All 10 songs were perfected, the album was finished, and the dust had settled. Linkin Park, the godfathers of nu metal and rap rock ... had gone pop?
Dominating rock charts for most of the 2000's, Linkin Park released two monstrously successful albums in "Hybrid Theory" and "Meteora". "Hybrid Theory", the band's debut album in 2001, reached Platinum in sales and remains the best-selling debut album of the 21st century. "Meteora", their follow-up album released in 2003, sold 27 million copies worldwide and was ranked 36th in Billboard's Top 200 Albums of the Decade. In the two critically-acclaimed albums, the band released household jams including "In the End", "Crawling", "One Step Closer", "Numb", and "Breaking the Habit". Linkin Park channeled the frustrations of life, with teenagers specifically finding comfort in the band's struggles. A majority of the darker themes originated from the early childhood of Chester Bennington, LP's dynamic vocalist. Positive or negative, people could identify with Chester's self-reflections of anger, suffering, discomfort, and lack of confidence. Personally, Linkin Park's music heavily impacted me when I faced the obstacles of middle and high school, and still help me to this day.
Linkin Park had a unique, instantly-recognizable style to their music; they incorporated facets of rock, metal, electronic, and disc-spinning to form a comprehensive, compelling sound. When they performed live near your area, you canceled all plans because you knew it was going to be a hell of a show. Ranked in 2014 as the greatest artists of the 2000's in a Bracket Madness poll on VH1, they were on top of the world. All they had to do was continue producing heavy-hitting, emotional rock and roll to seal their legacy. So, with the promotion of One More Light, a very obvious shift towards the mainstream pop trend, what happened?
It is easy to label Linkin Park a bunch of sell-outs. Almost too easy. For the past decade or so, mainstream artists like Rihanna, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, and Maroon 5 have achieved super-stardom by producing songs that the general population finds catchy and meaningful. Most importantly, they have been grossing millions and billions of revenue doing so. Staple radio stations like 96.5 and 102.1 no longer play Nickelback, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Pearl Jam and others exclusively like they used to, because family-friendly rock has been replaced by pop artists such as Imagine Dragons, Lorde, Hozier, etc. The influence of music, without a doubt, has shifted away from rock and roll to pop music. Who wouldn't want a piece of that cake? We commonly see throwback artists "sell their souls" to become relevant again, because it goes whatever direction the music industry dictates. That's why the headline is so fitting and juicy. "Metal Gods Linkin Park Sell Out For More Money". A rock fanatic like myself may believe that they have turned their backs on their music, their legacy, and their fans. It doesn't matter that they built temples and domes with their individuality, because that is all suddenly erased. The very music that some of us survive to is gone, just like that.
However, longtime fans of LP shouldn't view this as a crisis. This is why.
Aside from "Hybrid Theory" and "Meteora", this isn't the first time LP has experimented with their music. Between "Minutes to Midnight", "A Thousand Suns", "Living Things", and "The Hunting Party", LP added and subtracted elements of electronics, newer beats, guitars, and vocals, trying to do something new in each stage. Maybe playing the same music for two decades straight gets tiresome and boring. Sometimes, new perspectives are what's really necessary for the continuation of such a successful dynasty. Secondly, nostalgia plays a huge factor. I, like a lot of people, find myself wishing I had the best experiences of my life back. We all want to picture today as the summer of 2005, heading to the beach with the windows down, blasting lyrics to "In The End" with our good companions, and not a care in the world. That's over with, let's move on and make new memories. The third and final reason not to fret over LP is the fact that ageless Chester Bennington is only 41 years old. The rest of the group hovers around 40 flat. Seeing as though groups like the Rolling Stones, Kiss, and AC/DC are still kicking long into their immortality, there is always something left in the tank for a last-ditch, career-defining record, or four. Just because the group decided to cross a new avenue does not mean everything they have done is lost; it may very well be on hold. Who knows? Maybe they will learn that exploring uncharted waters isn't as rewarding as it seems.
To sum up the discourse and decisions of Linkin Park, give them the benefit of the doubt. Some fans may believe they've lost their way, some may believe they know exactly what they're doing. Just because they aren't headbanging and giving your daughter a background song to her online picture collection doesn't mean that LP is dead. As fans, we must honor and appreciate the countless memories and happiness that they have provided. LP claims that they are happy by taking this step, Bennington is confident that they are heading in the right direction. If that's not something you can deal with, go to your room, crank up "Hybrid Theory", revisit your teenage angst, and re-live the good old days.