Half a decade later, the identity of Blurryface might remain a mystery to any non- or even casual fans who haven’t attempted a dive into the Blurryface album’s thematic elements. On “Stressed Out” in particular, that identity surfaces in the pre-chorus refrain of “My name’s Blurryface, and I care what you think.”
“I was thinking big picture,” Elizondo says. “So I had a good conversation with him trying to say, 'Hey, maybe you should change that; it's a great melody, it's a big hook of the song, but I just don't know what it means.’” He quickly softened following Joseph’s explanation of the larger album concept, and as it eventually turned out, the average listener didn’t mind much at all.
The duo, which had been slowly gaining a following that eventually stretched well outside its Columbus, Ohio, digs, found occasional alternative radio success with 2013’s Vessel, and lead Blurryface single “Tear in My Heart” launched the band to new heights on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart, peaking at No. 2 in July 2015.
But during the initial radio run of “Tear in My Heart” came the digital release of “Stressed Out.” Unlike its predecessor’s sunnier, uptempo setup, the song was midtempo, punctuated by brief string-and-synth blasts and eerie theremin-like sounds underlying Joseph’s vocals, which almost sounded conversational rather than rapped on the verses, like a confessional, an airing of one’s anxieties to a close friend sitting next to you.
And, frankly, it kind of was. If any one song captures the millennial/gen Z experience of the mid-2010s, it’s a song whose chorus pines for the “good old days” of carefree youth and whose bridge describes the pressures of external voices telling one to “wake up; you need to make money.”
Who of a certain demographic couldn’t relate, after all? “Stressed Out” is full of one- or two-liners that practically define a generation – “I was told when I get older, all my fears would shrink/ But now I’m insecure, and I care what people think,” “Out of student loans and treehouse homes, we all would take the latter,” the list goes on. He’s speaking to a generation — of which Joseph, in his mid-20s at the song’s release, is a part — that was not only drowning in college loan debt but was also sharing those anxieties and more all over social media, perhaps feigning apathy when in reality they craved peer acceptance more than ever.