Song Review: “Stressed Out – Live”

Stressed Out by twenty one pilots off their 2015 album “Blurry Face” was one of the biggest hits of its release year. It was the number 2 song the month it was released, and was inescapable on every radio station. Now looking back, however, it is a fairly standard pop song. The groove is simple but works, the vocals are up to pop standards, everything about the song is passable and works for what it’s trying to be. However, it doesn’t stand out amidst a world of come and go pop hits. And yet, the live version of the song from the Satellite Music Collective takes it and elevates it to greater heights.

The live version of this song truly comes off like an acoustic indie song. It’s something I could hear off of a Cavetown album. With no production behind it, everything feels so much more impactful. The ukulele playing lets the simplicity of the chord structure feel more human, and lets the singer’s voice stand out even more. And letting the voice come through is so key here for two reasons: 1, Tyler Joseph’s singing here is unlike any other singing he does. His lingering on certain notes and pronunciation of some vowels gives so much more emotion to the track than the original did, which is sung very flat. And 2, it lets the lyrics shine through. The lyrics in this song are truly great, writing about the pains of growing up and adjusting to being an adult (much like a Cavetown song). However, the original mix doesn’t let the lyrics shine through nearly as much as it should. The live version, however, has the rest of the track match and compliment the subject matter of the lyrics. It’s intentionally simple, like a kid learning how to play an instrument. The song is about a man trying to be a boy, and the rest of the song should reflect that. And in this version, it does. 

This all begs the question, why? Why did the original mix turn out like it did? Why did it take out all the emotion of the artist? Why have I not been listening to more Twenty One Pilots? Well, the answer is purely just how the commercial music industry works. Acoustic instruments are less common, production takes over the original vision, and true creativity gets squashed in the face of placing high on the charts. Now, that all sounds incredibly dark and judgemental, and I want to note that this is not 100% the case with every pop artist. But it is a fact of the industry that you often cannot see the true creativity of an artist within their released music. Instead, you have to turn to seeing or hearing them live. I firmly believe that seeing an artist live is the only true way to experience their music. So, every chance you get, try to see an artist live. Even if it’s an artist you don’t particularly like. They might surprise you.