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Twenty One Pilots ‘Mean So Many Things to So Many People,’ Says Fueled by Ramen Exec (Exclusive Q&A)

An inside look, with label GM Mike Easterlin, at how "Stressed Out" hit the Hot 100's top 10.

As previously reported, twenty one pilots touch down in the Billboard Hot 100‘s top 10, as “Stressed Out” flies 13-9 on the Jan. 16-dated chart. The wistful, hip-hop-influenced song is the first Hot 100 top 10 for the Ohio duo of Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph.

“Stressed Out” (Fueled by Ramen/RRP) zooms by 95 percent to 159,000 downloads sold in the week ending Dec. 31, according to Nielsen Music, holding at No. 4 on the Digital Songs chart, and rises 14-12 on Radio Songs (59 million in audience, up 8 percent) and 26-20 on Streaming Songs (7.1 million U.S. streams, up 9 percent). The single also rules Billboard‘s Hot Rock Songs chart for a second week and keeps crossing over to mainstream audiences, pushing 14-13 on Pop Songs airplay tally.

“Stressed Out” is the latest, and biggest, hit from twenty one pilots’ album Blurryface, which became the act’s first No. 1 upon its debut atop the Billboard 200 in June 2015. (The set soars 11-3 on the Jan. 16 chart and has sold 592,000 to date; meanwhile, prior set Vessel vaults 53-21, hitting a new high nearly three years after it debuted on the chart.) The song follows lead Blurryface single “Tear in My Heart,” which rose to a No. 2 peak (for eight weeks) on the Alternative Songs airplay chart; “Stressed Out” leads the list for a ninth week.

With “Stressed Out” hitting a milestone on the Hot 100 with its flight to the top 10, Fueled by Ramen GM Mike Easterlin chatted with Billboard about the success of the song and its parent album and the keys to the pair’s appeal.

On the strength of “Stressed Out,” even before it was a single:

“From the minute the album came out, ‘Stressed Out’ was raising its hand as a hit record. It was streaming and selling strongly, even as ‘Tear in My Heart’ was doing so well. I could have never imagined that [‘Stressed’] would stay at the top of the Alternative Songs chart for so long or cross to pop so fast, but I think we all felt like we had a hit song.”

On the sales of Blurryface, after its predecessor, 2013’s Vessel, produced the duo’s first two Alternative Songs top 10s (“Holding On to You” and “House of Gold”):

“We were seeing all the signs that something big was about to happen even as the last album cycle was wrapping up. As each song for the new album was coming in, we knew we had a very special record.

Twenty One Pilots on Their Hit Album ‘Blurryface’: ‘You Can’t Underestimate the Power of a Core Fan Base’

“We were all secretly hoping for 80,000-to-100,000 albums sold the first week and we flew past that with 134,000 [in traditional album sales]. Then, the first tour for this album cycle sold out faster than anyone expected, while the merch numbers in all areas – retail, online and on tour – were exploding.

“The other obvious exciting piece is that Blurryface, along with the singles, has been a consistent seller [having moved at least 7,000 in pure sales in each of its 33 weeks on the Billboard 200, never dropping below the top 50]. We knew the fan base was growing rapidly and that if we got a big radio song, all bets were off.”

On why twenty one pilots connect with fans:

“The music means so many different things to so many people. At first listen, they have really cool songs to people, but then we hear over and over about how the lyrics affect people. Tyler covers some pretty heavy subjects. On the previous record, he tackled depression and suicide, helping kids to understand that there is always an answer when you’re down, and suicide is not it.

“On this album, he wrote about insecurities, mostly his own, and how he deals with them. We constantly hear from fans about the impact this band is having on their lives. That is a pretty big burden to carry, but they handle it well, with honesty and true vulnerability.

“‘Stressed Out’ hits those elements on the head and people can relate to it.”