A writer can write something with a certain theme, idea, or message in mind, and yet ten individuals can listen to or read that something and each of them will be impacted in a different way. Different people, depending on their own perspectives or walks of life will take something away that was totally different from the writer’s intention.
People may argue that writing a song with a specific message or theme that can have multiple potential perspectives is achieving the height of the art. I think that success comes from delivering a message in a song or story that everyone who reads or hears it not only identifies the writer’s intentional theme, but also notices other ideas and messages that they take away form it based on their personalities, current life situations, perspectives, etc. And I think that that is achieving the highest point of success when writing anything. I want to impact others with the message I weave into my story or song, and yet I want listeners or readers to take other things away from it that I didn’t put there that inspires or encourages them or causes them to think about things I never even thought of associating with the thing I wrote.
What Tyler Joseph Says about “Trees”
The song “Trees” by Twenty One Pilots was written by Tyler Joseph with a certain idea or theme he had in mind. Before looking up his intentions, however, I had listened to the song, and, being a Christian as well, I’m pretty sure I was exactly sure what Joseph was trying to portray in the song. Twenty One Pilots fans who are irreligious therefore have different perspectives and may take away or analyze the song and see something totally different. In Tyler’s case, the inspiration for this song came from a time in his life when he was searching for something in the woods. He explains that the ultimate message in ‘Trees’ is someone’s quest for truth. Tyler has said before that hearing birds and trees somehow speak to him on a religious level. He explains in an interview that this song is one of the last songs the band plays during a concert and that it’s special and means a lot to him. Based on these objectives tied with what we think the song is about from our own personal perspective and analysis of the lyrics, I believe we can come pretty close to completely understanding what the song really means.
Before we delve into the actual meaning of the song and how different perspectives may perceive it, let’s take a look at the lyrics and give the song a good listen.
(Tip: While listening, feel free to close your eyes. The whole feel is very sacred and powerful and reverent and full of depth and meaning and joy.)
Where you stand
In the trees
Where I am
In the trees
Why won’t you speak?
Where I happen to be
In the trees
I can feel your breath
I can feel my death
I want to know you
I want to see
I want to say
Da da da da da da da da da da da da da da Da da da da da da da da da da da da da da
I found these lyrics from Genius.com. I love this site because it’ll show the lyrics as well as the songwriter’s thoughts on the song and a broken down analysis of each stanza in the song based on either what the songwriter themselves said about the song, or the contributors’ thoughts and guesses. Looking at the analysis for “Trees,” I was very excited to find that most of the analysis and what Tyler said about the song himself (which we talked about earlier) was almost exactly what I had come up with after listening and analyzing the song myself.
Some Theories on what “Trees” Means
One of the analyses was that the song is about two people with social anxiety disorder who coincidentally meet in a desolate area and “nervously wait each other out” (Genius.com). A conjecture made on the first verse mentioned mamihlapinatapai, an actual word that means “looking at each other hoping that either will offer to do something which both parties desire but are unwilling to do.” (yourdictionary.com), so basically this word pretty much defines my introvert life. The first verse could allude to behaviors and thoughts that come with social anxiety. This makes a lot of sense because both Tyler and Josh suffer from social anxiety and insecurity and all that good stuff, so the guess that ‘Trees’ has components alluding to such is probably true…a lot of their songs deal with that.
In the first part of the chorus (“I can feel your breath; I can feel my death”) a contributor theorized that it means Tyler is feeling so close, yet so far from God. Another analysis of the words “I can feel my death” speculated that this means Tyler feels like he has fallen too far away from God and believes he may be going to Hell.
In the chorus, the same thing is brought up again: someone wants to start a conversation (“I want to know you; I want to see; I want to say; Hello”) but can’t because of social phobia. So the song could be about people with social anxiety trying to make friends but can’t because it’s so hard. This is where the listener’s perspective comes into play. If someone is suffering from social anxiety and hears the song “Trees,” this is probably just what they’ll walk away thinking the song is about, based on their life situation and experience.
The “Da da da da …” etc. part Tyler sings during the height of the instrumental section is believed to be Tyler’s way of lightening things up and putting more energy in the song. It’s a way of covering up the darkness and depth beneath the song’s meaning, in much the same way people cover up their struggles and depression through their daily life. I think this analysis is beautiful and may certainly be the case, but here’s…
What I Think “Trees” Means
The social anxiety that the song may allude to does make a lot of sense, and I agree that Tyler may have written the song with that in mind. But I think the song goes way deeper. And I’m not just talking about the lyrics, but about the composition of the song itself without the words. The rhythm, instruments used, the crescendos and decrescendos all work together in a poetic sort of way to communicate the lyrics, but on a deeper, almost spiritual, transcendent level, and it is absolutely beautiful.
Genius.com had a theory that the song is about someone’s quest for and discovery of God, but is struggling with doubt and fear and can’t bring himself to talk to God because he can’t see or experience God directly. I think this is correct. I have experienced this fear and doubt before, so I can relate to this song on so many different levels (which is probably why it’s my absolute favorite song in the universe right now). Taking what Tyler said about the trees and birds speaking to him on a religious level, I make the guess that this song is about him looking for God in the trees.
In the second part of the first verse, I believe Tyler is singing about his search for truth and his struggle with his faith. “Why won’t you speak; where I happen to be; silent in the trees; standing cowardly.” He wants to experience God and yet he struggles with doubt that God exists. Therefore he is feeling fear and isn’t afraid to tell God that he feels like a coward. As I said before in the section about what other perspectives may think the song is about, the first part of the chorus (“I can feel your breath; I can feel my death”) could mean that Tyler is feeling so close, yet so far from God. If you’ve ever felt something like this as a Christian with doubt, you know that it’s very terrifying when you’re questioning the very basis of life, the universe, and everything, particularly the existence of God, upon which the existence of everything else was founded upon. Being in such a questioning state of mind almost feels inhuman because we are human and it’s impossible to know everything. This is the one part in the song I feel like I can relate with the most. When I was 11, I went through a very similar situation based on a life experience. I got panic attacks whenever I heard the word “God” and I couldn’t sleep at night; I would lay there, heart pounding, feeling fearful, with questions about the existence of God, Heaven, and Hell running through my mind. I think this is why the song ‘Trees’ is so special to me personally, particularly this verse and beginning of the chorus.
I believe the words “I can feel my death” could actually mean that he is dying to himself now that he has found God; perhaps it means he has become a new person in his search and discovery of God (let’s say he has found and accepted Him and no longer doubts at this point in the song) and has died to himself that it’s no longer him who lives, but Christ who lives in him. (Galations 2:20) This is more of a celebratory realization. My analysis of the lyrics “I want to know you; I want to see; I want to say; hello” is pretty self-explanatory. Even through his doubt, Tyler wants God to break the silence and speak to him, to confirm His existence and wipe away the fear and doubt. He waits for God to reveal Himself to him.
Tyler says concerts are a celebration of making it through yet another day. “Trees” is one of the last songs he and Josh play at concerts and he explains that by the time the end of the concert comes, he feels exhausted, and yet when singing “Trees,” he feels no fatigue at all.
“It is one of the last songs we play in our set and by this song usually I’m exhausted during the live set. For some reason this song gives me a second wind, I don’t even know where it comes from. That’s special to me. Something bigger than myself happens during this song. It’s one of my favorites.” – Tyler Joseph
The “Da da da da da da da da da da da da da da Da da da da da da da da da da da da da da” part is one of the most beautiful parts in the song, and yes, one of the most energetic parts as well. It’s hyper, up-beat, and yes, happy. Personally, I think this part in the song is a celebration. If you see it as a story, you can start with the narrator feeling doubt and fear in his search for God. When he finds Him in the woods, he says “I can feel Your breath; I can feel my death,” and he becomes a new person, and experiences God by just standing there and waiting. Then the narrator’s fears and doubts are replaced with joy and validation and he expresses it in this part of the song. Maybe he’s dancing too. And he’s celebrating, yes, but maybe he’s praising God at the same time.
And then he says “Hello.” Over and over again.
I know that was a lot of thoughts and song analysis, but I am so much in love with this song and I was just bursting to type it all out into a hopefully understandable and cohesive post. So, it’s your turn. You tell me. What are your thoughts on the song? What do you think it means? Please, give me all the theories, I’d love to hear them.
Also, more recently, my brother and I created and posted our fan-made music video of “Trees,” featuring myself in the red Hat. Check it out if you’ve a mind to:
Cheers and have a great day!
Source used: https://genius.com/Twenty-one-pilots-trees-lyrics