I watch The Grammys every year without fail. I wish I didn’t. I wish I had the willpower to stay far, far away from it, and the three and a half hours of my life it takes up every 365 days. I consistently spend most of the viewing experience internally moaning about the excessive adverts, or the performances by artists I don’t care about, or – most commonly – groaning at the painful jokes made by the host of the year.
This year, though, there was much less of that. 2017’s host – James Corden – is a perfectly reasonable human, and his English humour is perfectly aligned with mine. I was a fan of at least 50% of the performers, presenters, and even crowd members. But, most of all, this year my favourite band – twenty one pilots – were nominated for five awards. And this year, they won one.
twenty one pilots – Grammy Award Winners 2017 for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
I cried just writing that.
But this award is important for so many more reasons other than that they’re my favourite band. It is important because of all of the things they stand for, and their acceptance speech highlighted that better than any I’ve seen before.
As Tyler Joseph kissed his delightful wife in celebration, he was simultaneously taking off his dress pants. Just straight up stripping right there at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Josh, of course, followed, and the audience cam showed people laughing in semi-uncomfortable confusion, but also delight, because wow, how outrageous to be pants-less at a black tie event. Is this the new sweatpants and hoodie trend made big by Kanye all those years ago? We can only hope.
As the duo took to the stage, you could see where Tyler had tattooed his name onto Josh’s leg on stage at Milwaukee’s Eagles Ballroom last year, although Tyler’s matching “Josh” tattoo seemed to be hidden by leg hair. Without saying a word, fans of the band – the Skeleton Clique – could blatantly see the permanent commitment the two had made to each other, to their music, and to us.
And then, as Josh stood vibrantly yet silently next to him with his sick fluorescent yellow hair, Tyler started to talk:
“This story starts in Columbus, Ohio, and uh, it was a few years ago, and it was before Josh and I were able to make money playing music and, um, I called him up, and I said, “Hey Josh, do you wanna come over to my rental house and watch the Grammys?” and uh, he said, “Yeah, who’s hanging there?” and I said, it’s a couple of my roommates, just come and, uh, watch the Grammys with us”. And, uh, as we were watching, we noticed that every single one of us was in our underwear, and seriously, Josh turned to me – and we were no one at that time – and he turned to me and he said, “You know, if we ever go to the Grammys, if we ever win a Grammy, we should receive it just like this.”
So, not only is this amazing but I want you, everyone who’s watching at home to know that you can be next, so watch out okay? Cause anyone from anywhere can do anything. This is that.“
Aside from being the cutest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life, the speech itself is one reason as to why this win is massively important in today’s music industry. The point Tyler was making is that not too long ago, they were nobody. This liberating pants-free, Grammy watching situation probably only occurred three or four years ago. Less than two years ago, I saw them in an 800 capacity venue in Melbourne. The year before that, they were opening for Paramore in New Zealand and Australia, and I was the only one in the vicinity in both countries that knew all of their lyrics. twenty one pilots were a small town band, and they will never forget where they came from. They will never forget that they came from that couch in that house which neither of them owned, not worrying about what they wore because no one cares what you’re wearing when you’re sitting on a couch in your own (or your best friend’s) home. The fact that they won’t forget this ensures that they will continue to encourage those small town bands with their story. Even though they’re now selling out arenas worldwide, and playing to crowds that know every syllable to every rap, they won’t forget that Tyler started writing songs in his mum’s basement, and they will continue to say, “Look, we were nobody but we made it, and you can, too.”
I love that this is the message that Josh and Tyler continue to put out into the world, but there truly is so much more to them winning this award than is initially visible on the surface. Their depth is fathomless, and while much of the band’s music sounds upbeat, happy, and catchy – it is often anything but. Their willingness to touch on topics that are still so often avoided, despite the prevalence of mental health issues worldwide, is refreshing. Like, yeah, it hurts to listen to, and sometimes you cry so much you think you might have run out of tears, but to hear that others feel or think the same things that you do? There’s nothing as validating as that. twenty one pilots’ music ignites this feeling that they’re fighting your demons with you, side by side, every step of the way. They appeal to a group of people that might otherwise face stigma and rejection every single day of their lives. I know that I fundamentally love them because of that. Because of lyrics such as, “the sun will rise and we will try again”, and “friend, please don’t take your life away from me”. I know I’m not alone in that rationale. I know that there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of others that love this band for that reason, and what this win says to us is that the world is acknowledging us, and it’s saying that it’s okay to talk about this side of us that we’ve previously had to hide.
My hope is that out of this Grammy award we will hear more bands and artists that write about these ~uncomfortable ~ topics being played on the radio, and that people will start looking at depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other common mental health disorders the way they look at heartbreak. If it can follow that people can turn to their friends and say, “I’m not coming out tonight because my depression is really bad” in the same way they can say, “I’m not coming out tonight because I just got dumped”, then twenty one pilots have succeeded in something that they perhaps didn’t even set out to do.
This band is important, I’ve known that for years.
Now you all know, too.