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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 "Doubt" by Twenty One Pilots mean?

What does "Doubt" by Twenty One Pilots mean?

"Doubt" Lyrics Meaning

It may be suggestive of what this song is about that I almost titled it "What does 'Doubt' by Blurryface mean?" "Doubt" by Twenty One Pilots seems as though it actually could have written by Tyler Joseph's alter-ego Blurryface as it recounts several of his fears and begs God to not "forget about me." The song is slow and methodical and iconic of the fears and anxieties that Tyler is dealing with in this album. 

"Doubt" is dark and more like contemporary pop music than most tracks on Blurryface. In fact, it's sounds very similar to Katy Perry's "Dark Horse," especially due to a familiar-sounding synth melody that plays at intervals in the song. Twenty One Pilots doctors the vocals heavily and seems to use a lot of what sounds like a trap drum kit. However, in contrast, "Dark Horse" is about a "sexual goddess" who plays hard to get; while Twenty One Pilots' "Doubt" is composed in a similar style, it's subject material is a very different, deep, and honest confession and plea for help. The similar sounds but contrasting messages are provocative.

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The Meaning of the Lyrics

In the first verse, Tyler Joseph, the lead singer for Twenty One Pilots, admits to being "scared of my own image," his "own immaturity," his "own ceiling," and that he'll "die of uncertainty." He doesn't want to worry about how he presents himself to others, about the unwise decisions he makes, about his limits, or about his lack of confidence. Because these fears consume him, he confesses that "[f]ear might be the death of me" and tells his audience that "[f]ear leads to anxiety," a feeling that he certainly experiences. He finishes the verse by admitting that he doesn't "know what's inside of me." He doesn't understand himself, and he seems to need help from an outside source.

The chorus has Tyler calling out to someone, asking that person to not "forget about me." Based on other Blurryface songs (like "HeavyDirtySoul" and "The Judge"), this person is likely Jesus or God. Tyler wants Jesus to save him "[e]ven when I doubt you." He claims that he's "no good without you, no, no."

[Note: The deep heavy musical style, Twenty One Pilots' usual use of the word "doubt" in relation to faith, and the listing of fears in the first verse seem to be an excellent counterargument to those who think this song could be about a female.]

In the second verse, Tyler sings that the "[t]emperature's dropping." He's shutting down. He feels isolated. His fears are wearing him down, leaving him without warmth. He's being swallowed into a dark, cold world, and he's even afraid that relief is hopeless: "I'm not sure if I can / See this ever stopping." He may be stuck forever "[s]haking hands with the dark parts of my thoughts . . ." or his alter-ego Blurryface, the one who brings fear into his life. Before relaunching into the chorus, he proclaims that "You are all that I've got . . ."

The third verse references Tyler's relationship to the church. He finds himself "[g]nawing on the bishops," which could suggest that he's thinking about the church and maybe not liking it, an idea supported by the line "Claw away at the system." He's not happy with "Repeating simple phrases / Someone holy insisted." Just because a pastor tells him to say a simple prayer (perhaps a stereotypical and scripted salvation prayer?), doesn't mean it actually helps Tyler to escape his fears. Instead, he wants "the mark [God's] made on [his] skin / To mean something to [him] again." That line could be a reference to a cross tattoo that Tyler has on his right arm. But the verse leaves Tyler still wanting God; he sings, "Hope you haven't left without me, please."

The rest of Twenty One Pilots' "Doubt" from Blurryface is repetitions of and variations of the chorus as Tyler continues to beg God, "Don't forget about me."

Does "Doubt" sound like "Dark Horse" by Katy Perry?

In "Lane Boy," the sixth song on Blurryface, Tyler actually seems to have warned listeners that "a few songs on this record . . . feel common," which could be a reference to them sounding mainstream.Whether he was referring to "Doubt" is difficult to say, but the song does sound eerily like "Dark Horse."

In "Lane Boy," Twenty One Pilots is told by the music industry to "stay in your lane boy," but Tyler and his partner Josh Dun aren't willing to do that. They want to try new styles and to experiment with different sounds.

But in that song, Tyler does admit that he's "in constant confrontation with what I want and what is poppin'." He may even be unhappy with how some of his songs turned out or how he sometimes creates music that does sound mainstream. On the other hand, while "Doubt" does sound something like "Dark Horse," it has starkly different content. Even when Twenty One Pilots sounds like other bands, they manage to still be completely their own.

What'd you think of "Doubt"? Do you think it sounds like "Dark Horse"? What song should I explain next? 

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