How One Man Helped Himself and Many Others Overcome Depression Through Music

Band- Twenty-One Pilots (Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun)



Music artists are among the many individuals impacted by mental health and many of them are fighting to raise awareness about it. Twenty-One Pilots, a Schizoid pop-band out of Columbus, Ohio, is one of them. TOP not only raises awareness to mental illnesses, but also provides advice about how to cope with and ultimately defeat them. Tyler, the lead singer, often personifies his alter ego, his depression, in his songs to illustrate uncertainties and fears about life—and how to overcome the discomfort. Tyler makes his songs relatable to draw an audience and is ultimately trying to help himself and song listeners overcome their inner-demons. Analyzed below are two of Twenty-One Pilot’s most popular songs, Car Radio and Migraine.



Song- Car Radio

Car Radio tells a true story about when Tyler Joseph was in college and how he was affected when his car radio literally got stolen. To Tyler, his radio was more than a hunk of metal and some wires.

Without his car radio, Tyler finds there is no music and therefore no distraction available to keep him from his own mind. Tyler is forced to sit in silence while he drives and is only accompanied by his own thoughts and inner demons.


Tyler’s radio serves as a metaphor to compare how he is missing a part of himself, his soul, which causes him to have depressing thoughts. He searches for something to replace his lost feelings with in order to avoid depression. Tyler says the line, “I hate this car that I’m driving,” as to say he hates his life and himself now that his soul (his car radio) is missing. He can no longer block his thoughts and contemplates killing himself as expressed though the lines, “There is no distraction to mask what is real, I could pull the steering wheel.”

Tyler gets deeper and deeper into his thoughts about human existence and concludes that we are all trying to fight away fear in one way or another. But then these thoughts are interrupted by Tyler himself yelling, “I liked it better when my car had sound!” Tyler wants all these fears and imaginations his mind came up with to disappear. He misses the distraction of music in his car to prevent himself from his disturbing thoughts.

There is a stark tone shift halfway through the song that is much more optimistic. Tyler lists several things we can do with these thoughts—but only two of which are realistic options. These are peace and fear. He elaborates on peace and says that, “Faith is to be awake and to be awake is for us to think and for us to think is to be alive.” He is saying that you must come to peace with these disturbing thoughts and have faith that everything will be okay.

Tyler ends the song by repeating the chorus, “I have these thoughts so often I ought to replace that slot with what I once bought, cause somebody stole my car radio and now I just sit in silence.” Although he may have found a coping mechanism, Tyler still has to fight his inner demons.

Car Radio portrays how people can be consumed by their thoughts and how it can be overwhelming. People are unfortunately forced to deal with these thoughts despite the constant battles inside their own minds. The only thing we can do to overcome these thoughts is have faith that everything will get better.


See the lyrics and music video here.



Song- Migraine


Tyler starts off Migraine by wondering if he is the only one who has to fight with his mind, “Am I the only one I know… waging my wars behind my face and above my throat? Shadows will scream that I’m alone…” He also mentions how mental disorders make people feel isolated. Tyler’s migraine refers to his depression and how it is so bad that the pain he’s experiencing is similar to that of a migraine.

Tyler says, “whether it’s the weather or the letters by my bed, sometimes death seems better that the migraine in my head.” Tyler is unsure whether death is so appealing because the weather is depressing or because the Bible next to his bed makes heaven seem like a better alternative than his current state on Earth. These two things are making Tyler rather die than keep living with the pain.

Tyler goes on to say he is “suspended in a defenseless test, being tested by a ruthless examinant that’s best represented by [his] depressing thoughts.” For Tyler, his life is full of depressing thoughts that test his patience, determination, faith, and happiness.

Tyler uses vivid imagery and symbols to express what is going on in his mind in the next verse. Tyler mentions how his pain is so internal that it goes unnoticed. His migraine is a beast that thrives off of death and corruption of healthy things that are growing in his psyche. He paints a picture of what is going on inside his head by saying, “Behind my eyelids are violence. My mind’s shipwrecked; this is the only land my mind could find. I did not know it was such a violent island—full of tidal waves, suicidal-crazed lions. They’re trying to eat me, blood running down their chin. And I know that I can fight or I can let the lion win. I begin to assemble what weapons I can find cause sometimes to stay alive you’ve gotta kill your mind.”


Tyler is lost in his thoughts. He’s drowning in them, hence him being on a “shipwrecked island.” He didn’t realize his mind could have these crazy thoughts. The lions, or his inner demons, are hungry to destroy him but Tyler knows that sometimes to overcome depression and other suicidal tendencies, you needs to stop thinking all together for a while and “kill your mind.”

He elaborates on this idea in the next verse, which has a more positive and playful tone. He says that there are other people than just himself experiencing these feelings. Although life can be depressing, you should freeze for a second and forget about those depressions. Life has a lot of happiness and joyful moments that you should think about and remember, so have hope.

Tyler’s last words of Migraine are “but I know we’ve made it this far… kid,” and he’s saying that even though people always feel like they’re isolated and alone in their suffering, we are never alone, and more importantly, “we’ve made it this far” outlasting it.

Overall, Migraine is very accurate in depicting depression and how it can tragically affect a person, but more importantly, how people can still have hope and with help, overcome the disease.

See the lyrics and live performance here (no music video)



Twenty-One Pilot’s liberation from organized and conventional rules and structure in their song-writing techniques gives them their edge and is what made me fall in love with them. Their schizophrenic sound is one of many factors that help Tyler and Josh accurately portray what they’re trying to say. The tones reflect the song and lyric’s mood, while also being irresistibly catchy.

All of Twenty-One Pilot’s songs are just as deep, insightful, relatable, and helpful as Car Radio and Migraine. Both of these songs made their official deputes on TOP’s 2012 album, Vessel. TOP released another album called Blurryface in the spring of 2015 and it only made the band’s expectations higher.

Tyler’s struggle, perseverance, and survival of depression impacts his listeners because the lyrics of Twenty-One Pilots are so relatable. Tyler overcame his depression though channeling a passion for songwriting and has shared this passion with his listeners, hoping to help them, too.

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