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I'm Clifford Stumme, and I use literary analysis and research to explain the deeper meanings of pop songs. Feel free to leave a comment or to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "Levitate" by Twenty One Pilots mean?

What does "Levitate" by Twenty One Pilots mean?

“Levitate” Lyrics Meaning

(The following blog post is a transcript created by Xalma of the below video.)

Today we are talking about “Levitate”, the third and final part of the three-part story from Trench by twenty one pilots. The beginning of the song follows nicely from the end of “Jumpsuit”, the first part; and that’s because “Levitate” is the second song in the album list, while “Nico and The Niners” is the ninth song.
So we've got verse one which I think is actually the pre-chorus,

Verse One

Oh, I know how to levitate up off my feet
And ever since the seventh grade I learned to fire-breathe
And though I feed on things that fell
You can learn to levitate with just a little help
Learn to levitate with just a little help

and here, based on the context of the rest of the song, because this song is one of those songs that's about songwriting, which is something that I predicted when I talked about in that video “20 or so things that would be on the trench album”; and that's that he often will have a song about the self-referential of the fact that it is a song and that he writes songs, “Kitchen Sink” is like that, “Lane Boy” is like that, “Addict With A Pen” is also like that; there is a lot of different ones; and “Levitate” seems to be one of the songs from Trench that's going to do that as well. So I think levitating refers to performing, and to sharing your lyrics with other people. And then the fire-breathe thing has to do with him learning to write poetry. He was in high school or middle school when he first started writing poetry, because he definitely has been doing it for a while, and had done some stuff for his youth group at the church that he went to. And then the part about feeding on things that fail, could be him talking about how he writes poetry about the struggles, and the tough times in his life. And lastly, you can learn to levitate with just a little help, which is basically him saying “you too can start creating your own kitchen sinks, or your own pieces of art, that help you to process things, and feed on things that fail yourself”. Notice that reference the vultures, feeding on things that fail, you see, vultures eat dead things, right? Then we have the chorus, which is probably the most confusing part,

Chorus

Come down, come down
Cowards only come through when the hour's late
And everyone's asleep, mind you
Now show up, show up
I know I shouldn't say this
But a curse from you is all that I would need right now, man

He repeats this part over again, and I'll be completely honest I don't really know what's going on here, and I think that listening to the rest of the album is going to shed light on this, and give context to what he's talking about; he is talking about cowards, and it's a theme that he's talked about in “Ride”; he’s asking if he could be brave enough, and he might be wanting people to speak up and to say something rather than to speak up when everybody's asleep, and not actually there to listen; so he might be calling on us to create our own art or something like that. Then we get to the second verse

Verse Two

Danger in the fabric of this thing I made

that seems to be him talking about some of the dark themes in the music that he writes,

I probably shouldn't show you, but it's way too late

yeah, because you're already listening to the song; and then,

My heart is with you hiding, but my mind's not made

which is a little bit confusing, but it seems like he feels like he's done hiding what he has to say, but his mind still isn't quite sure about making that final decision,

Now they know it like we both knew for some time I'd say
They're smirking at first blood, they're circling above
But this is not enough
Yeah, this is not what you thought

which seems to be a reference to the vultures that we've seen in the album cover, again, then we hear,

No, no we are not just graffiti on a passing train
I got back what I once bought back
In that slot I won't need to replace
 

partially it seems to be a reference to vacuous empty lyrics, or songs, or just none-interesting or none-helpful things, that we just see one moment and then they're gone, and it might be interesting for a second but it doesn't really affect our lives; and so he's trying to say that this song is something. Then we have a clear reference to “Car Radio”, when he had lost his car radio, so when he says I got back what I once bought, back in that slot, I won't need to replace; you know, that he’s lost that entertainment that kept him from dealing with things that were real, things that he felt, and so maybe he's found distractions again, and maybe that's a reference to the graffiti on a passing train,

This culture is a poacher of overexposure, not today
Don't feed me to the vultures
I am a vulture who feeds on pain
 

I think that's him saying that the culture is trying to tear us apart, and it wants to feed on these little things; and he might be talking about the culture of celebrity drama, or the culture that just wants to pick people apart, and take the interesting things, and leave the rest; the culture that kinds of hurt the human overall. Then Tyler is saying that he's feeding on his own pain, as he writes song lyrics about it, but he doesn't want to be fed to the vultures of culture that would just tear him apart, and analyze him, and dissect him; and maybe it is kind of like what we're doing now, but hopefully he knows that we're doing it in a respectful way. Then we get into the third verse,

Verse Three

Sleep in a well-lit room, don't let the shadow through
And sever all I knew, yeah, sever all
I thought I could depend on my weekends
On the freezing ground that I'm sleeping on
Please, keep me from, please, keep me
Down from the ledges

So, the freezing ground that he's sleeping on, seems to be kind of a reference to maybe the Banditos, as they're fighting off the bishops, and so he might be using a little bit of imagery from the lore, to try and tell the story. “Keep me down from the ledges” seems to be a reference to jumping to one's death, and suicide; because maybe his greatest enemy is himself,

Better test it, wooden wedges under doorways
Keep your wooden wedges under doors
Chorus, verse, chorus, verse

and so he transitions from talking about maybe defending your room from somebody who’s trying to get in, into talking about songs again, and then talking about this repetition that keeps coming in “chorus verse chorus verse”, and he's kind of describing the songs that he's writing himself, because he then says

 

Wait, habits here too, you're the worst
Your structure compensates
But compensation feels a lot like rising up to dominate by track two
At least they all know all they hear comes from a place

 

and so it could be that he's falling into habits, he could be talking about overusing certain kinds of structures, and how it sometimes leads to him feeling like he dominates this track; so maybe he's talking about mixing up the structures, and that makes him feel like he's dominating the track; unless “dominating the track” is a bad thing, which is unlikely, because I don't think Tyler is about “dominating the track”, or being the best and most powerful one out there; I believe he's about sharing something real and honest. And by the following line, he's saying that “what I share is real and authentic to me, it's not made up, or just some stupid story that I'm telling, that has nothing to do with my real life”, which is a sign of good art by the way. Then he goes back into what we heard in the pre-chorus, and there seems to be an outro piece,

 

Outro

Welcome to Trench

 

So, since “Levitate” is the second song on this album, and because it comes right after “Jumpsuit”, that makes “Jumpsuit” kind of like the prologue, and then this one would be kind of the introduction, as he's self-referential to music itself, and it starts to have him talk about where he is with his own art or music, as he prepares to give us the next installment of it.

So there is a lot to talk about in this album, and more songs to come in the near future; but that was the explanation for Levitate, the last song of the three-part story.

Lastly, you can check out the explanation for the music video for “Levitate” by clicking on the link down below:

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