This is interesting for me because it brings about so many conflicting emotions that I don't really know how to feel. The main thing is that it's a massive alarm bell that I should probably be less critical of twenty one pilots in general as they are probably, for someone 10 years younger than me, the same thing that My Chemical Romance were for me 10 years ago. Probably much more given how withdrawn and non-hyperbolic I am with a lot of my favourite music, both internally and externally, and given the nature of the more visible subset of their fanbase! It might make more sense to pair twenty one pilots with say Panic! At The Disco, given the fact that they're both FBR bands and both have a generally wild & over the top demeaner with plenty of variance. But I think MCR are probably the closest equivalent considering the way the two bands have cultivated their...cults. Despite the half-generation gap, I'm sure they share a good amount of fans.
It's also easy to be conflicted when the general reaction has been so far off mine that I have to put it in consideration. This is thoroughly loathed in some circles. There is a super easy joke to make in it y'know? And covers are always going to attract that sort of reaction because it's always a catch-22. If you're not a super fan of the band doing the cover, you have to also manage to be accepting of the artist being covered, but not so much so that you're insulted by the notion, especially if it doesn't go about the same way as the song originally does.
If I do have a problem with this, it's a more general sort of thing that comes back to a general issue I have with twenty one pilots. They frequently have an arrogant tone of being spiteful about not getting played on the radio, but then thinking that they're above that. It's something they've had come up across their last two albums, and it's only gotten more bothersome as they've become a band with multiple #1 radio hits. The success of twenty one pilots is not just some wacky accident, they're on a major label which I'm sure affects the musical output in some way, and it certainly is relevant in getting their songs pushed and played everywhere.
This is most pertinent with "Cancer" because anyone familiar with the song would know that it's a relatively short interlude on "The Black Parade", noted for being much less bombastic than most of the album, perhaps the closest the album comes to being actually emo music, because let's stop perpetuating that misconception already. It's a stark moment that rests on both the impact of the lyrics and Gerard's delivery. In twenty one pilots' version, it's extended to a normal pop song length by way of forcing a chorus through repeated lyrics, and it's also more beat-driven with vocal processing. I'm not saying that this was deliberately constructed to be a pop hit, but it more feels like 'well we're just gonna put this out there and test the waters to see if it resonates. It doesn't have to crossover, but we don't want to rule out that possibility'. It kind of irks me that they'd do this on a release that is supposed to be celebrating the impact of The Black Parade, and on a song whose power shouldn't be tampered with. It's about a step and a half away from just residing as a tropical house cover.
But I just can't bring myself to be vitriolic about this in general. Maybe it works for me on some level for being a twenty one pilots song that's reeled back a bit* (and maybe that's a turn off for a lot of people?). I think it retains the right mood, I like the echoing with the vocals which fits in well with the image being projected through the artwork/visuals, it gives it a distant feel, which is distinct and interesting to me, like it's wafting through the air in the background. I do find the repetition a bit jarring, and it affects me further because it puts unnecessary emphasis on the 'lips are chapped and faded' lyric, which now sticks out like a sore thumb when I listen to the original. There's also this weird peaking about it. Maybe it was rushed, but I can hear these weird clicking sounds throughout it, that are not unlike when your headphones are being muffled by a loose hair or something. And of course, Tyler Joseph just doesn't put through the same sort of power as Gerard Way. He's fine on this song, but it's missing that extra oomph that brings me into the original. Otherwise I don't have too many qualms and it wouldn't matter either way as this seems ready to disappear in an instant, intrusive Spotify playlists aside.
*I say this, but "Ode To Sleep" is probably my favourite song of theirs and that song is all over the place :p