Meaning of “Chlorine” by Twenty One Pilots

“Chlorine” is the title of a 2018 track by the American musical duo Twenty One Pilots. It is a fact that drinking chlorine can be a very dangerous thing to do. However, from the lyrics, the narrator thinks doing so is a good idea. Why? He’s trapped in the fictional walled city of Dema and probably sees it as the only way to escape.

Is “Chlorine” about suicide?

After analyzing the lyrics of the song, some analysts conclude that the track is about taking one’s own life. According to them, two things support this dark conclusion. Firstly, the narrator finds himself trapped in an evil city from which escape is impossible. Secondly, he drinks the toxic substance in question and actually enjoys its taste. Based on these, many believe the lyrics are loaded with evidence enough to support their claims they deal with the issue of attempted suicide.

That said, it is important to take note of the fact that not everyone agrees that the song has suicide as its theme. For example, some also argue that it could be about drugs. The chlorine could actually refer to a drug which makes the narrator feel good despite finding himself trapped in the depressing and evil city. In their argument, they cite lyrics such as the following:

Lyrics of "Chlorine"

In this verse, the narrator is basically saying two things. He loves the taste of the chlorine. He is also talking about how its poisonous vibrations help his body run. Simply put, the substance helps him in his escape from Dema.

Facts about “Chlorine”

  • Tyler Joseph (lead singer of Twenty One Pilots) co-wrote this track with American singer Paul Meany. Meany is best known for being the lead singer of the indie band Mutemath.
  • Both writers (Meany and Tyler) produced the song together.
  • The song was released on October 5, 2018. It is the 5th song from the duo’s fifth studio album Trench.

Did Twenty One Pilots make a music video for “Chlorine”?

Yes, they did. The video was made available online on January 22, 2019. The clip can be viewed below:

48 Responses

  1. ..i think the city of dema is a representation of tylers thoughts. the chlorine helps him escape dema….in other words his thoughts….when he drinks the chlorine it makes him forget about his thoughts and feel good…he is very dependent of the chlorine because it makes him forget about dema (his thoughts)…when he says “help my body run” he means that he wants the chlorine to help him escape dema…in other words HIS THOUGHTS….this theory is obviously not proven but the first time i heard this song i immediately thought this was the meaning behind it 🙂 ll-//

  2. Joey Sommers says:

    “Sipping on straight chlorine
    Let the vibe slide over me
    This beat is a chemical
    When I leave don’t save my seat
    I’ll be back when it’s all complete
    The moment is medical”

    Chlorine represents the ‘beats’ or songs that pop into Tyler’s head. He has to drop what he’s doing and complete the song before he can continue anything. Making the moment medical (having to take care of the chlorine in his system, so to speak.) throughout the rest of the song I think he’s communicating that these song can be damaging to his thoughts, but he loves the process. “Rebel red” I think refers to the bishops . “Double as a paper maker” I think refers to him making money off of these songs and that are based off of his demons. Really interesting imagery.

  3. Michael says:

    It isn’t about suicide. It’s clearly about the therapeutic value of music and relationships in the writer’s life. Chlorine is a metaphor for how things are “cleansing” to his soul.

  4. Paltry Music Lover says:

    I think its about escaping one’s demons through music as a drug, because it’s the only thing that truly takes him away from whatever demon plagues life at that time. Music can be many different things at once and it can take a person away from reality, at least for a while. Demons can be toxic loves, drugs, drama, toxic relationships with family, friends, or an acquaintance, coworkers, or a number of people. They can also be anxiety and or normal to higher than normal daily stress. Music is the only escape for some people to everything else in life and can become an obsession in life if not kept in balance as anything can. At the end of the song I believe that he is referring to himself as the drug he needs to escape his life’s demons, which to me would mean toxic relationships of any kind, and in music he becomes a drug so that others can escape too, because that is where his foundation is located.

    • Ali says:

      I agree with this I don’t think it’s about suicide because he says I’ll be back when it’s all complete..

  5. faustus says:

    when i leave dont save my seat. its clearly a suicide song.

  6. Austin says:

    I thought It was somewhat… interesting Most likely a suicide song by most facts Tyler has depression and that dema is in his thoughts think of it what about in jumpsuit nico and the niners and levitate? He is first relying on his jumpsuit to protect him but he lost his jumpsuit in nico and the niners there for he is now going insane Like other people with no protection. And in levitate he (Tyler Joseph) is dragged off by blurryface. there for the wants to leave behind dema or in other words his THOUGHT!

  7. Jon says:

    The rest of your songs are ambiguous. And know know that you are failing you choose to drag kids into your abiss .prick.

  8. luke says:

    i would like to know whats up with the little furry monster and the pool?

  9. Stina says:

    I just read another thread where someone mentioned that Tyler has been struggling with his faith. This song could clearly be about losing his faith. I can say, for myself, these lyrics could easily represent finally making the break from “god” and all religion’s restrictions…especially getting past the guilt of finally saying, “No, I definitely don’t relate to this…I’m an atheist!” This song actually clears a lot of that up for me! I’m free…don’t save my seat!

  10. nalbis says:

    I disagree, I think Tyler is having to feed his creativity, which has taken the form of this creature,
    but his creativity relies on a large quantity of negative emotions. it cleanses and helps the creature survive but hurts Tyler.
    the creature grows while he decays, it grows it’s horns completely. But then, in the end after emptying an entire pool the creature is hungry for more, it’s an endless cycle to create music for Tyler. throughout the music video, Tyler is clearly deep in the creative process since he’s wearing headphones and closed off from everyone and putting a huge workload on his friend Josh to help handle his emotional weight.

  11. Christopher Keeling says:

    It’s about his thoughts and the darkness within his thoughts. Chlorine is the cleanser. The alien is the end game that he needs to please. If you actually look the duo has videos and interviews about it. Lmao this song was not that hard to figure out.

  12. i love all of your songs. i am a huge fan

  13. Skren says:

    it could be about a lifeguard. just sayin’

  14. Justin says:

    I’m pretty sure it’s about cleansing himself (metaphor, chlorine) after going to dark places to create the great music/beats he does that are addictive/poison b/c it takes him away God, which isn’t ideal, but he has to do it as an escape b/c he’s addicted and has to leave God’s presence to do so. Mid song he has double meanings toward his situation & past, I think (coat pocket & rebel red). At the end he apologizes to God & catches Him “up to speed” after he’s been “tested like a weathered flag by the sea” – it’s metaphorical and symbolic. Then after he’s done he needs God to build him back up to what he was before going dark for his addiction, beats/music (he’s just a chemical, like beats, a minor existence relative to God). I think the irony is that he knows God is the one testing him, being there the whole time, but having to go to dark places against what he believes or knows are God’s wishes for him (opening up to evil)… that’s my opinion.

    • Moonbeam Rogers says:

      Yep, you got it. I completely agree with this. If you watch the music video, Tyler looks up when he’s singing about being sorry he forgot “you” and that he’s been tested (a word that is common in Christianity). Also, the language about building his house in heaven is straight up Biblical (2 Corin. 5, John 14. But the main part of the song is about how the singer uses music as his cleansing / communion instead of God. The lyrics use communion language as he says, “When I leave, don’t save my seat. I’ll be back when it’s all complete.” But he’s sorry because his cleansing is happening when he’s writing music, not when he’s repenting to God; and his communion is through a beat, not the blood of Christ. And that’s why he says he’s sorry at the end (which is an ending we’ve heard before in tøp music – an apology to God). It’s a very personal and beautiful spiritual song.

  15. Kate says:

    I think it’s about toxic relationship

  16. Rachael says:

    I dont know bout yalls but water purification involves entirely way to much chlorine so when your drinking water smells and tastes so horrible it often like sippin on straight chlorine

  17. Tom G says:

    It’s about the power and allure of addiction. The author is taking a drug he knows is armful and addictive, but that it provides him with an escape from Dema (real life). Chlorine is also a powerful cleanser and antiseptic, which could represent how the drug cleans the pain from the author’s mind and life, if only for a time.

    • Lorance says:

      I had similar thoughts after hearing chlorine for the first time I assumed that Tyler was saying that now he is famous he gets better quality drugs now you ie (the fan ) in my life is like sipping on straight chlorine (pure drugs) it comes down to your own life experience very clever artists these guys really it means whatever you feel it means Tyler and josh are cryptic so they can reach different personalities and mind sets that’s my thoughts either way gr8 song

  18. Liz says:

    I think they sold their souls to the devil to become super rich and famous and they are singing about being a bit screwed. And they are killing it with there music. Its good music. Most likely gifted to them after some luring empty promises. They messed around with the dark side. Most of their songs talk about doom and gloom and no hope you know. Or how screwed they are. Probs heavily into drugs. Addiction is number one opening doorways to demons and just crap etc. Blood of Jesus can wash it all clean though. He can break any contract and heal anything. But yeh its not worth selling your soul for things of this world which arn’t going to mean anything when you die. Unfortunately, being human, it can be so enticing. But tell the God dam devil to bugger off. Don’t listen to his lies. In Jesus name

  19. Brian k koceja says:

    wow di*dos…its truly simple…meth..references to breaking bad are hard to miss idiots and back in the day it was an ingredient in meth

  20. Mamo says:

    I can’t help but lean toward the though that this song is about toxic relationships. I don’t see suicide as a theme. Sounds like the chlorine is from toxic relationships, whether they are personal or business in nature.

  21. Madeleine Miles says:

    It’s about depression, clear and simple.
    When I leave don’t save my seat (because therapy takes SO LONG)
    I’ll be back when it’s all complete (when he’s through therapy)
    The moment is medical (because depression often takes many drugs to treat)

    Lovin what I’m tastin (because meds DO help, but often people hate that they need them)
    Dependant at times (because you can’t live without them)
    poisonous vibrations help my body run. (he doesn’t trust the meds, but they help him live his life)
    Sippin on straight chlorine let the vibe slide over me (talks about how he doesn’t trust the meds, but takes them because the doctor says to)
    fall out of formation (he doesn’t do what the doctors tell him to, so,
    I plan my escape from walls they confine. (he plans to escape the mental institute, or his own mental state.
    Rebel red carnation (the blood from the cuts where he cuts himself)
    grows while I decay (the worse his depression gets, he more he cuts)
    Im’ runnin for my life (that’s how it feels)
    hide you in my coat pocket where I kept my rebel red (he trusted someone)
    I felt I was invincible, you wrapped around my head (someone important told him somthing)
    Now different lives I lead, my body lives on lead (because he lives on the meds, but they make him feel like lead)
    But now you double as a paper maker (because he gossiped about the depression)
    I despise you sometimes, I love to hate the fight
    I’m so sorry I forgot you (thats what happens when you have depression)
    Let me catch you up to speed (how it feels when you finally see them)
    I’ve been tested like the ends of
    A weathered flag that’s by the sea(exactly how depression feels)

    • Mike says:

      Yea I agree with your explanation behind the lyrics. It is definitely not about suicide as the article has just mentioned above.

    • Jennifer Hock says:

      No, its not about weirdos with “depression” Why do crazy people seem to want to shove their problems in us NORMALS faces all day everyday? Eww.

  22. Marco says:

    It’s simply a Christian metaphor about keeping life purified with Christ once in a while. Coming to terms with life’s wars, getting healed or purified and coming back once it’s complete.

  23. Ed says:

    Totally could be either. For one side, he is sipping on straight chlorine. And as we all know, that’s like chugging bleach. Chlorine is also acidic. That makes for the song being about suicide. On the other hand, this all takes place in the fictional world he’s in. He wants to escape. But, it being a different world, maybe chlorine isn’t acidic. Also, chlorine is in some drugs, or so I’ve been told. So, undecided truly.

  24. H says:

    I honestly beleive this song can be taken in many ways, as can many of Tyler’s song, and I believe that’s the beauty of it. Not once has Tyler in any of his songs (I mean… correct if I’m wrong) has ever encouraged or talked about giving way to suicide. I think Tyler writes this, showing how people who don’t know much about him will take it one way while others will interpret it another way. I don’t think Tyler would ever write a song about giving in to suicide. He does, however, have many songs explaining his connection to music and him writing music, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was another case of it. Tyler’s reason for writing the song might be something completely different, but I think we can all agree, that we are all entitled to interpreting it our own way. || – //

    • H says:

      Oof I meant to add- Tyler has said writing music is an escape for him in a way which leads to another theory, especially with the whole connection to Dema and the fact that he’s been trapped there before. 🙂

  25. Allona says:

    The Song is about Trump and how much the band and the country loves him. They are big trump supporters

  26. Dominic says:

    I always thought it was about a drug addiction. for many reasons, maybe the chlorine (since it´s a chemical that cleans) is what he is taking to get clean or try beating his addiction. He also says ¨When I leave don’t save my seat, I’ll be back when it’s all complete¨ making me think that he is saying when he leaves for rehab don´t wait for him, just move on. and when he says he´ll be back it makes me think hes talking about when he is fully clean and over the drug he´ll come back.

    Then he says ¨I plan my escape from walls they confined¨ which I interpreted as him trying to say that he wants to break his addiction and break through the ´walls´ that drugs put him behind
    He goes on to say 1) ¨Had you in my coat pocket¨ 2)¨I felt I was invincible, you wrapped around my head¨ 3) ¨But now you double as a papermaker¨ 4) ¨I despise you sometimes¨ and 5) ¨I love to hate the fight¨. now time to explain. first off 1) is talking about how he would carry the drug in his pocket for any time use. 2) is about how he thought he wouldn’t get addicted and he could just do it once for fun but now it´s constantly on his mind because he wants more. then 3) is saying he can now not only do the drug but sell it in order to make money off of it. 4) is showing how he hates that he gets those nasty cravings for the drug . 5) he is stating that he loves that he is able to fight it, that´s why he loves to hate it. because if he didn’t hate the fight he wouldn’t be trying to fight.

    He then says ¨I’m so sorry, I forgot you¨ which I understood as him saying he is sorry that in the mix of his addiction he forgot about what truly was important to him and how much he cared about that person, and he is now sober so he realizes what mistake he made.

    Not only do the lyrics show us whats happening, but so does the music video. We see tyler ok as long as he has his drink with him, think about it, in every seen we see him he is either doing work ( to keep his mind off his addiciton) or we see him with the drink ( whatever his addiction is). but if you remember there is another scene we see him without his ( addiction) and that is in the pool just sitting there, its easy to tell he is having a hard time and suffering, as seen when people go through withdraws, and then his brother gives him his cup as a way of saying, ¨here you go, your withdraw is hurting you too bad have some too help¨ and then takes the cup/addiction,

    I could be very wrong but this is what I got from the lyrics and music video.

  27. Ty says:

    Tyler, the writer and lead singer of the song has stated it’s about the creative process, not suicide or anything like that. Of course songs are always up to interpretation by the listener. We tend to make a song work for our own lives, but if one is looking for the actual meaning of the song and what the lyricist was saying, he’s confirmed it’s about creativity and the creative process.

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