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The Cycle in “The Outside” by Twenty One Pilots

The Band:

Prolific modern alternative duo Twenty One Pilots have been on a long journey. Both literally and metaphorically with their discography. The latest album, “Scaled and Icy,” featured a more poppy and happy sound. A departure from their rebellious previous outings with mega hit “Trench.”

This became a bit of an issue with long time fans as they were expecting a continuation of the sound and story of the previous work. To no one’s surprise, frontman Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun have continued the narrative in their virtual concert, live performances, and various performances. Giving greater context to the music change and pushing things forward. 

The Beach & Trail:

The latest addition is “The Outside.” Originally a bass driven, chill, and electric track with lyrics going on about the potential of being outside of what the people want. The video takes place after the events of “Saturday.” There, Josh helps Tyler escape the Submarine he’s trapped in by the Bishops of DEMA.

Opening to a shot of Trash the Dragon being eerily controlled by one of the bishops, only to be murdered in a sick witchcraft sort of way. Cutting to a shored Joseph. Soaked and vision blurred he gets up and follows a torch carrying Josh.

The song plays as expected until the pair reach an entrance to a cave and see an oh-so familiar face: Ned. Ned has changed since last we saw him in “Chlorine,” now with antlers to boot. Upon grabbing and putting on a dry coat, branded with a logo from a previous era of their sound, Tyler and Josh journey into the cave. This is where things get interesting. 


The Cave:

Here, only lit by the torches they carry there is a distant. A nostalgic melody that echoes through the rigid walls of the cave. The melody belongs to their track “Migraine.” This comes from Vessel, the first studio album released by the duo back in 2013. If you think it to be a nod and solely a nod to their previous work then you’re dead wrong. Twenty One Pilots have always been purposeful with what they use.

Looking at the lyrical content of “Migraine” we get the isolated story of one Tyler Joseph who struggles with his depressive thoughts and personifies it by saying they are an aggressor. Additionally, he’s on an abandoned island, tormented by his own negativity. Much like the actual events unfolding.

The melody fades away as The Outside creeps in. Walking into the cave, Tyler turns to find Josh has disappeared. Turing again and he finds two Neds. With nothing left but to follow, Tyler walks deeper into the cave. He finds a group of Neds, all huddled around a fire. All drinking from a single container.

Following this, is Tyler meeting with the original Ned on another shore. He removes his antlers, giving them to Joseph. To which he proceeds to use as a way to resurrect the murdered bishop.  Then to taunt them, showing them that they can’t touch him as the song repeats that same sentiment.

We then close with an extreme zoom out, as it’s shown another duo seen, one that is framed and edited to match the one at the end of “Nico and the Niners.” If they’re the same, then they have escaped DEMA, which burns in the background. 



The Cycle:

This is a video that cemented the concept of cycles. The buildup and payoff Twenty One Pilots have done since 2015 with the release of “Blurryface” is that of a cycle of growing pains. A rebellious, blended, and poppy embrace of the ups and downs brought by one’s own sense of worth. The personification and expansion of the character transformed into a narrative of breaking free of said traumas. Along the journey, the various lights one has in life is given shape as well. Ned and his apparent clan are all meant to personify Tyler’s creativity. This is apparent in interviews and in the use of Ned in the video. While the concept of being captured then breaking free again seems repetitive, that cycle reigns true for our own lives. The video, if the end of the Scaled and Icy Era, ends on a hopeful note. If they can escape and taunt their demons, then so can anyone. 

For more Twenty One Pilots, deep dives, and thoughts on the expansive and varied world of music, make sure to take a look at our Word Section!

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