In May of this year, Twenty One Pilots — a band who once played basement shows in Columbus, Ohio — released an album titled “Scaled and Icy” that made Billboard’s No. 1 Top Rock Album a few weeks later. The album is a collection of 11 songs that are more colorful and upbeat than fans were expecting. Twenty One Pilots has replaced their rather dismal, emotionally dense songs like “Goner” and “Neon Gravestones” with happier fight songs such as “Good Day” and “Never Take It.”
Many songs on “Scaled and Icy” have Twenty One Pilots fans confused, prompting several interesting theories about the underlying meaning of the lyrics and lore. When asked about the album in an interview with Hype News, frontman Tyler Joseph explains that it “didn’t feel right to write a record that mirrored the reality” of misery and loneliness due to the pandemic; instead, their new music was an attempt to combat negativity. “Scaled and Icy” is about pushing past the setbacks that people face and embracing the positive moments that are worth celebrating.
After the chaotic year that was 2020, it has never been more important for people with a platform to share their opinions based on their own experience. Celebrities, musical artists and anyone with a social media platform continue to stress the importance of voting, donating and volunteering where it counts. In the song “Never Take It,” Joseph critiques the intentional, rampant spread of misinformation by the media for profit. This song is also a critique of the ignorance in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Americans have witnessed, the spread of misinformation can have a large negative impact on one’s mental health as well as massive social repercussions, evident in violent events like the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 of this year.
The lyrics of “Never Take It” call attention to the creation and spread of media misinformation, which reinforces people’s biases. In turn, this causes people to share and mishandle distorted news articles that align with their opinions rather than articles with information that is backed by reliable sources. Joseph’s argument on this topic is woven delicately into the lyrics, paired with Josh Dun’s heavy drumbeats and loud guitar solos to hammer the song’s point even further.
The first and second verses of “Never Take It” are direct criticisms about the toxicity behind news outlets that deliberately spread information that they know will rile people up and cause largescale controversy. “How can we seek restitution” from these outlets when they “keep the truth in quotations” and lie through their “fake teeth”? Biased news anchors report on alleged facts without looking further into the truth. Reporters, especially on the internet, use photos and out-of-context quotes to bait viewers into interacting with their posts. People turn to the news when they seek clarification on different matters, especially during confusing times like the pandemic. Joseph sings, “why cure disease of confusion?” when news sources continue to profit off of their viewers’ confusion. The angrier people get, the more clicks and revenue media outlets generate.
In the chorus, Joseph responds to these statements with defiance. The news and biased political campaigns are attempting to “weaponize” angry people for their own gain, and the people singing this song will not tolerate it any longer. There are a lot of young people on the internet and older people who are still trying to figure out how it works. Naïve people, like the ones in these groups, often fall victim to this misinformation and hold other people’s opinions above their own. Instead, Joseph and the fans of his band refuse to be ignorant and will form their own opinions after research and critical thinking.
The bridge of “Never Take It” has caused a bit of controversy of its own. Like many people during the pandemic, Joseph writes that he watched a lot of news and other television. It began to feel mentally taxing to continue to watch bad news after bad news on the television. Instead of fixating on the chaos, Joseph turned his attention away from the news and toward his own creative outlets. He learned how to play the guitar and demonstrates this new skill frequently throughout the album, especially in this song. Joseph sings, “My advice on those two things that I picked up,” which include both watching the news and learning the guitar, is that “you better educate yourself but never too much.”
The last line of the bridge seems a bit counterintuitive. How does one educate themselves “too much”? It appears as if Joseph is trying to say that too much education is a bad thing, which contradicts everything he’s already written in “Never Take It.” After breaking it down further, one could speculate that the bridge references the importance of not overinvesting one’s energy into research and hobbies because the risk of having a breakdown is high. He advises listeners to learn new skills but not try to master them to the point that one can no longer be creative. At the same time, he recommends that people listen to what the news has to say but not believe everything that is reported. Regardless, this argument needs more substance than just two lines.
Many fans have begun connecting the dots between “Never Take It” and Twenty One Pilots’ songs of the past, such as “We Don’t Believe What’s On TV,” which mirrors the same sentiments. In this upbeat song with a reoccurring ukulele melody, Joseph asserts that the television is feeding people what they want to see and purposefully distorting their thinking to fit political agendas.
Overall, both songs emphasize the importance of people making their own educated opinions. Do not consume every short and convenient opinion that the media seeks to drill into peoples’ brains. It’s of utmost importance that more people make a better attempt to seek the truth and refuse to be political pawns.