Twenty One Pilots is back with their first new music in two years, “Shy Away.” The track is the lead single from the duo’s forthcoming album, Scaled and Icy.
The message here is a positive one. But some lyrics include phrases that need a bit of explanation to help us understand the band’s message of encouragement for those learning to step out and discover their purpose.
Lead singer Tyler Joseph begins by telling someone, “When I get home/You better not be there.” Now, usually when you hear those words, you would assume that someone is getting kicked out of the house.
That’s sort of what’s happening here, but not in a negative sense. Instead, Joseph is encouraging this person to take a risk and to embrace his calling, even if it feels scary.
But even the way he offers that encouragement sounds a bit odd: “Shed your modesty/And the only thing you leave behind/Is your own skin on the floor.” Again, those instructions might not immediately sound super redemptive. Ordinarily, shedding one’s modesty isn’t a positive thing. But in this case, he’s not encouraging this person to be immodest or inappropriate, but rather to let go of the fears holding him back.
That’s exactly the interpretation Joseph gave in an interview with BBC Radio 1. Joseph said that this track really began as a map to guide his younger brother through his creative process: “Lyrically, it kinda turned out to talk about being an older brother and how the only thing tougher than trying to figure out what your own purpose is, is watching someone whom you love try to figure out their purpose.”
According to Joseph, the only way we’re ever going to learn about our own potential is if we’re willing to be brave (“Don’t you shy away”), to avoid creative ruts (“Don’t circle the track”) and to dive headfirst into the unknown (“Manifest a ceiling/… Searchin’ for that feelin’/Just like an ‘I love you’”).
None, as long as the potential misunderstandings of some lyrics are interpreted as intended.
Just as we’ve seen in the past with this band, Twenty One Pilots has once again delivered an encouraging message … that takes a bit of work to understand fully.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).