On May 21st 2021, twenty one pilots released their sixth album – Scaled And Icy. It’s different from what fans of the hit records Blurryface and Trench have grown used to, but somehow it still has that je ne sais quoi that sets the band apart from other artists. Walk with me through the eleven tracks and let’s discover how the new album links to their previous releases.
If you didn’t listen to any of the singles that were released before the album came out, then you might still be expecting an emo-esque sound that doesn’t fit in any real genre, except maybe alternative, and that carries radio-suitable bangers as well as idiosyncratic songs. So, here’s a heads up – we’re moving in a more poppy direction than what we’ve seen so far from the Ohio duo, consisting of lead singer and conceptualist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun. Furthermore, at first glance, Scaled And Icy seems to lose touch with the dark themed, mental illness-talking previous albums, especially musically. And although Trench too was a sleek, maybe even slippery, album at first listen (save the first two tracks), the release from 2018 definitely set new standards for what a concept album can be. But enough talk about previous albums – let’s take a look at the tracks of Scaled And Icy!
1. Good Day
After a mixture between a weird space sound and the tune of a computer being booted up, the song starts off with catchy chords and happy-sounding vocals. The whole track gives off talk show (if not sitcom) vibes, meaning that it could be easily used as an up-beat intro to an 80s or 90s show.
“I don’t bother anyone; Never make demands; Chokin’ on the circumstances; Self-sabotage is a sweet romance”
The beginning sounds quite mechanical and instantly reminds of previous twenty one pilots songs. After the first verse, the chorus resembles a sort of hymn that you can easily imagine a huge stadium screaming out. Right when the third chorus finishes – just when you may start to get a little bit bored with the repetition and predictable built-up of the song – Tyler fits in a short rap part, which rounds up the song in a twenty one pilots manner. As this was the second single from the album, there’s also a video!
3. Shy Away
As the first single of the album, this song had to fit the vibe of Scaled And Icy, while still being suitable for radio. The track doesn’t disappoint – drums pushing forward, a catchy chorus, and a more rock-sound than the previous two songs. It is the perfect fit for a first release, as it promises more without being boring. However, you might miss some kind of wow moment.
4. The Outside
This song immediately strikes a different tone. While the impersonal computer sound starts off with a hypnotic tune, Tyler’s monotonous verse breaks this first impression. An altered male choir is introduced in the chorus and gives off a slightly dark vibe. Similar to Choker, the third part is rapped instead of sung. Overall, The Outside is a very strong candidate and should appeal to original fans more than to the general public. Although the song still isn’t all that alternative.
Saturday was released as a single beforehand as well, but honestly it didn’t seem all that spectacular at first. However, Josh’s drumming pattern, a wind section, and a guest appearance of Tyler’s wife Jenna, can be discovered throughout the song, making it a lot more interesting. Still – this track isn’t as strong as the others, at least in my opinion. Although I must admit that the lyrics, which are a homage to Tyler’s wife for being his anchor during the nothingness of the pandemic, add a beautiful meaning!
6. Never Take It
“You better educate yourself, but never too much”
At first, this song fits very well in the album and doesn’t appear all that different. What is noteworthy, is that we have an e-guitar solo (!!) and a very strong bassline. Moreover, Tyler’s way of delivering the line “You better educate yourself but never too much” is very catchy and telling in its meaning that you should stay up to date without letting the media pull you down. This song is an absolute gem, both from a musical and a lyrical standpoint.
7. Mulberry Street
This song picks up the happy, funky theme again and is very piano-heavy. One of the stronger parts, for example, is the last bridge. Overall, Mulberry Street comes off more as a song out of a musical than from an alt.pop music album. This might be one of those tunes you need to listen to more than thrice in order to unveil all its qualities.
Again, this song starts off very catchy and light. Lyrics wise, Formidable talks about the quirks and emotional/mental baggage one has, that a significant other would have to overlook. As a reward, they would get eternal loyalty – so much that it might bore the addressed person.
9. Bounce Man
I know, I know, I’m repeating myself, but this song (especially the chorus) is very catchy! You can hardly listen to it without nodding your head, bouncing (*wink wink*) your knee, or at least moving your toes to the beat.
10. No Chances
“We come for you, no chances”
As a fan of the heavier, sadder, and less conventional twenty one pilots tracks, this one definitely hits home. No Chances covers you in goosebumps right from the first tune. It starts with the sound of a violated security system which is followed by a strong male choir singing “We come for you, no chances” and finishes with an intense instrumental. With slow rap verses, the song doesn’t prepare you for the melancholic pre-chorus, right before the male choir starts off again. Overall, No Chances is the song that fits this album the least, although it resembles the typical twenty one pilots sound the most.
Redecorate talks about the delicate topic of what to do with the memoire a close friend or family member leaves behind after passing away. What do you want your family to do with your room, your belongings, after having gone? Will you tidy up your room (and your personal affairs) before you disappear or do you want to leave your closest ones with a mess of decisions?
The whole album resembles a musical you could go see in a theatre.
All in all, Scaled And Icy proudly wears the typical twenty one pilots handwriting, even if it seems to be the ‘light version’. To me, the whole album resembles a musical you could go see in a theatre. It’s safe to say that this record is one you must listen to repeatedly in order to unveil all its details and to enjoy it to the full extent. Scaled And Icy might be less black and red, dark, and twisted than Blurryface – but just by looking at its cover, it becomes apparent that this has never been its claim in the first place.
Bonus: What’s the Meaning Behind the Record?
We will now dive into the twenty one pilots sphere because their music is never just music. Tyler and Josh are masters of delusion, of hidden messages, and of creating parallel universes for fans to enter. It might be worth picking apart the songs in order to understand how this new record fits into the grand scheme of the twenty one pilots lore. It would be too much to go into every little detail of the world the duo has created, and this article obviously isn’t about decrypting it. However, dismissing their conceptual thoughts would equal looking at a self-portrait without taking the artist’s condition into account.
Here we go! In the previous album called Trench, the band introduced the fictional dark and depressing city of Dema, ruled by the evil Bishops, who are the representations of mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. There are several links to this world on the new record – for instance, fans discovered that an anagram of Scaled And Icy reads “Clancy is dead”. Clancy, the main character of the Trench era, wrote letters from Dema to the outside world (aka the twenty one pilots fandom, called the Clique), trying to escape from the Bishops and from Dema. These letters could be found on the website dmaorg.info, which is no longer active due to fear of being discovered by the Bishops. Moreover, in No Chances, the choir sings “we come for you, no chances”, which can be interpreted as the Bishops warning everyone who tries to flee from the city that they will end up just like Clancy – dead.
Getting back to the Scaled And Icy era, there is more to discover. With the vibrant blue (a colour which could spark another discussion rooted in Blurryface) and pink, the band has deliberately put a contrast to previous cover artworks. In addition, the livestream from May 21st 2021 started with the fictional talk show “Good Day Dema”, which was hosted by two of the nine Bishops, namely Dan Lisden and Sally Sacarver). Another hint that there is something fishy going on is the fact that the band themselves didn’t mention their own upcoming release until April 7th 2021. All these signs point at one thing: Tyler and Josh have been instrumentalised by the Bishops to create Scaled And Icy as Dema propaganda.
It definitely showcases their fantastic songwriting skills and variability.
The Scaled And Icy sound might not be your cup of tea, that’s understandable! But isn’t it spectacular that this is another well thought-through coup of twenty one pilots, pulling us deeper into the world of Trench and Dema? Although liking this album is heavily influenced by the expectations and open-mindedness you have for twenty one pilots’ music, it definitely showcases their fantastic songwriting skills and variability.
And who knows, we might even get another album soon – this time from twenty one pilots themselves, and without the censorship and puppet regime the Bishops enforced. At least that’s what the Clique is speculating.
Click here to listen to ‘Scaled And Icy’ on Spotify.
Edited by: Emma Chiaratti