One of the top Christian bands, if not THE top, is Twenty One Pilots led by two talented artists, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. By ‘top’ I refer to the intertwining of intelligibility and Christianity, for their work invites its listeners to critically think, as all modern music ought to do. In this sense the band strives to be intelligent in its creativity. Additionally, its songs revolve around Christianity, or at least the Christian lens as it were on the world at hand. This element resides in the practicing Christian that Joseph is and Christianity’s influence upon him and his work.
One particular song that I will examine is ‘Oh Ms. Believer,’ the title of which is a paronomasia pun between the meanings ‘misbeliever’ and ‘a woman with beliefs.’ The song addresses misconstrued belief and its resurrection. The former meaning provides the premise upon which the rest of the song builds, while the latter meaning provides an element of love within the song that lends to the manner in which Christ mitigates the misbeliever of misconstrued belief, that is through communion. How does the song revolve around misbelief? What is significant of communion?
I would like to begin with the phrase “the dead of winter.” This phrase resides in the fourth line of the song, however, with the words ‘winter’ (1.4) and ‘dead’ (1.4) switched around in order to make an internal rhyme at the end of verse 1. This internal rhyme lends itself to the deeper meaning of the phrase “the dead of winter” in that the writer(s) not only refers to the time of winter but of winter the symbol of death, for the lyric states “the winter of dead” (1.4).
The composer(s) of the song explicates how the misbeliever finds herself colder than the environment in which she resides, the winter of dead. Her ‘shaking shoulders’ (1.3) signify that her ‘twisted mind’ (1.2) is more dead to belief than the death that results of winter. I wonder if Joseph purposely alliterated ‘shaking shoulders’ to impress the listener’s mind with this reality of the misbeliever? Whatever the case, the rhetor of the poem finds himself with a Christian tension when his ‘pretty sleeper’ (1.1) muffs her ears, as any misbeliever might do because of the cold environment, thereby preventing any mitigation of misconstrued belief from the Christian who not only desires to be mitigated but to do the mitigating of the woman of her ignorance.
The singer of the song attempts to mitigate the misbeliever through sympathy and ultimately love. The singer proclaims he loves her (the misbeliever), and through his love he judges her. I wonder how many would find Christian judgment radical and foolish? But indeed, he first judges her to be a ‘sleeper’ (1.1), and than he judges that her muffs distill her fears. Of what fears we know not but only that she has them. The significance of verse 1 is that the rhetor travels with her through the cold environment despite her ignorance. In this sense, he is Christ-like. Moreover, the composer pleads for the struggling believer to “take his hand” (4.3) as Christ invites all to take His.
The rhetor of the song gives hope to the misbeliever by emphasizing the element of community in traveling through the “foreign land” (2.3) and repeating the line “together we go” (pre-chorus, 2.5, 6) four times. The composer purports in verses 3 and 5 how traveling might get deadlier as the years go on, but together they will learn to walk slower despite the cold and any fears that may arise. The singer acknowledges the manner of mitigation here in that through communion he and his lover will grow stronger in belief.
I appreciate the work of Twenty One Pilots, and I hope they continue to invite their followers and listeners to ponder their lyrics.
Joseph, Tyler. “Oh Ms Believer.” Twenty One Pilots, 2009, www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKU91Zjf2uQ.