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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 "Not Today" by Twenty One Pilots mean?

What does "Not Today" by Twenty One Pilots mean?

"Not Today" Lyrics Meaning

Only two songs left on Twenty One Pilots' Blurryface, and this one's "Not Today." The song is clever and quick and engaging. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun are forecasting the end of their album with a climactic fight against Tyler's alter-ego Blurryface, the darker part of him. The song is a powerful tell-off to a tendency that tries to compel him to recede into himself and to stay dark.

This song feels like a mix of old-style Twenty One Pilots and "Tear in My Heart." There's organ and piano and trumpet and a lot of distinct drums and Tyler's unique voice. Tyler bares his soul and invites his audience to listen in and sing along. "Not Today" clearly celebrates a victory over darkness, a celebration that, I think, many listeners will enjoy as much as Tyler.

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The Meaning

The song begins slowly and raises in intensity and happiness. To just the sound of a muted electric guitar, Tyler sings, "I don't know why / I just feel I'm better off staying in the same room I was born in." He feels depressed and tired, thinking that he should stay away from the rest of the world. Indeed, he adds that the "whole world" would be "[b]etter off without me in it trying to transform it." Tyler sees a world full of pain and sorrow; even though he tries to help, he wonders if others would maybe benefit more from him minding his own business.

But, Tyler reveals, the part of him that asks such questions is Blurryface, and Tyler's had enough of him. So, he tells the alter-ego off. He sings, "You are out of my mind . . ." to tell Blurryface that Tyler's not going to think about him anymore. Blurryface resides in the mind so for Tyler to deny him that place, he negates all of Blurryface's power.

Blurryface Album Cover - Clifford Stumme
Blurryface Album Cover - Clifford Stumme

In addition, Blurryface isn't going to be "seeing my side." Whether this line means that Blurryface won't be on Tyler's side of things, seeing what Tyler sees because of Blurryface's place in Tyler's mind or because Blurryface isn't willing to see things from Tyler's perspective, the meaning continues to support the fact that Tyler's broken free.

Tyler also sings that Blurryface "waste[s] all this time trying to get to me." To show that Blurryface really has lost his power over Tyler, the Twenty One Pilots' lead singer finishes the chorus with, "But you are out of my mind." He's free, so the celebration can continue.

Now, the music's happy, but the lyrics are still intense and dwell partially on a dark subject, but Tyler recognizes the dissonance so he sings, "Listen, I know / This one's a contradiction because of how happy it sounds / But the lyrics are so down." He hasn't always been self-aware for this album, but now that he's happy, he really knows it and proclaims it. This could show how when a person's sad, he/she feels lost and bewildered and may confused by what's happening to them, but when he/she's happy, he/she can't deny the presence of true joy.

Of course, the different tones aren't going to bother Tyler: "It's okay though / Because it represents, wait, better yet it is / Who I feel I am right now." He feels the darkness and he feels the party. He himself is a mix, but he's choosing to go with the lighter part, though he refuses to deny the pieces of him that can be dark.

The Twenty One Pilots Logo
The Twenty One Pilots Logo

After a second reiteration of the chorus, Tyler sings, "Heard you say, 'not today' / Tore the curtains down, windows open, now make a sound." Blurryface tried to fight back, but as the building joyous feeling in the music rises, the determination in Tyler's voice grows as well. He responds to Blurryface by opening up his home to the outside world. He lets light and air in, driving the alter-ego out.

But he still "[h]eard [Blurryface's] voice" so "there's no choice"; he must keep up the fight. He continues opening up his house as trumpets play in the background. He ends the stanza with the command to "now make a noise!" suggesting that it's time for his listeners to party.

Before the song finishes with repetitions of the two choruses and a filler-filled outro, Tyler changes musical style to one that's simpler and uses mostly drums and trumpet. He yells at Blurryface, "Don't you test me, no! / Just because I play the piano / Doesn't mean not, I'm not willing to take you down (I'm sorry)." Blurryface tries to come back, but Tyler wont' have any of it. He jokingly refers to the assumption that piano players aren't violent and promises Blurryface violence if he tries to come back. Realizing his outburst of emotion, Tyler self-consciously apologizes and continues singing.

Overall, "Not Today" is a fight song that claims that "today" Tyler is free of darkness and depression. He's ready to fight, and he enjoys his liberty. Tomorrow may be another battle, but Tyler's determined to enjoy today's success.

What do you think of "Not Today"? Do you think it's about Blurryface? And what song would you like me to explain next?

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