Friday, September 14, 2018

“My Blood” Twenty One Pilots | Lefsetz Letter

“My Blood” Twenty One Pilots

This is a hit!

At first, for the initial twenty seven seconds, it seems generic, not much different from everything else, au courant, albeit employing the drum machine sound of the early eighties. And then, after that, it takes a turn, and then at forty two seconds in another, and this is when you get hooked, by the beat and the groove, and it only gets better from there, with the falsetto, and now you’re completely enraptured, you might not get it in the first three seconds, but within a one minute listen you do.

Fans and insiders know that Twenty One Pilots is a monster act, especially on the road, one can argue they broke there first. But if you’re not in the loop, you self-satisfiedly ignore them. And on one hand I get it, what they’re doing on “My Blood” is not especially innovative and not far from what else dominates, but the act puts all the elements together to end up with the aforementioned HIT!

This is something a computer will never tell us, certainly not today or in the near future. It’s a feeling, a vibe. A musician knows it when he or she locks on to it, and then they search for it the rest of their careers. You cannot write a hit every day, and you lose the touch, and sometimes it comes back and sometimes it doesn’t. You’re waiting for the inspiration, the vibe, and then you run to your instrument of choice to lay it down. And speaking of instrument of choice, the video, which has a slightly longer intro, resonates strongly because it’s just the bassist in front of the screen in the studio, the way people really make records these days. It’s a lonely pursuit. Oh, some tracks are made by committee, but ironically those are the ones that have the juice squeezed out of them, they’re so busy trying to concoct a hit that they don’t, or what they produce is soulless, but when an individual gets the word channeled from the heavens…those are the cuts we want to listen to most.

As for the lyrics of “My Blood,” they’re the usual tripe. Oh, a bit better than that, it’s all “I’ll stand by you when times are rough.” But you listen a long time before you care about, even get the lyrics. Because first and foremost it’s about music. Great music and lame lyrics works, the opposite does not.

And what’s up with all these people power lyrics? Is everybody really that oppressed? Don’t answer that. What I truly mean is what we’re yearning for is your inner feelings, those are what we resonate with most, especially if you come down off your throne and demonstrate you’re a regular person just like us.

And there are many elements that make this track work, but it’s the driving bass primarily.

So how did I discover “My Blood”?

Jeff Pollack’s newsletter. You know, the guy who was the King of AOR when that was still a thing. That’s right, now Jeff’s got one of those daily newsletters too. You know, where he lists the articles you should pay attention to. This was cool when Jason Hirschhorn first did it, but now everybody’s got one, just makes me want to unsubscribe. Too many people promoting articles with interesting headlines and terrible writing. And how much time does one person have anyway? But for now, Jeff’s newsletter is sparse, it only has six stories with less than a sentence introductions, so if you like this kind of thing, e-mail him at to sign up.

But what kept me from unsubscribing is his weekly music recommendations. Five cuts. That I would not expect from Jeff. Turns out he’s not rooted in the past, this is all today’s stuff. This is exactly what I’ve been yearning for from the beginning of the playlist era. Give me just a few tracks, hand-curated, those I can pay attention to, ten or more and it’s incomprehensible.

And all of Jeff’s tracks were listenable and interesting, but none was a hit like “My Blood,” which is not to put down the other cuts, just to illustrate how hard it is to reach the brass ring. I wanted the Dua Lipa/Diplo/Mark Ronson cut to be a hit, I’m a huge fan of the first two and Ronson is cool, but it doesn’t quite make it. Hozier and Mavis Staples same deal, not quite there, although good in theory. But the surprise was Jagwar Twin’s “Loser,” it only has 239,311 streams on Spotify compared to Twenty One Pilots’ 9 million plus. Stream it, wait for the vocal, then you’ll get it, but the chorus is substandard, it’s cliched musically, never mind lyrically, if only the act had worked a bit harder. As for the O’My’s with Chance the Rapper, interesting once again, but no cigar.

All these cuts are in the playlist above. And isn’t it interesting that Pollack is utilizing Spotify, if the other streaming services don’t figure out mass sharing, they’ll be in trouble. Then again, do they have a free tier?

And my inbox will be inundated with hating on “My Blood.” But the joke is on the writers. A pro knows what a hit is, irrelevant of genre. And “My Blood” is one.

twenty one pilots: My Blood – YouTube


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