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Sample Essay on 'Stressed Out' Song Rhetorical Analysis

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Sample Essay on 'Stressed Out' Song Rhetorical Analysis

Background Information

The song is sung by a duo called the Twenty-One Pilots, which is based in Columbus Ohio. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun are the members but initially, it was composed of four university classmates but two left in 2011. The fourth Album, which holds the songs under discussion, was their breakthrough, as it made them have two songs in the U.S. top ten charts. Consequently, they have been nominated for several Grammy awards. The name of the group was derived after one of them read the story called ‘All My Sons’ by Miller, which talks about a man who caused the death of 21 pilots during the world war cause he sold to them defective parts for their jets for his profit missions. This name was chosen to remind the group to make a choice between what is right and what is easy (SongFacts). It would form the basis of their core values of morality in its entirety.

            ‘Stressed Out’ was written by Tyler, the lead of the group, who states that ‘blurry face’ represents the person that he is as an individual and the things that he is insecure about. The official video is mostly made in his childhood home. He started that as he wrote the song, one of the questions at the back of his mind was how he handles his insecurities. He said that how a person deals with their insecurities and fears can be very harmful, and so he needed to know how to compensate for his own as he wrote the song (SongFacts).

Text, Context, Subtext, And Intertextuality

Stressed Out Lyrics

I wish I found some better sounds no one’s ever heard,
                        I wish I had a better voice that sang some better words,
                        I wish I found some chords in an order that is new,
                        I wish I didn’t have to rhyme every time I sang,

                        I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink,
                        But now I’m insecure and I care what people think.

                        My name’s ‘Blurry face’ and I care what you think.
                        My name’s ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think.

                        Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days,
                        When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out (oh).
                        Wish we could turn back time (oh), to the good ol’ days (oh),
                        When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.

                        We’re stressed out.

                        Sometimes a certain smell will take me back to when I was young,
                        How come I’m never able to identify where it’s coming from,
                        I’d make a candle out of it if I ever found it,
                        Try to sell it, never sell out of it, I’d probably only sell one,

                        It’d be to my brother, ’cause we have the same nose,
                        Same clothes homegrown a stone’s throw from a creek we used to roam,
                        But it would remind us of when nothing really mattered,
                        Out of student loans and treehouse homes we all would take the latter.

                        We used to play pretend, give each other different names,
                        We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away,
                        Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face,
                        Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money.”

                        Used to play pretend, used to play pretend, bunny
                        We used to play pretend, wake up, you need the money
                        Used to play pretend, used to play pretend, bunny
                        We used to play pretend, wake up, you need the money ( Joseph).


The context of the song is the world where perfection is expected, making people feel insecure on whether they fit or not. The author, who hails from America, believes that they are not as handsome or as good looking as they ought to be, and this largely causes them to feel insecure. It is the world where looks are highly emphasized on, making the writer and other people in his audience quiet uncertain if, they meet the expectations of the others. Similarly, a lot is expected by the public when one presents a piece of art, making the performers or composers adhere to strict rules to fit in the general context. In this regard, the writer of the lyrics says that they wish they had a better voice to sing and that they could rhyme better. It is clear that albeit they sing, they feel that they are not good enough, a factor that may make them not deliver to the audience as correctly as may be expected. Similarly, there seems to be monotony in what is sang as he also wishes that he could find some chords in a new order, implying that people lack innovation in their composition. Similarly, he wishes he did not have to stick to the rhyme that artists often stick to every time he sang.

            Further, the context is also the world where people feel safe in their mother’s hands as they grow up since the moms’ canopies offer protection from all attacks. However, upon growing up, they are expected to stand on their own and make a living. Having not the right skills to do that makes them stressed out, as the pressure seems too difficult to decipher and outperform. It also presents a time when the family unit is functional as the song featured several pictures of the parents and their children. There is also financial strain as the official video shows the duo taking some milk complaining that times are hard. The lyrics also show that they are struggling to make ends meet.


The subtext is: I am very stressed up I wish the world would just stop, I wish I could have remained a child forever without ever having to grow up and take responsibility, I so much is there was a way out of this tiring life.





The author refers to other songs by referring to rhyme chords used by other musicians that set the pace of what the public expects from musicians. They also refer to their previous music where they used the same stylistic devices to suit these expectations.

Ethos, Pathos, Logos, And Kairos


The writer builds ethos by creating credibility and character in the lyrics and the video. Despite their young age, they show their parents in the official video, which makes the audience from all age groups, connect with them (Ramen). Moreover, the same applies to the lyrics because the songwriter often quotes the credibility of the mother, who was very responsible in bringing him up in a haven. They also show credibility by being honest on their insecurities and their not so sound financial status. This shows they are real and do not try to paint a picture of perfect people to the reader.


Pathos is very prominently used in the song as the author and singers depict their suffering and convey it to the audience. They appeal to empathy throughout the story line where the writer shows that life is not comfortable for him as he suffers lack and struggle. He shows that he has to wake up and try to look for his needs, which he implies that sometimes he does not achieve. Moreover, he says that he feels he is not handsome enough and has a blurry face, making him an insecure person. Moreover, he clearly communicates to the readers that he is stressed out by his situation. 


Logos is also evident as the piece appeals to reason. He shows that people must wake up at a certain age and look for money to sustain themselves. At this age, he shows that they can no longer rely on their parents, albeit he wishes that they would stay in their folks’ homes forever. The reason is also depicted by the insecurity that exists in the world, with people fearing that they do not meet the expectations of others.


Kairos shows the appropriate place as the video using the singers’ childhood home as the primary shoot location. This is essential as the lyrics mainly focus on the good old childhood days when the singers were in their mothers’ tender care, and they then had no worries. This is also clearly depicted by the existence of the mothers in the video who look so cool, calm and collected one can see the age difference between the parents and the singers, which further emphasizes on the passage of time.












Works Cited

Joseph Tyler. Twenty-One Pilots Lyrics 

Ramen. Twenty-one pilots: Stressed Out Official Video. Web

SongFacts. Stressed Out By Twenty-One Pilots.2016.

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