Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens” Lyrics Meaning

A heathen is someone who from a religious standpoint is considered to be an outsider. If a person wants to use the term colloquially, it can also be applied to anyone who isn’t a member of a specific group.  So for instance, if you were a diehard fan of the Twenty One Pilots – say a member of the Skeleton Clique itself – and someone comes around trying to be down that perhaps isn’t as committed, that individual can be labeled as a heathen.

And in fact it is that particular scenario which TØP is said to be addressing in this song. On one hand, the lyrics have been interpreted as the band telling the Skeleton Clique to be more sympathetic to heathens, i.e. people who are just now joining the group’s fandom themselves. Even though they may not appear to be as committed initially, that may not necessarily be the case.

Alternate Interpretation of “Heathens”

And that brings us to an alternate interpretation of “Heathens”. It has also been postulated that Tyler Joseph is speaking to the newcomers themselves.  And what he is telling them is not to be intimidated by the stylings of the established members of the Skeleton Clique. In other words, the Skeleton Clique may rather appear to them as “heathens”, i.e. people who don’t have any standard religious inclinations. But TØP assures these novices that given an ample amount of time, they might realize they’re more like these individuals than they believe they are at first.


So conclusively, we can postulate that one of the things which makes this song unique is that it is seemingly addressing what can be determined as two different groups of people simultaneously. But all of these individuals do have something extraordinary in common. And that is that they’re really digging the Twenty One Pilots. Thus all the “heathens” addressed are considered to be “friends” of the band. 

So basically, even though this is a track which many consider to be religious in nature, ultimately it serves as TØP’s shoutout to the nonconformist nature of their fandom. Indeed it is that selfsame uniqueness which the band wants to encourage.

Lyrics of "Heathens

Music Video

The music video, which had Andrew Donoho as its director, is based on the super hero action film “Suicide Squad”. The setting of the video is a prison, which in fact serves as the selfsame fictional institution which is central to “Suicide Squad” (although the institution in which the video was filmed is reportedly a real-life penitentiary).  

However, one of the reasons the Twenty One Pilots also wanted to utilize such a theme was to pay homage to Johnny Cash’s live performances “At Folsom Prison” (California) in January of 1968.

The music video went on to win a MTV Video Music Award in 2016. It won specifically in the category of Best Rock Video.

Facts about “Heathens”

Atlantic Records released this tune on 16 June 2016 as the lead single from “Suicide Squad: The Album”, with “Suicide Squad” being a superhero-action film.

The release date of this song was hastened by the fact that the track was leaked the day prior.

The song itself was also a big hit, charting in a whopping 30 countries. This includes scoring a number one in the Czech Republic as well as Slovakia. It also reached the top spot on three of Billboard’s US-based charts.

As far as the Hot 100 itself, it made it to number 2. In Britain, it reached number 5.

“Heathens” also received three Grammy Award nominations in 2017.

Tyler Joseph is credited as the song’s sole writer. And the producers of the track are he and Mike Elizondo.

First Live Performance of “Heathens”

The first time the Twenty One Pilots performed this song in a live venue is recognized as being on the date of 28 June 2016. The event took place in Charlotte, North Carolina while they were touring the world.

3 Responses

  1. Thelma says:

    The word “Heathens” refers to unbelievers; usually referred to in a religious context.

    The lyrics tell listeners that at a point in life one’s friends who don’t believe in the same things one does will come asking about one’s beliefs, which is better than trying to convince them even when they are not interested.

    From my understanding of the lyrics, one should not try to convince others to join them in what they believe in, but let the positive results speak for themselves. After that it makes it easier to clarify it all.

    In every walk of life, people have been though all sorts of things and have memories both good and bad and until they can trust you enough, you’ll never know who they really are no matter how close you are to them.

    To sum it all up, it is advice to all to form alliances with care. Until you get to know a person well, do not entrust them with what is important to you because all of that intimate knowledge could be used to build you up or break you down especially if they do not believe in the same things that you believe in.

  2. Dave says:

    This song also speaks true to those of us who have gone through challenging recovery from sexual abuse. Many of us are “heathens” as we have rejected the church that our abusers are members of. We have sat in rooms with psychopaths sitting next to us (and sometimes murderers sitting next to us for those of us who have gone through prison). We know the hand grenades in our brains. We know how some people are attracted to us when they don’t know about their own abuse yet can sense that they might be one of us.

  3. JB "CUZ'IN EDDIES Cuz'in" FAGAN Jr says:

    Awesome song!!! The drummer makes the video cool

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