Twenty One Pilots is a two-man musical band. The band consists of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. Originally, the band also had Nick Thomas and Chris Salih. However, both of them left two years after the formation of the band. Today, 21 Pilots is one of the most well-known musical duos in the indie scene. In fact, they’re also quite popular in the mainstream as well. However, they haven’t changed their sound, which was the very thing that helped him establish themselves in the indie scene.
Their song “Johnny Boy” was released with their debut album, “Twenty One Pilots”. Thus, it’s a song that is the perfect example of their original sound that set them apart from their competition. The song is about a man who is facing the world head on, even though he falls down. And Tyler constantly roots for him and cheers him on. It’s a song with very light subject matter, and almost everyone can relate with it.
What does the Title mean?
21 Pilots are professionals at knitting storylines and creating characters out of nowhere such as Blurryhead. It’s no surprise that even in the song “Johnny Boy”, they create a character especially for this song. There’s no deeper meaning to the title of this song. It’s about a man named Johnny who has been shoved to the ground by the world. And Tyler is urging him to stand up by saying “Get up Johnny Boy”. In many parts of the world, a lot of people use the word ‘boy’ to address someone in an informal way; someone that they care about. In this song, it seems that Tyler cares about Johnny. In one interview, Tyler’s father, Chris Joseph, revealed that he thinks that this song is somehow related to him. It is perhaps based on a time when Tyler’s father was out of a job due to poor economic conditions of the market. The hard times didn’t last long, but it’s very much possible that Tyler used those memories as a fuel to come up with this song.
Verse 1 – What does it mean?
“He stays home from work this time
He never really told his wife
He never really told a lie
But this time, he decides that it’s alright
No one really knows his mind
And no one knows behind his eyes
The man deserves a medal
But he’s never really won a prize before
He goes to lock the door”
The song begins with Tyler narrating Johnny’s life. It is apparent that Johnny is your average joe. He keeps to himself and supports his family to the best of his capabilities. The song is not about something out of this world that most people cannot relate to. It’s a song about everyone of us. It’s a song that glorifies the common man who works hard day and night to survive in this society that is biased towards the powerful and the rich. It’s about the struggles of a common man who is not meant for this world. Johnny hasn’t told his wife, but he also has never told a lie. Perhaps, Johnny has lost his job or made a loss in his business. Yet, he keeps to himself, bearing all the burden. He doesn’t want to worry his wife. The second part of this verse lets us know about the burden that is crushing Johnny, and how no one even knows about it. Johnny is a man who is the real superhero, and he never makes it out of the shadows. The first verse ends with an ominous line.
What does the Pre-Chorus mean?
“He has fallen in love
He knows it’s enough
But the world looks down and frowns”
The song suddenly shifts in subject matter. It seems that Johnny has fallen in love. He is now tired of carrying everyone’s burden. He’s fallen in love, but the world doesn’t accept his love. The most logical interpretation of these lines is that Johnny has fallen in love with another woman, but he also doesn’t want to hurt his wife.
What does the Chorus mean?
“Get up, Johnny Boy, get up, Johnny Boy
Get up, ’cause the world has left you lying on the ground
You’re my pride and joy, you’re my pride and joy
Get up, Johnny Boy, because we all need you now
We all need you now”
The chorus is about Tyler asking Johnny boy to keep his chin up. The chorus can be interpreted in multiple ways. Anyone who has been put down by the world can relate to the chorus. From those who have been crushed by the economic machine of the nation to those who have been outcasted by the society, the chorus speaks to the heart of everyone. Johnny boy here becomes a Christlike figure for the downtrodden who are not talked about often. Tyler reiterates the fact that the world needs Johnny boy all the more now. The world needs more Johnny boys who are true to themselves.
Verse 2 – What does it mean?
“Someone said, “Where you goin’?”
And someone said to you, “Goodbye.”
They deflect the disrespect
When they say that they blame it on the times
They blame it on the times
We all know you’re qualified
To fix a chair and love your wife
They all know you’re qualified
But they lie when they blame it on the times
Oh, we blame it on the times”
The second verse confirms that the song is about not one aspect of Johnny boy’s life. It’s about the life of a common man in general. It deals with economic turmoil, love, as well as inner-conflict of the man. The first two lines can refer to the attitudes that different people take toward Johnny boy. Someone nags him constantly and distrusts him. On the other hand, someone lovingly wishes him goodbye. Perhaps, the people being referred to in the first two lines are his wife and lover. And Johnny is conflicted, whether he should choose love or someone who doesn’t love him back. This can also be an indication to the working environment Johnny finds himself in. The first line can be about a distrusting boss who exploits him, and second can be about him getting fired. The line “blaming it on the times” refers to the economic turmoil that is being blamed by the organizations. The constant rejections can make a man question his worth. But Tyler and Johnny know that they’re both capable of doing the work, whether it’s fixing a chair or loving the wife. They’re capable of the work, yet they still don’t get the job. Johnny can love his wife, but the spark in his relationship is dead as his wife doesn’t love him. And everyone blames everything on the times. The wife, perhaps, says that so much time has passed that the spark is dead. The employers blame the recession when asked about the pay cuts and layoffs. The verse ends with a general observation of how every human being blames their shortcomings and questionable behaviour on the times they live in, which is in fact nothing short of the cold hard truth.
What does the Bridge mean?
“I will carry all your names and I will carry all your shame and
I will carry all your names and I will carry all your shame and
I will carry all your names and I will carry all your shame”
The bridge is about the next generation inheriting all these excuses and situations from the previous generation. This tendency to blame everything on the times gives rise to situations that bring shame to new generations. For instance, even though a lot of white Americans knew slavery was morally repulsive, they blamed not themselves or the practice, but the times. They used the times to justify it as a norm. And today, all white Americans carry the shame of being their descendants.
Johnny Boy starts off as a song that is apparently about the struggles of an honest hard-working man oppressed by the times. As it ends, it becomes a critique of human beings in general and their tendency to not take responsibility. As they say, silence is often more harmful than the evil act being committed. It’s an amazing song that has lyrical depth of a poem.