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Meaning of the song ‘Chlorine’ by ‘Twenty One Pilots’

Released: 2018

“Chlorine” by Twenty One Pilots is a track that intricately weaves the struggle and allure of creation with the toxicity and liberation found in the process. At first listen, the song encapsulates the highs and lows of creativity and mental health, symbolized by chlorine—both a cleansing agent and a poisonous substance. Let’s dive deep into the lyrical swimming pool of this masterpiece and decode the chemical formula Twenty One Pilots presented us.

The track kicks off with a reflective question, “So where are you? It’s been a little while,” setting the tone for a contemplative journey. The opening lines serve as a check-in, perhaps with the self or with an entity outside of the speaker, indicating a period of absence or distance from a certain state of mind or creativity.

The chorus, “Sippin’ on straight chlorine, let the vibe slide over me,” introduces chlorine as a metaphor for the music-making process or creative endeavor – it’s intoxicating, addictive, and can be harmful if not approached with care. “This beat is a chemical, beat is a chemical,” further solidifies the notion that the act of creation, much like a chemical reaction, transforms elements into something new, potentially explosive or cathartic.

“When I leave don’t save my seat, I’ll be back when it’s all complete,” implies a temporary withdrawal from the world or a hiatus taken by the artist, underscoring the isolation often experienced during the creative process. The “moment is medical” suggests that these periods of immersion in creativity can be therapeutic, albeit temporary solutions or escapes from deeper issues.

The verse, “Lovin’ what I’m tastin’,” touches on the euphoria that comes with creation, but it’s immediately countered by, “Venom on my tongue, dependent at times,” highlighting the double-edged sword of creativity—how it can be both uplifting and detrimental, becoming an addiction or a need rather than a pure desire. This duality continues with “Poisonous vibrations help my body run,” a line that captures the paradox of drawing energy from something harmful.

“Fall out of formation, I plan my escape from walls they confined,” here, the speaker talks about breaking free from constraints and expectations, a theme especially relevant in the context of artistic expression and personal identity. The “rebel red carnation grows while I decay” could symbolize a blooming rebellion or a new creation that flourishes even as the artist themselves might feel worn down or overwhelmed.

As the song progresses to “Hide you in my coat pocket where I kept my rebel red,” it introduces the idea of keeping one’s rebellious spirit or creations close, protected. The notion of feeling “invincible” with these creations wrapped around one’s head, yet acknowledging the toxicity (“The lead is terrible in flavor”) and the dual role of creations as both burdensome and essential (“Now you double as a papermaker”) reflects the complex relationship artists have with their work.

The conclusion, “Can you build my house with pieces? I’m just a chemical,” sees the narrator questioning the possibility of constructing something stable—be it identity, relationships, or art—from the fragmented parts of themselves. Acknowledging that they are “just a chemical” underscores a sense of being a concoction of experiences, influences, and emotional responses, seeking coherence and wholeness.

“Chlorine” by Twenty One Pilots swims deep in the pool of introspection, grappling with the intoxicating yet dangerous allure of creativity and the search for identity and balance within it. Through the metaphor of chlorine, the band eloquently explores the therapeutic yet toxic nature of creative and personal evolution, leaving listeners with a potent cocktail of introspection and resonance.

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