues with the darker tone “No Chances” set in motion. It’s one of the stronger album closers in the band’s discography. The song has a powerful, emotional message about reflecting on the past and contemplating the future. Joseph was inspired to write it after a friend’s son passed away and they kept his room exactly as he had left it: “Taking inventory of his life/Seeing snapshots chronologically in line/Something told him he should look around and tidy up/He collected many things but never quite enough.” The song focuses on the dilemma of wanting to let others in and be transparent about your issues while also wanting to pretend everything is OK and not let your emotions influence you. Ultimately, the topics touched on in “Redecorate” mirror the emotions throughout the entire album.