Lyric Interpretation of “Neon Gravestones” by Twenty Øne Piløts

Let’s talk about Twenty Øne Piløts. Again. Because they just recently released a new album called Trench, which is very exciting, and there’s a particular song I want to talk about.

Lyrics Interpretation of Neon Gravestones - Tea with Tumnus

At first, I didn’t care for their new style and sound in Trench. It was so different from Blurryface and Vessel that at first the only songs I would listen to was “Jumpsuit,” “Nico and the Niners,” “Morph,” and maybe “My Blood.” But now that I’ve listened to the album at least ten more times, it’s hard to pick a favorite track; they’re all so good. Their new music style is slightly subdued and calming, but that doesn’t make it any less better than their earlier releases. Their lyrics are still deep and intriguing (and worthy of analysis). I would love to look at each song in the album and break it down stanza by stanza, but I want to talk about a specific song, “Neon Gravestones.” As far as the Dema storyline that I talked about earlier in my Jumpsuit Music Video Analyses, there’s a lot of different ways it could be taken with this new album. Trench kind of leaves it open-ended, as far as references to Nico, bishops, vultures and banditos, but if you want a summary of Trench’s songs and the album’s connection with Dema, you can check out this article.

Let’s talk about “Neon Gravestones” now.

From my first round through the album, this song stood out to me from all the others because it’s a slower, deeper song that tackles a very sensitive topic, and I could tell  within the first thirty seconds. Tyler Joseph takes a reasonable approach to suicide and the glorification of those who take their own lives simply for posthumas fame or worldly celebration that inevitably come after they die. He argues against it, saying My opinion, our culture can treat a loss like it’s a win / And right before we turn on them / We give them the highest of praise / And hang their banner from the ceiling / Communicating, further engraving / An earlier grave is an optional way, no.”

One of the things I appreciated about this song first off is the song’s composition; it’s pretty much just piano, percussion, and vocals. Personally, I think that when a song has cut down on its instrumentation and downplayed the tone to something more solemn and serious, it could be because the songwriter is trying to get something important across in the words they’re singing. Neon Gravestones has no fancy beat, nor interesting/weird warbly electronic sounds. The main impact the song makes on the listeners comes from the words Tyler’s singing, and the way he’s singing them; extra showiness in this song doesn’t make sense, based on the fact that it’s an argument filled with emotion and it’s about a topic that the singer feels strongly about.

Apparently, there are a lot of people (possibly including a vast number of the Skeleton Clique themselves) who considered Twenty Øne Piløts as a band who glamorized depression and mental illness, looking back at their earlier songs about it, which is unfortunate. This could be because many of their songs have vague messages that may have led to different interpretations (which is a problem for another post). Whether that’s true or not, glorifying depression and mental illness is not what this band is about, and “Neon Gravestones” can tell all those people who thought so originally to go home. Take, for instance, the line “And my problem? We glorify those even more when they-.” Tyler leaves us to finish the sentence, because it’s obvious. He doesn’t approve of how the media has shaped our culture to celebrate the celebrities who commit suicide for their own fame and glory after the fact (thus the song’s title, “neon gravestones”). Since our culture is heavily defined by the media, it’s very plausible that such celebrities have inspired many people to commit suicide for fame and glory in their community and the lives of the people around them:What’s my problem? / Don’t get it twisted / It’s with the people we praise who may have assisted.”

It also seems like Tyler Joseph is struggling with this problem himself. He even tells his listenters: Promise me this / If I lose to myself / You won’t mourn a day / And you’ll move onto someone else.” As a celebrity who struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, Tyler asks us that we wouldn’t “host and post a celebration” for him if he gives into his human desire to die simply for worldly fame, because there are others’ lives who are constantly being taken that could use the extra mourning and attention. But the bridge “but they won’t get them / No they won’t get them” implies that Tyler has learned to fight and triumph over his suicidal tendencies and the voices in his head that tell him he’s worthless; he won’t hand himself over to the neon gravestones that call for his bones.

And yet, Tyler isn’t simply “pleading that it does not get glorified.” He also tells his listeners to take a step back and look at suicide differently and “give this some room for a new point of view.” “Stay alive” is one of the band’s most popular slogans because it’s been used throughout their songs as an encouragement to those who have suicidal tendencies to fight against it because life is worth living and it will always be worth it in the end. The last few lines in “Neon Gravestones” are my favorite, because it’s a powerful piece of advice. Never have I heard Tyler so bluntly, so frankly tell us to do something. Find your grandparents or someone of age / Pay some respects for the path that they paved / To life, they were dedicated / Now, that should be celebrated.” 

Guys, this song is so good. I would love to go more into depth and explain each line of each stanza, but as someone who doesn’t struggle with suicide, and isn’t an expert lyric interpretor, I would have to do a lot more research since there are some vague sections of this song I don’t understand. I think the best thing I can do at this point is ask you to just go listen to the song youself, because no lyric explanation can get across the true meaning and emotion and depth as much as the song itself can. Don’t take my interpretations as fact. Thanks for reading, have a stellar day, and give the rest of Trench a listen!

Lyrics:

 

Neon Gravestones

What’s my problem?

Well, I want you to follow me down to the bottom

Underneath the insane asylum

Keep your wits about you while you got them

Because your wits are first to go while you’re problem-solving

And my problem?

We glorify those even more when they

My opinion, our culture can treat a loss like it’s a win

And right before we turn on them

We give them the highest of praise

And hang their banner from the ceiling

Communicating, further engraving

An earlier grave is an optional way, no

[Chorus]

Neon gravestones try to call

Neon gravestones try to call for my bones

Call (For my bones)

Call, call, call

Call

Call

What’s my problem?

Don’t get it twisted

It’s with the people we praise who may have assisted

I could use the streams and extra conversations

I could give up, and boost up my reputation

I could go out with a bang

They would know my name

They would host and post a celebration

My opinion will not be lenient

My opinion, it’s real convenient

Our words are loud, but now I’m talking action

We don’t get enough love?

Well, they get a fraction

They say, “How could he go if he’s got everything?

I’ll mourn for a kid, but won’t cry for a king”

Promise me this

If I lose to myself

You won’t mourn a day

And you’ll move onto someone else

Promise me this

If I lose to myself

You won’t mourn a day

And you’ll move onto someone else

But they won’t get them

No, they won’t get them

They won’t get them

But they won’t get them

Don’t get me wrong, the rise in awareness

Is beating a stigma that no longer scares us

But for sake of discussion, in spirit of fairness

Could we give this some room for a new point of view?

And could it be true that some could be tempted

To use this mistake as a form of aggression?

A form of succession?

A form of a weapon?

Thinking “I’ll teach them”

Well, I’m refusing the lesson

It won’t resonate in our minds

I’m not disrespecting what was left behind

Just pleading that it does not get glorified

Maybe we swap out what it is that we hold so high

Find your grandparents or someone of age

Pay some respects for the path that they paved

To life, they were dedicated

Now, that should be celebrated

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2 thoughts on “Lyric Interpretation of “Neon Gravestones” by Twenty Øne Piløts

  1. Yesss I love this song so much! Your analysis is spot-on. In Neon Gravestones, I especially like how it addresses how our culture’s current portrayal of suicide as a “form of aggression.” I saw it as a dig at the show Thirteen Reasons Why and the controversy surrounding it.
    And those last four lines? They’re perfect. ❤ Thanks for the post!

    Like

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