This song about the nostalgia for childhood and pressure of adulthood finds Tyler Joseph singing from the point of view of "Blurryface," the album's titular character:
My name's Blurryface, and I care what you think
Joseph explained to MTV News that "Blurryface" is "a guy that kind of represents all the things that I as an individual - but also everyone around me - am insecure about."
The video sees the the Twenty One Pilots pair perform an elaborate secret handshake. Tyler Joseph told Radio.com the story behind it: "When Josh and I first started traveling around in a van and we had to sleep in that van, in parking lots and stuff like that, I remember one of the first times we ever got our own hotel to sleep in instead of sleeping in the van, we shared a room together and we were like, wow, we need to take advantage of this opportunity of us being in the same hotel room for the first time, let's make a secret handshake," he recalled. "So we stayed up to come up with this thing, got really excited and like knocked on the door of the other guys that were on the road with us and we were like, 'Dude, check this out!' So, it's something that we've taught our crew how to do and we think it's funny."
"You'd be surprised when you're a traveling two-man show how many times you get to show off your handshake," Joseph added. "So, this video really just had the vibe that it made sense that we put it in there so we did."
Tyler Joseph is the only credited songwriter on this track. According to Billboard magazine, on the October 24, 2015 Hot 100, just two songs were authored by one writer: "Hit the Quan" by iLoveMemphis and this tune.
The scarcity of solo-authored songs on the chart is an indication of the trend towards song writing partnerships (samples also being part of the story). In mid-October 2005 solo writers wrote 14 titles on the Hot 100, which itself was part of the downward slide from mid-October 1995 (32 songs), 1985 (41) and 1975 (51).
When "Stressed" rose to #2 on the Hot 100 dated February 27, 2016, it became the first tune that had also appeared on Billboard's Hot Rock Songs chart to rank in the Hot 100's top two in more than a year. The previous track to do so was Hozier's "Take Me to Church," which spent its third and final week at its #2 peak on the Hot 100 dated January 3, 2015.
Much of the video was filmed at Josh Dun's childhood home. Because the home number is listed, Dun's parents had to cancel the landline to put an end to the calls that were coming in all day and all night.
A theremin-like instrumental hook in the pre-chorus and outro lets us know when the Blurryface character shows up to air out Tyler's insecurities about life.
Things aren't so bad for Tyler, as one of his wishes comes true at the outset of the song. Check it out:
I wish I found some chords in an order that is new, I wish I didn't have to rhyme every time I sang
Not a rhyme in sight.
Part of the song's popularity comes from its ability to connect with a range of listeners by tapping into the universal theme of longing for days gone by, but also employing both contemporary and classic elements. Aerosmith fans will notice the nod to 1975's "Walk This Way" in the kick/snare drum pattern, a beat that's also found in many old-school hip-hop tunes.
Speaking of old-school hip-hop, all this wishing has us remembering another wistful rap: Skee-Lo's 1995 hit "I Wish."
What has the guys stressed out these days? Tyler explains: "I think one of the toughest things is that balances act of trying to maintain relationships while being on the road. It's been a crazy few years. Josh and I are both very close with our families. It’s one of our favorite moments in our careers is being able to have our families in that video at the end. With that being said, it has been tough trying to maintain those relationships. The other stress is trying to outdo ourselves we either write a song or we play a show. Josh and I, we come from a local scene where every time you played your hometown you had to do something new. You can't just play the same set. So we kind of apply it to the way that we approach every show, always trying to outdo ourselves."
Tyler on the process of creating the Blurryface character (Rolling Stone, 2016): "The question I had as I was writing was, 'How are these things affecting the way I live? How am I compensating because I don't like this about myself? What do I do to cover it up?'
A lot of things you do to cover up insecurities can be just as harmful to you as anything else. This character helped me understand my insecurities and why I have them and how I compensate for them. I give it a name and a seat at the table so I could really stare at it and analyze from that perspective."
This won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 2017 ceremony. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun took their pants off before taking the stage to accept the award; Joseph explained that when they were young, they watched one of the Grammy telecasts with some friends and they all ended up in their underwear. They agreed that if they ever won a Grammy, that's how they should accept it. Host James Corden later appeared without pants in an homage.
The Recording Industry Association of America announced on March 1, 2018 that Blurryface had become the first album in the digital era to have every one of its tracks certified Gold, Platinum or multi-Platinum.