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An Advertisement From Dema? A Review Of The New Twenty One Pilots Album, “Scaled and Icy”

After a three-year break, Twenty One Pilots came back with their sixth studio album, Scaled And Icy, released on May 21st, 2021. The Trench’s follow-up work continues the storyline that has been built ever since 2015, with their album Blurryface. The duo Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun continue to tell the story of Dema and the banditos, even if it is hidden in plain sight. Their new work is a breath of fresh start and a kick in the door to open space for creating new styles and experimenting with the musical universe.

Dema Records

But what is Dema and how is it related to Scaled And Icy? It is very simple to explain:

The band has always criticized the music industry and how it works along with capitalism. On the album that came previously to their new release, Tyler and Josh created a small story to which could be associated with their critics. Dema is some sort of land that traps people inside their alienated world, representing the music industry forcing artists to make music only for money-making. The banditos are a group that represents the resistance, trying not to be repressed by those “bad guys” who only want them to produce capital growth. They were constantly trying to escape this land, to break free from the ties of what they call “commercial music”. At the end of Trench, the listener is not sure if they won the battle or not.

Ever since the duo announced their new album and its first single, Shy Away, they have been dropping hints everywhere, including their official website and social media, which the fans could use to find more information about the new album’s storyline. They noticed that everything was advertised by Dema Records, connecting to Trench immediately. Only by a few clues, everybody got to find that this album should be more interesting to the story than they thought it would be.

The title is a reference itself. You see, the whole story was told behind a character named Clancy, who appeared many times on the codes and clues during Trench’s era. He was a messenger, sending letters to the banditos, trying to help them out. Scaled and Icy is an anagram for “Clancy Is Dead”, meaning that now they did not have their message man to help them anymore.

They Sound Different, But Familiar

This record tends to get close to mainstream pop/alternative music to connect to the story they have been building for a long time now. This is a consequence of the band not being able to escape Dema as if they were being forced to produce music that the records want. So in this album, you’re going to face happy and catch melodies characteristic from pop songs. It is definitely different from everything they have done before, stepping away from the alternative and dark songs that no other band was doing too, and approaching the 80s pop revival in songs like Saturday, Shy Away and Formidable.

But as you listen to it, there are some reminiscences from Twenty One Pilots’ previous works. The fans have pointed out that it feels like they were trying to bring back their third album, Vessel, to rescue a few styles from back when they started. Even though they have stepped away from their rap influences, the duo keeps strong with the hard piano, drums and guitar, mixed with their unique production that seems to perfectly fit different types of sounds together. We can compare Bounce Man to other songs they have done before, like The Judge, rescuing an iconic instrument present in the band’s discography since 2011. No matter how much they try to change, there is always going to be a single detail that reminds the public of their own modus operandi.

A Period Of Experimenting

But the whole storyline is just an excuse for them to explore new places and techniques, forgetting about the dark and sad songs to bring some happiness and joy to the public after a long year and a half of dealing with a global pandemic. “Scaled And Icy” was the way they found to bring a smile on people’s faces without forgetting their roots.

If you still miss their old music, The Outside, Mulberry Street and No Chances should be enough to make you remember why you liked them in the first place since these songs approach their old style more than the other ones. And if you did not like the new album because it is so experimental and different, do not be sad! Twenty One Pilots is known for the changes they easily do in their musical style and there are rumors that they are holding a “classic TØP” album to be released soon.

Eyes On The Lyrics

And of course, if you want to find new clues of how this record connects to Trench’s storyline, keep an eye on the lyrics! For a long time, Tyler has been making references to sleep in his songs, like in Ode to Sleep and the Jumpsuit music video, where they say “We’ve been here the whole time. You’re Asleep. It’s time to wake up”. On The Outside, Tyler sings “I got a long drive, I’ll tape my eyes so I don’t fall asleep again”. The same thing happens with Choker’s chorus when they sing “I know it’s over”, a big reference to their song Leave The City, when they sing “They know that it’s almost over”.

You can have some fun while searching for new references, writing them down to share with everyone. And remember, it is never a coincidence when it comes to Twenty One Pilots.

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The article above was edited by Isabella Gomes.

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Rafaela Bertolini

Casper Libero '23

Journalism student with a dubious taste in series, books, movies and music. Oh, and please send me a picture of your cat!
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