Twenty One Pilots - "Stressed Out"

Musicians Josh Dun (L) and Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots accept Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award for 'Stressed Out' onstage during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Released April 2015

Written by Tyler Joseph

Produced by Mike Elizondo


It doesn't take long listening to the lyrics of Twenty One Pilots' breakout pop smash hit "Stressed Out" to realize the universal emotions conveyed by the song's lyrics. The song compares the carefree days of childhood with the stresses of being an adult. The fun of a tree house is compared with the burden of student loans. Childhood dreams of traveling to outer space are contrasted with adult worries about personal appearance and the "need to make money." The points are underlined by the singalong chorus, "Wish we could turn back time to the good old days / When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out." "Stressed Out" is a set piece about adult insecurities.

The spare, slow backbeat feels dark and gloomy the first time through, but ultimately it plays a key role in making "Stressed Out" very catchy. The song was produced by Mike Elizondo who has plenty of experience in this territory. Some of his earliest acclaim was received for work with Eminem. He co-wrote the hit "The Real Slim Shady" 15 years ago. Since then he has worked with artists from Carrie Underwood to Tegan and Sara. In 2008 he earned a Grammy Award nomination for Producer of the Year.

Blurryface, the Twenty One Pilots album which contains "Stressed Out," is a concept album of sorts. Tyler Joseph, the duo's songwriter and lead vocalist, has described the character of Blurryface as a compilation of our negative attributes. It is the side of us that can draw others in but ultimately pulls them down in a negative fashion. On "Stressed Out," the character intones in the background, "My name is Blurryface, and I care what you think." Clearly, the song is a depiction of the emotional darkness that comes along with the stresses of adulthood. Musically, the spooky arrangement continually threatens to lure us into that darkness. It is an intoxicating sound with lyrics that bring knowing nods of recognition.

Music Video

ReelBearMedia, the team which put together the music video for "Stressed Out," is based in Twenty One Pilots' home city of Columbus, Ohio. They have worked extensively in the past with the duo. The music video immediately references childhood by showing lead vocalist Tyler Joseph riding a Big Wheel. It also visually references the character of Blurryface. Tyler Joseph has stated in interviews that he sees the color red as being associated with the character for this album. As he rides the Big Wheel, he wears a red stocking cap and red ribbons trail from the handlebars. When he stands up from the Big Wheel, he is also wearing a red backpack. The color continues to be prominent throughout the video. The black on Tyler Joseph's neck and hands is also associated with the character Blurryface. Making the song personal, while riding the Big Wheel, Tyler Joseph raps about his own personal music insecurities.

In a treat for the duo's fans, the immediate families of both Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun appear late in the video for the "Wake up you need to make money" chorus. The video even helpfully identifies specifically sisters, fathers, mothers, and brothers. The music video underlines one of the most appealing qualities of "Stressed Out." The song revels in universal, everyday emotions. It also does so with a succinct complexity rarely found in hit pop songs today.

Chart Performance

"Stressed Out" is the biggest breakout hit single for Twenty One Pilots thus far. It has gone to #1 at both alternative and rock radio. Now it has broken into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and found its way into the top 20 at adult pop radio. The album Blurryface hit #1 upon release and has earned a gold certification for selling more than 500,000 copies.


"Stressed Out" ultimately peaked at #2 on the US pop singles chart. It has sold over two million digital copies in the US alone. It hit #1 at mainstream pop radio and was the first former #1 at alternative radio to also top mainstream pop radio since Lorde's "Royals" in 2013. "Stressed Out" also hit #1 on adult pop radio and broke into the top 20 at adult contemporary radio. It is the duo's first top 40 pop hit in the UK peaking at #12 there.

The album Blurryface has sold more than one million copies in the US alone. It reached the top 10 in multiple other countries around the world. "Ride," the follow up single to "Stressed Out," was another major pop smash peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also soared to the top of the mainstream pop radio chart and #4 on the adult pop chart. When "Heathens," the duo's single from the Suicide Squad film soundtrack, reached the pop top 5, Twenty One Pilots became only the third rock act in history to have simultaneous top five hits after Elvis Presley and The Beatles

Twenty One Pilots have been honored with a wide range of awards since the success of "Stressed Out." The album Blurryface was named Top Rock Album at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards and Twenty One Pilots were named Top Rock Artist. "Heathens" won Best Rock Video at the MTV Video Music Awards. Twenty One Pilots won both Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo, or Group and Favorite Alternative Artist at the 2016 American Music Awards. "Stressed Out" won a Grammy for Best Pop Duo or Group Performance and was nominated for Record of the Year at the 59th annual awards ceremony, and "Heathens" was nominated for three grammy awards.