“These guys have sold out.”
“Go back to Hybrid Theory!”
“You have failed me for the last time.”
Above are just a few of the bad reviews in a pile of many in regards to Linkin Park’s seventh studio album, One More Light, released worldwide May 19, 2017. Days within its release, I knew right away that I wanted to take the plunge and write a public review, partly due to the negative backlash the band was already receiving even months before the entire album was to be released, and partly because I felt that after fifteen years of being a fan I owed it to them to (and to myself) to speak out. I was super pumped to write this review. After all, I had a lot to say as a fan and as a person. For a few years, I had lost touch with the band. Life gets in the way and with bills and trying to get a photography business off the ground, I could no longer afford my Linkin Park Underground membership. A couple years back a friend and I were planning on attending a Pojeckt Revolution show. I ended up pregnant and had to cancel the plans. Two months later I had an ectopic miscarriage which required surgery and a month off work and a heavy burden of personal grief and depression. It was around this time that I got back in touch with my Linkin Park roots.
I suddenly found myself reminiscing over how I became a fan in the first place. I was thirteen and my brother who was fourteen and musically further than me, came to me one summer day and said, “Sis! You need to listen to this song!” It wasn’t In The End, it wasn’t Crawling or One Step Closer. No. The first Linkin Park song I ever heard was My December. With its soft melody, Chester’s soothing voice, and spine-tingling violins, a brand new relationship flourished. I instantly joined the Linkin Park Underground and buried myself in the music of these six immensely talented men from California.
I first saw them in concert in Ohio during the Summer Sanitarium tour. Lucky for me, because I was part of the LPU, I got to meet the band. Here I was, this thirteen-year-old awkward girl meeting my new idols. I didn’t know what to say. I was star struck. And just when I thought I was going to simply stand there like a jackass, it was time to meet Brad Delson, and what I said next would haunt me for years to come:
“Your beard is ugly.”
My twenty-eight-year-old self wants to go back in time and punch thirteen years old me in the face. It’s funny now. I guess. So Brad and I joked (I hope we joked… that day is blurry) about his beard. At this time in my life (and still so even now) I was a gigantic Mike Shinoda fan. He was the last one sitting at the table. I approach him, my heart about ready to jump right out of my chest so rapidly that I was convinced I would have to chase it down the room and shove it back into my body. Honestly, I was expecting to faint. Then, he smiled his famous Shinoda grin, a smile that warms up the room, and he shook my hand and said thank you to me. I knew right then and there that I would be a fan for life.
Meteroa was released my eighth-grade year. I listened to it for the first time on the playground after school. My parents had just divorced and life was hard. I was bullied for my new “goth” look; my family was falling apart; Dad lived in a new house and my mom was now a single parent taking care of three kids, working a full-time job, and going to college. All I had in my life was a couple of close personal friends and six other friends singing to me sleep through my earphones.
I would see Linkin Park in concert one more time during the Meteroa tour. I was front row on Phoenix’s side. My friend and I stood in a blizzard for a good six hours waiting to get into the venue. This big dude next to me pushed me to the ground to catch Rob Bourdon’s drumstick resulting in me going home with a migraine fashioned with a big, cheesy grin on my face.
I would continue to listen to them throughout all of high school. In fact, when Minutes to Midnight came out, the other kids in my Graphic Arts class got so annoyed with listening to the album for weeks on end that they eventually stole the stereo from me. That, my friend, is why personal CD players were invented.
Graduation came and went. I went to college for a year then dropped out to move to Florida when I was nineteen, leaving behind all of my friends, my entire family, and life as I knew it. Jobs happened, breakups happened, homesickness happened. I was no longer this angsty, whiny, lost teenager. I was an adult now. So I got caught up in adulthood, found myself trapped a few situations I wish I hadn’t. As for Linkin Park? Well, I didn’t hear A Thousand Suns until two years after its release. It’s not that I wasn’t a fan anymore. I still checked up on them from time to time to see what they were up to. It had nothing to do with the band. A lot was happening in my personal life that it was difficult to keep up with what band was doing what. Although they lost me for a moment there, I didn’t lose them, and just when I needed my friends from L.A. back in my life, they came back with open arms. A Thousand Suns instantly became my number one album of all time from any band. The album came to me, not when it was released, but when I needed it to come into my life to help me through yet another milestone.
But this article isn’t about A Thousand Suns. It isn’t about my life. This article is about One More Light. So I’ll push my Linkin Park story to the backburner for the moment and get into the meat and potatoes of this article.
One More Light is the first Linkin Park album I’ve pre-ordered since Minutes to Midnight. The night of the U.S. release I was exhausted, having been taking care of my sick grandfather all day, and I struggled to stay awake. I was in bed, staring down iTunes, my heart thumping in my ears. I wanted –needed- to hear this album. When two in the morning came around, iTunes still hadn’t released the entire album, so I went to sleep. When I woke up the next day, I took care of my grandpa’s medications, blood pressure, and breakfast and ran upstairs to listen to the album I’d been waiting years to hear. And this is what happened:
The album opens with a cute, little “chipmunk” sounding intro to Nobody Can Save Me. Now not being a big fan of the whole “chipmunk” music in general, I was somewhat cautious. Then… then the magic happened: Chester’s voice came streaming into my ears: soft, gentle, and soulful. Linkin Park has always been such a lyrically strong band and, from song one, they proved to me that, once again, they are brilliant with words. Stared into this illusion/For answers yet to come/I chose a false solution/But nobody proved me wrong/Head-first hallucination.
One song. One song was all it took for me to get sucked into this awesome mew world these guys had created.
After an emotional rollercoaster of the first song, Good Goodbye hits me like a freight train. These guys never fail to surprise me with the way they set up their song rotation. I had (like many fans) already heard the song and seen the video before the album release. While I enjoyed it from the first listen (mostly because I was dying to hear Mike for the first time with Heavy and Battle Symphony being released first) I enjoyed it even more on the album with it coming after Nobody Can Save Me. The song is fun and upbeat, and Pusha T and Stormzy really fit into the flow Mike Shinoda delivers in the first verse.
Next was Talking to Myself. It opens with some strong guitar riffs and had that old school Linkin Park feel from the very beginning. Being a lyrically orientated person, I closed my eyes and listened, and realized how deep the story to this song was. I personally connected to this song within seconds. The truth is, you turn into someone else/You keep running like the sky is falling/I can whisper, I can yell/But I know, yeah I know, yeah I know/I’m just talking to myself. To me it was a song about trying to get through to someone who has an addiction, or is pushing their partner away. Whether I’m right or wrong, I can tell you that this song delivers in a powerful (both emotionally and head-banging) way.
After this we hear Battle Symphony. Again, I heard this song before the album debut, and I had already connected with it, loved it, embraced it… but fell in love with it all over again when fused with the rest of the album. My new life motto? “If my armor breaks/I’ll fuse it back together.” This song is a masterpiece. Period.
Invisible also hit me like a freight train. The band released this song not too long before the album debut. To hear Mike Shinoda sing is, quite honestly, a gift. While Chester Bennington brings us this strong, exploding volcano of a voice, Shinoda’s is the opposite: delicate and soothing. While I’ve always been a fan of his voice – rapping and singing alike – I was utterly blown away. There was just something different about him in this song. It’s a personal tune and you can tell he’s passionate about what he’s singing. He is exposing not only his voice to us but his soul as well. In an interview, he explained that this song is about his kids who are still little and the chaos that comes with parenthood. I was not mad at you/I was not trying to bring you down/The words that I could’ve used/I was too scared to say out loud/If I cannot break your fall/I’ll pick you up right off the ground/If you felt invisible, I won’t let you feel that now. While I don’t have kids of my own, I thought of my three God-children and how, even when I get angry, I don’t mean to yell or bring them down, I’m just trying to raise them right so they can grow into strong, independent, good human beings.
I bet you can guess what’s next. Ah, yes, the infamous, love/hate single Heavy featuring Gold vocalist Kiiara. Here’s where it gets tricky for me. The first time I heard this song, I was not pleased to say the least. In fact, I listened to the song one time up until the album release. I watched the music video on mute. I followed the Linkin Park Facebook comments like a hawk to get a feel for what everyone else was thinking. There was not a lot of positivity and I was extremely worried about what direction this band was going to take if this was what they were introducing as the sound for One More Light. I didn’t agree with a lot of the other fans claiming that Linkin Park were sell-outs or they were actually trying to piss off their older fans. Absolutely not did I agree with this mindset! My reaction was: I was expecting coffee and, when taking a sip, I got tea (we can thank Mike Shinoda for this analogy). I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t confused. This was Linkin Park! No two albums are the same. I’ve never seen a more diverse band so when this song came out, I wasn’t at all surprised. Now, with that being said and out of the way, when I listened to this song in the rotation of the album, it fit beautifully. Chester and Kiiara harmonize together in a way that is quite rare in the world of music. Is it a song I can listen to over and over? No. But it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it or even have an understanding and admiration for it.
Sorry for Now is another Mike Shinoda based song. Again, his singing voice is phenomenal! Automatically I thought of my ten years living in Florida, being away from my family and friends, and how angry they would get at me every time I left them. And I’ll be sorry for now/That I couldn’t be around/Sometimes things refuse to go the way we planned/I’ll be sorry for now/That I couldn’t be around/There will be a day that you will understand/You will understand. Also, we’re greeted with more “chipmunks” and Chester, yes I said “Chester”, rapping. The boys switched roles and it… is… awesome! I’ve been waiting fifteen years for this song!
Used to get high with the dead end kids/Abandoned houses where the shadows live/I never been higher than I was that night/I woke up driving my car. These are lyrics to the first verse in this immaculate story-telling song Halfway Right. For the hundredth time I thought of my own life. Chester’s presentation of this song is so overwhelming that it cuts straight through the marrow. I recall a fan saying that the “na, na, na” part of the song was annoying. I disagree, Chester’s “na” fills are brilliantly placed and really helps connect and fasten the song.
One More Light. This is the first time the band has ever named an album after a song. Not that it matters to me either way, but I did find it odd that after seven studio albums they would decide to go this route. When I heard the song for the first time, I understood why. I cried. And I cried. And I cried some more. This song impacted me in such a personal way that I felt as if I was carrying it on my back for days and days. Even just talking or writing about it gets me choked up. It’s been theorized that the song was written about a close friend of theirs that passed away. This is by far the most emotional, gut-wrenching song I’ve ever heard this band do. Should’ve stayed/were there signs, I ignored?/Can I help you, not to hurt/ anymore? and The reminders/pull the floor from your feet/In the kitchen, one more chair than you need… Who cares if one more light goes out in a sky of a million stars?/Well I do. Actually, I’m going to end the review of this song here because if I don’t, I’ll sob and my laptop will combust.
Sharp Edges ends the album and with a gigantic BANG at that. With a folksy acoustic sound and Chester’s upbeat voice, the song has, at least to me, a Johnny Cash feel. At first, I didn’t know what to think of the song. I’ve never heard the band do something so out of the ordinary as this. On my second listen, I fell in love hard and fast. Sharp edges have consequences/I guess that I had to find out for myself/Sharp edges have consequences/Now every scar is a story I can tell. It has that “parent-to-child” advice vibe. What a way to go out, boys! What a way to go out!
In conclusion, how do I, as a fifteen-years-and-still-going, fan, think of this new sound? Yes, this album is soft. Yes, there’s a pop/EDM feel overall. They gave us the soft piano, acoustic guitars, and a lot of sampling and mixing. However, I’m a fan all types of music. I’m the girl with the Tool tattoo below the U2 tattoo, so I’m open for anything.
What can I say about One More Light? It’s different, it’s unique, and it’s new. It’s not heavy like Hybrid Theory, it’s not electronic like A Thousand Suns, nor is it a raw rock album like The Hunting Party. One More Light is its own album. It has its own, individual personality… it's own soul. I’ve dubbed it The Mature Version of Meteroa. And while I’ll probably get burned at the Linkin Park Fan stake for saying that, I can’t help but feel that it’s true. Meteroa touched on teenage/young adult confusion: issues with parents, being bullied by peers, feeling lost as a growing individual. Whereas One More Light touches on adult situations: kids, having no choice but to put a career before family for the benefit of said family, overcoming addiction, losing loved ones. This album is simply… well, it’s reality; it’s life.
There’s always going to be haters when it comes to the entertainment business. It’s inevitable. Not everyone is going to agree with what a band is doing. With that being said, as an avid Linkin Park fan, the thing I’ve always loved most about them is that they never cease to surprise me. I never know what’s going to come next when they release something new. They’re constantly pushing themselves and breaking the molds. To those reading this: don’t listen to the critics, don’t listen to the fans who are “giving up” because they made a “pop” record (which they totally nailed!) Go home, put on your headphones, turn off the lights, and just allow yourself to sink in this fresh world these talented men worked so hard to make for you: the fan. You won’t be disappointed.
I’m a lucky girl to be a fan of this band. They’ve been with me through my teenage years and my adult years. They’ve been a shoulder to lean on through my depression, deaths, addictions, miscarriages, and poverty. They’ve always been there celebrating with me at birthday parties; jamming out with me on road trips. They were there to sing along with during the holidays and the typical day-to-day mundane tasks. For the first time since the Meteroa tour, I will be seeing them in concert this coming August and I simply cannot wait!
To those saying that the “old” Linkin Park fans need to go away, let me say this: as long as this band continues to lift me up, as long as they continue to put out music, I will always be here, supporting them just as much as they’ve supported me.
I am not going anywhere.