Photo Credit: Mason Castillo
Scaled and Icy is the seventh studio album from alternative duo twenty øne piløts. The album is the fourth in a continuing narrative that began on the 2015 Blurryface album. Blurryface is a character that was presented as a personification of insecurity. Trench delved into the story deeper and fans learned that Blurryface’s real name was Nicholas Bourbaki, who was one of the nine bishops of the allegorical city of Dema. The main character, Clancy, struggles to escape the dictatorship with his group of rebels called the Banditos. Trench leaves off at a cliffhanger with doubts on whether Clancy managed to escape or not.
There are several fan theories that surround Scaled and Icy and how it fits into the narrative. One major clue is that the title is an anagram that spells out “Clancy is dead.” While the status of Clancy remains a mystery, not every fan is convinced that he is dead. Some think that Dema is promoting Clany’s death as a way to gain control over the citizens again. A second clue comes from the duo’s “Christmas Saves the Year” music video, in which the phrase “Sai is propaganda” is shown. Fans now understand that “SAI” is a shortened version of the album title, and have accepted that the entirety of Scaled and Icy is Dema propaganda. Even the new pitchfork logo reflects this by changing the duo’s logo from a symbol representing the resistance, to one representing Dema.
This translates to the overall sound of the album being more optimistic than anything Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun have put out before. Some artists embraced the darkness of the world around us during the pandemic, but others moved in the opposite direction and used this to write brighter and more hopeful music to get through that darkness. Joseph and Dun were among the latter. Outside of the pandemic, fans theorize that the album embraces more contemporary pop sounds to appeal to the masses and recruit more people to fall under Dema’s spell. Slick synths and jaunty drums make Scaled and Icy more radio-friendly, and a welcome addition to any summer pool party playlist.
Although the music may be bouncy and fun, the lyrics still have a certain level of grim and depressing sentiments lurking below the surface. Take the opening song, “Good Day” for example. The instrumentation is hopeful, birds are chirping in the background, and yet Joseph has said that the song is about him mourning the loss of his family and friends. Other songs touch on that feeling of losing someone (“Redecorate”), while others focus on finding your purpose in the world (“Shy Away”), and losing sense of time (“Saturday”), and admiring the strength of your partner (“Formidable”).
Even though the preexisting storyline isn’t explicitly continued throughout Scaled and Icy, the duo managed to engage their existing fans even as they took the risk to switch up their “traditional” style of music. Hiding clues and snippets in this new era while not making it the focus gives new fans a chance to decipher the story and join the Skeleton Clique. twenty øne piløts outdid themselves on this record which only makes their next era even more highly anticipated.