Student Author(s)

Annah Duffey, Hope College

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Marissa J. Doshi, Communication

Document Type


Event Date



Twenty One Pilots, a popular band in the United States, has become a subject of intrigue in popular culture, since it challenges lyrical and musical themes through genre variation and themes of internal complexities requiring intricate listening among consumers.Through close analysis of photos, songs, music videos, and media interviews, this three-part paper and website project sought to uncover messages the band has promoted and perhaps, unintentionally advertised to its listeners. Semiotic analysis showed that the band positions itself as unusual by placing popular symbols within alternative symbol systems. Discourse analysis of the band’s song “Neon Gravestones” showed that the band explores suicide and depression openly yet cautiously, in contrast with the misrepresentation or absence of discussion of these issues in other mainstream media. Identity deconstruction, using an intersectional approach, revealed that despite Twenty One Pilots’ calls for inclusivity, they have incorrectly generalized their audience and glossed over their own positionality, and thus, contradicted their stated messages. The band would do well to acknowledge the social inequalities that exist based upon identities like class and race, and listeners would benefit from awareness about the silences within Twenty One Pilots’ music.

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Communication Commons