Cliff-pop-song-professor.png

Welcome!

My name's Clifford Stumme, and I explain the deeper meanings of popular songs. Let's have a conversation about what you think about the songs and go deeper together. Feel free to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "Ride" by Twenty One Pilots mean?

What does "Ride" by Twenty One Pilots mean?

"Ride" Lyrics Meaning

The fifth Twenty One Pilots single, "Ride," is out, and it's full of thoughts on death, life, and living. It's somewhat cryptic, and the music is reminiscent of "Isle of Flightless Birds" but (as with any song on Blurryface) certainly different enough to defy styles and trends. "Ride" is the third track on the album and just one more way that Twenty One Pilots, as promised in "Lane Boy," is going to keep doing their own thing.

The music has a lot of reggae influence, including what sounds like steel drums (like in Little Mermaid). There's a lot of synth, including a musical flourish that sounds like something from M83's "Midnight City." Of course, Josh's drumming continues to be a strong aspect of the band's powerful and intense style, and Tyler's voice is just as emphatic and vulnerable as ever. The song and lyrics are creative and interesting as they ask questions like "Who would you die for?" and "Who would you die for?" Honestly, you're going to love this song.

Psst! Check out my podcast!

"The Meaning"

In verse 1, Tyler gets vulnerable quickly. He sings about how he wants an easy life and how he knows that he won't be able to have it: "I just wanna stay in the sun where I find / . . . / Pieces of peace in the sun's peace of mind." He evokes an image of himself sunning on a tropical beach, free of worries. But he goes onto explain other, more unhealthy thoughts by singing, "Yeah, I think about the end just way too much / . . . / All my enemies who wouldn't wish who I was." "[T]he end," here, likely refers to the end of his life or even to death. In addition to worries about death, he's also worried about those who don't like him for who he is and what he does.

In between the above lines, he repeats "I know it's hard sometimes" and "But it's fun to fantasize," weaving one message inside of the other; because life can be difficult, he enjoys thinking daydreaming about how much better it could be if he had no worries.

The chorus is a mix of vocal stylizations and repetitions of "I'm falling" and "So I'm taking my time on my ride." The "falling" could be a reference to him aging and growing closer to death or to him losing his surety in what he stands for. The first seems more likely because it makes sense with the part about "taking [his] time"; if he's dying anyway, there's no need to rush things. He can slow down a little.

Based on the first verse, the title "Ride" could be a reference to either the "ride of life" or the "ride toward death." The difference isn't obvious, but it's important. One is an experience that continues-the focus is on what happens while a person lives. In the second, the focus is on the destination-on the end of things or on death itself.

The second verse is a quick rap in which Tyler asks himself and his listeners if they are willing to sacrifice themselves for others. He sings, "I'd die for you. That's easy to say," suggesting that people who say that don't actually know if they would. They "have a list of people" that they'd sacrifice themselves for, that they'd take "a bullet for," but Tyler points out the metaphor's unreality by reminding listeners that he doesn't "seem to see many bullets coming through."

Understanding that the idea of taking a bullet for someone actually is a figure of speech, he goes along with it: "Metaphorically, I'm the man." In a world built on pretending and thinking the best of himself, he knows he's brave and ready, "[b]ut literally, I don't know what I'd do," he sings. He'll have to wait for the moment of action to come before he knows how he'll respond.

So, Tyler takes another tack and tries to claim that he'd "live for you," but acknowledging that "that's hard to do." Afterwards, he reconsiders: "Even harder to say when you know it's not true." Even living a selfless life that's about others seems difficult to him, something he knows he's not able to do completely well. The proof is in how he finds his commitment to live for someone "harder to write when [he knows] that tonight / There are people back home which are talking to you / But then you ignore them still."

He wants to live for people, but he's struggling to help them. They have important questions for him, asking him who he'd "live" and "die" for. And if he'd "ever kill." But he's not with them. The "questions they're forming" are too difficult for him, especially when he hasn't figured out these things for himself, as shown in the second verse.

The rest of the song is mostly a series of stylizations and enhancements of the chorus, but one set of new lyrics does appear. Tyler admits that "I've been thinking too much. (Help me)." As the second verse illustrates best, Tyler knows he's overthinking life, and he yearns for someone to make the questions of life clear to him. Dealing in a world of hypothetical if's and then's has left him bewildered and tired, a theme common in his music.

"Ride" is a fun song but also very serious. Twenty One Pilots plays it excellently, and the song is true to their style by being very unique among the songs they play. It's fun and deep and sensitive and vulnerable, asking common questions but giving few answers. As with many of their other songs, the power in "Ride" is found in the way it defines questions better and shows listeners that they're not the only ones asking those questions.

What'd you think of "Ride"? Would you die for someone? Would you live for someone? What do you think of the song's style? What other Twenty One Pilots songs does it remind you of?

What does "Crystals" by Of Monsters and Men mean?

What does "Crystals" by Of Monsters and Men mean?

What does "Hot Gates" by Mumford & Sons mean?

What does "Hot Gates" by Mumford & Sons mean?