Are 21 Pilots Stressed Out? Song Analysis Part 1

Recently, I came across a blogger (Clifford Stumme) who’d attempted to analyze the deep, inner meaning of… well, not the meaning of life, nor why we’re all here exactly, nor was he exploring the origins of the earth and human life as we know it. Nope, he wrote about the meaning (as he saw it) of 21 Pilots’ song “Stressed Out.”

It is a song about “the transition from childhood to adulthood” and “social pressure to work and earn an income,” he wrote. Oh, what the heck. Here’s his the link to his blog:

Stumme’s interpretation of the 21 Pilots song is off the mark, I believe, so I’ve decided to write my own little ol’ blog entry. I’m a songwriter myself, after all, and I’m aware that songs will be interpreted by every listener every which way. So my interpretation (like Stumme’s interpretation) is not necessarily “accurate.” A song’s meaning (whether we songwriters like it or not) becomes whatever the listener wants it to be.

However, I too am a bit “stressed out” and need to limit my time, so I’m timing this blog to 30 minutes tops which means I’m going to need to analyze this baby in parts.

Welcome to Part 1 of my brilliant analysis…

So here we go:

The beginning is pretty straight forward:

“I wish I found some better sounds no one’s ever heard,

I wish I had a better voice to sing some better words…”

He’s starting out the song by stating that he wish he could express himself more eloquently in a way that he could reach people better but he’s going to do the best he can with this one simple song.



“I was told when I got older all my fears would shrink,

but now I’m insecure and I care what people think…”

Instead of saying, “I believed when I got older my fears would shrink,” he says, “I was told when I got older.” “I was told” suggests a complaint–that he was lied to in some way. “They told me that when I got older my fears would shrink!” But they didn’t. Why was I told something that wasn’t true?

Now he’s “insecure” and he cares “what people think.” Why is he insecure? To be insecure and care what other people think suggests instability and fear that hasn’t shrunk at all. Where does this fear and instability come from?

The answer lies here:  “…out of student loans and tree house homes we all would take the latter…”

He’d rather live in tree house homes than worry about student loans. (Oh yes! I, sadly, can relate!) So he’s insecure financially as well as emotionally. His fears didn’t shrink because now he’s saddled with debt. His childhood dreams are gone as he must work so hard that he has no time to think or dream, no time to enjoy life as he did as a child. Now, it’s work, work, work in order to pay off that debt.

“Wake up! You need to make money!” So you can pay off all those debts. You don’t wake up to enjoy life but to a non-life, a “life” of paying bills. Not much of a life at all.

Okay, half hour’s up. I’ll have to finish this blog up in a second part.

To be continued…

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