A Former Fan Revisits Linkin Park
Linkin Park has a pretty interesting reputation. Amongst their fans, they’re revered for their earlier works but hated for their later ones, with the exception of The Hunting Party. Amongst many metal fans, they’re regarded with disgust and not treated as “real metal." Outside of their fan base and the metal community, they’re mainly known for being a very edgy, emo group that have left an indelible mark in many people’s lives.
I personally have been on all sides of the spectrum like many others (minus metal elitism because that’s just dumb). Linkin Park is a band that many listen to during a certain phase of their lives. There is an appeal to their angry sound that you relate to. Eventually, you grow up and move on, and you remember that phase of your life as a “dark time.” So, after almost five years, I decided to revisit the band that defined my early teenage years and to reevaluate them with fresh eyes and a new perspective on music.
The first and most difficult thing to address is the lyricism. In 2017, the band’s lead singer, Chester Bennington, tragically took his own life. It makes many of the lyrics much darker and almost difficult to listen to. The lyrics that were once classified as emo now sound like cries for help and warning signs. In one song, “Given Up,” Bennington literally screams the line “put me out of my misery” for twenty straight seconds. In one of their most famous songs, “In the End,” the main chorus, which is often treated like a meme, now sounds like a man who is on the verge of breaking, justifying ending his life.
In all honesty, the lyricism isn’t particularly bad either. Even without the context of Bennington's death, they’re actually raw and gritty lyrics. There are quite a few missteps, like “Hands Held High” with its attempt at criticizing George Bush and the war on terror. But the lyrics that deal with the themes of depression, suicide, anger, abuse, and other dark personal topics are actually really solid, even if they are very blunt. I regret calling them “edgy” and “emo” at one point because while they fall into that category, anyone who deals with mental illness knows how honest the band is about the struggles they communicate. The lyrics don’t pretend or pander, and I find that to be a really great quality about them.
Having broadened my musical horizons over the years, I can say that I actually really respect Linkin Park in terms of their musicianship. This will probably get some disagreement from people, but hear me out. They’re not technically talented players. The guitarist rarely, if ever, takes solos. The riffing and drumming are very straightforward. But they lock into the simplicity and grit of their style surprisingly well. Everything just has a flow to it, like the way Mike Shinoda’s rapping and background vocals flow into Bennington’s belted choruses. They are just so in sync with each other that it's hard to not rock out to a lot of their songs.
What I respect even more is how experimental they are. They are always switching up several styles throughout many of their songs and albums. They take influences from hardcore metal groups, punk, '90s hip-hop, and electronic sounds to create their own blend that is distinctly them. Their sounds change on each album too. Their earlier albums, Hybrid Theory and Meteora, have their distinct nu-metal sound with Bennington’s demonic screams mixed with Shinoda’s rapping. But albums like A Thousand Suns and Living Things go down a more experimental route and are primarily electronic, much to the dismay of fans. But I really, truly respect that about the band. They just do their own thing, and most of the time, it honestly works. I equally like their nu-metal days and their electronic days, and they wouldn’t be Linkin Park if they ditched one phase in favor of the other.
This was a journey for me. I can’t say I love Linkin Park like I once did, but there is a lot to appreciate and I have really taken them for granted over the years. There is a saying in the metal community that once you’re a metalhead, you’re always a metalhead. The same can extend to groups, and this is the case for me with Linkin Park. I’ll be putting their songs on every now and then, and I encourage former fans to give them a second shot with a more open mind. There is a lot more to them than what you see on the surface.