Festival ‘Thought’ (Reading Map 2019)

Post Malone and twenty one pilots: Why so creative?

Main Stage Friday – Indie pop courtesy of The 1975. Sunday – Foo Fighters bring us American Rock. 

Saturday’s co-headliners, however, are harder to summarise. What genre are twenty one pilots? Alternative hip hop? Rap-rock? Electro-pop rock? And how about Post Malone? Is it hip hop, really? Pop-rap? Country-grunge-R&B?

Neither artist fits neatly into a single musical category, but their joint spot on the main stage is perfect. Refusing to be defined by a single sound or subject matter means their music feels fresh, authentic, genuine. “I have an appreciation for so much different stuff”, Post told clashmusic.com in a 2016 interview, “you really can’t say I don’t love music”.

Appreciating that something is great whilst wanting to do something new with it is a key characteristic of being human. From vegan burgers to precious memories with friends, so many things we enjoy happen because of humanity’s instinct for creating and reinventing.

Did this happen by accident – a happy by-product of natural selection or social conditioning? Not according to the Bible. Its opening pages explain that human beings were created to be, well, creative, for two key reasons: God is a creator, and we are made in his image. Part of our mission on earth as human beings is to take raw material and transform it into whatever is useful, beautiful and beneficial. As Tyler from twenty one pilots put it, “The meaning of purpose for me is by creating something”.

However, our headliners’ songs show that life is more complicated than simply creating great music then enjoying it. All too often there’s a cost, a brokenness that sooner or later comes through. Post may “feel like a rockstar” at times, but he is also Rich and Sad ,“Got a hundred big faces but I’m still alone”, questioning the difficulty of relationships and how painful they can be, “What are we to do? It’s like we only play to lose” (Stay).

Stressed Out candidly explores themes of anxiety and depression – “I was told when I got older all my fears would shrink / But now I’m insecure and I care what people think”. It’s an anthem for a generation facing immense pressures both from the outside world and inside their own minds – “wish we could turn back time…now we’re stressed out”.

So what happened? How did a promise of creative harmony and happiness become this nightmare? Again, the Bible provides answers. The world today isn’t how God created it to be – everything is damaged and spoiled by sin, separating us from God, and each other. Sin means we take the good stuff God gives, and turn it into something ugly, instead of beautiful. So sin’s infection means nothing’s as it should be: none of us live, act and speak in the ways we were created for. We all sin and we all suffer for it.

But while we can’t “turn back time, to the good old days”, there is a way to be free from sin’s stress and pain. All because of what the creative God has done. Jesus, God’s Son, showed us what true living looks like. He consistently loved God, and people. And his dying and rising again were his plan for how he would recreate people like us. Slowly strip away our anxieties and selfishness, and prepare us for the ultimate festival – heaven. He can fix us, and welcomes all who come to him. Will you come?