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Released: 2024

“Next Semester” by Twenty One Pilots is an emotionally charged song that communicates the struggles of a student yearning for a fresh start. The song explores themes of anxiety, disorientation, and the hope for reinvention. The lyrics encapsulate the turbulent experience of grappling with an academic environment that feels stifling, while also yearning for reprieve and renewal.

The opening lines “Stand up straight now/Can’t break down/Graduate now/I don’t wanna be here, I don’t wanna be here” articulates the protagonist’s reluctant participation in an academic institution. The repetition of the phrase “I don’t wanna be here” underscores a sense of claustrophobia and desperation.

This sense of anxiety is further perpetuated by the lines, “It’s a taste test/Of what I hate less/Can you die of anxiousness?”. Here, the protagonist is faced with the prospect of choosing between different aspects of their life they find distasteful – creating a sense of emotional turmoil and despair.

The recurring phrase, “What’s about to happen? What’s about to happen?” paints a picture of anticipation, uncertainty, and fear. It reflects the protagonist’s fear of the future and represents the anxious questioning of a character who feels out of control.

The imagery of “The yellow dashes in the street/I prayed those lights would take me home/Then I heard, ‘Hey, kid, get out of the road!'” further emphasizes this sense of disorientation and detachment. The yellow lines and lights are symbols of home and safety, yet they are juxtaposed with a harsh reprimand, indicating a painful intrusion of reality into the fugitive solace.

The chorus, “Can’t change what you’ve done/Start fresh next semester” introduces the theme of hope and reset, echoing sentiments of self-forgiveness and the possibility of a fresh start. While acknowledging past mistakes, it puts forward the perspective that it’s never too late to begin anew.

By the end, with the reprise of “It’s a taste test/Of what I hate less/I don’t wanna be here/Start fresh with a new year” we see the protagonist stuck in their current disfavorable reality, but hopeful of a better future – be it a new year or a new semester. They are still tasting what they hate less or tolerating their current experiences, but anticipation of a fresh start remains.

These themes, beautifully woven into the lyrics of “Next Semester”, allows listeners to tap into the universal experiences of anxiety, fear, and hope present in a student’s life. One could argue that the song is not merely about a literal next academic semester, but about the metaphorical “next semesters” we all look forward to in order to leave behind our past mistakes and anxieties.

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