Don’t Believe the Hype

September 4, 2019


When I recently watched the new music video for Twenty One Pilots’ song, The Hype, and I teared up.

Not exactly sure why I did, or why I am even telling you this, but here’s what I thought later — in fact, these thoughts came to me after I spent part of an afternoon with my daughter Maria and her friends discussing TØP lyrics. It was sublime. No, those young women are sublime.

The song and the video are about Tyler & Josh’s fierce struggle to stay grounded, as over the last 10 years they have skyrocketed to international fame. Fame brings with it myriad temptations to delusions of grandeur or to being crushed beneath the critics. In this song, they refuse to buy into the “hype” — good or bad — around them. But it’s not easy, as Tyler sings:

Sometimes I feel cold, even paralyzed
My interior world needs to sanitize

The song and the video take us down into Tyler’s interior world (heart and home), where he hopes to sanitize any contamination. Tyler, who finds solace in music and lyric-writing, takes us through a wild allegorical re-telling of the band’s rapid rise to fame (through the roof!), violent fall, purging, and the final recovery of firm footing where they began: in the humility of home with family and friends. With this return to the true center, a broken and scattered interior world is restored to right-order.

So it seems to me.

Why did this all move me? Maybe because I have such a deep reverence for people who achieve popularity and yet remain unfazed (or uncontaminated) by it. Who keep their priorities in order, and don’t sell their souls to gain the world. These also use their public status (in ecclesial or secular culture) to benefit and bring joy and good to others, not principally to feed their wallets or egos. I have seen how popularity can subtly (and not so subtly) change the mindset and motivations of good people, destroy their core relationships and quickly poison the good being done.

It’s also why Jesus hammered on His disciples about power, influence, talents, gifts being given for service. Along those lines, a mentor once said to me, “Whenever people praise anything you do, think immediately to yourself: How much God must love them to give me these gifts. Because your gifts aren’t about you. And when they criticize you, thank them for doing you a great service: keeping you honest.”

And friendship. Friends keep it real and are an anchor of life.

Oh the greatness of our crucified God-Hero, Jesus Christ, who redeemed power and influence by His cross, who faced criticism with courage and humility. He used His popularity with people and His rejection by the people as opportunities to serve, to lift us up, and to bring us back to the Father’s house.

TØP offers a message of depth and hope to an increasingly homeless and orphaned culture. I’m grateful they’ve chosen to not believe the hype. Which is why Tyler announced this summer they will be taking time off from touring so he and his wife can start a family.