The music video for Twenty One Pilots’s “Chlorine” starts off relatively normal. Just two guys filling up a pool. It’s not until about a minute in that Ned shows up: a strange, furry creature with hairy ears, vacuous black eyes and tiny horns atop his head.
Ned’s presence feels surprising at this point in the five-and-a-half-minute long video, but maybe it shouldn’t. After all, Twenty One Pilots have proven already that they are plenty prone to weirdness. The Ohio duo have experimented wildly with enough genres to fill nearly two hands, with their latest album Trench spanning everything from alternative hip hop to rock to electropop. But “Chlorine” embraces the visual side of their work, depositing the peculiar, at times endearing, disjointed-from-reality Ned into a strange environment of tangled weeds and chemicals.
The video fixates on bandmates Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph as they work to fill up a backyard pool, drained of everything but dirty water and leaves at the beginning. They work on this project, taking trips in a truck to pick up materials and spraying chemicals inside until the pool is full and Ned decides to go for a swim. At the end, Joseph sits next to Ned in the gray, drained pool and offers him a Styrofoam cup of unknown contents. Ned refuses it, and Joseph peers down into the cup, leaving the viewer with the foreboding-feeling question of what might have been inside.
Like many things Twenty One Pilots, the video beckons analysis, and it is certainly interesting to trace its development from a mysterious journey into a blissful, rewarding triumph, and then finally the dark ending note on which it lands. All throughout, one of the most effective elements of the video is the way in which its plot is paired with the music. The lines, “Sippin’ on straight chlorine / Let the vibes slide over me / This beat is a chemical,” work perfectly in conjunction with the image of this foreign, generated creature meandering through an atmosphere of people and poison.