Yeah, proof, as if it were ever needed, that Linkin Park have always been pop.
Linkin Park are back with a shiny new album, ‘One More Light’. I’m listening to it right now and I will more than likely throw a review together at some point. I’ll suffix this article by saying that yeah, I like it. It’s an *epic* departure from their previous work The Hunting Party and will take a few listens for it to really sink in, but it has some golden moments, that of which I’ll talk more about in said review.
Still, the angriest responses to LP’s new direction – particularly when they released the first single off their new album ‘Heavy’. It was something like this;
‘WHY ARE LINKIN PARK DOING POP MUSIC’
‘THIS IS NOT THE LINKIN PARK I KNOW. I’M ASHAMED’
‘THEY SOUND LIKE BIEBER. GET THIS OFF MY FAVOURITE STREAMING SERVICE OF CHOICE’
Now, I’m going to begin this by saying from the outset that I’m not the biggest fan of “Heavy”. No, not because it’s ‘pop’ — it’s because it’s bland and uninspiring, but this is something we should expect from Linkin Park. They’ve been doing the exact same thing for nearly 20 years now.
You see, Linkin Park have always been a pop band. From their very first album Hybrid Theory — which, as we all know, is one of the greatest albums of its ilk and began a short-lived genre unto its own — up until “Heavy”, pop has been a massive influence on the band whether you like it or not.
So right now, what I’m gonna do is prove that this Linkin Park have always existed. I find it interesting that people feel they can put the band into any kind of genre at all. From Hybrid Theory to One More Light, the sound has evolved to such an extent the very notion that Linkin Park can be categorised is bewildering to me.
I’m going to create a fake Linkin Park pop album using their classic songs to prove that every one of their albums have had this influence going all the way back to Hybrid Theory. So;
TRACK ONE – In The End (Hybrid Theory)
Perhaps their biggest song of all, Linkin Park’s heroic third single off Hybrid Theory cemented their place as mainstream recording artists. In The End lead video rotation channels for weeks and weeks, pushing the band to a whole new audience that weren’t aware of One Step Closer or Papercut. With its ridiculously catchy chorus and simple piano melody book-ending the song, it was a song designed to be sold to the masses. And bloody hell, did it work. In The End is pure pop and I will fight you on this.
Tight, simplistic, but well written choruses became an absolute staple of the Linkin Park sound, and, if you don’t want to be played on the radio, you wouldn’t bother trying too hard to make it all look so easy.
Also, Mike Shinoda himself has confirmed that In The End is indeed a pop song. So, like…deal.
TRACK TWO – My December (Hybrid Theory Special Edition)
Possibly the most overtly emo song of all time, My December was hidden away on the special edition of Hybrid Theory and quickly became a cult favourite amongst the hardcore fans. Another simple piano melody, repeated throughout the song, along with Chester’s vocals repeating the words ‘My December’ throughout, this wasn’t released as a single but features not a single guitar and showcases Linkin Park weren’t afraid to experiment, even at the very start of their career.
TRACK THREE – Breaking The Habit (Meteora)
Breaking The Habit was hidden away on their second album Meteora, and stood out like a sore thumb. Meteora is, at least in my opinion, a heavier album than Hybrid Theory, with Mike Shinoda experimenting a little more with heavier beats and darker lyrics. Breaking The Habit features very little of this and is instead a showcase of Chester Bennington’s astonishing vocals, pulsating throughout the song is a subtle orchestral sequence to seemingly take the place of the heavy guitars which would have sounded out of place on a song like Breaking the Habit. Without a doubt on their finest works. Oh, and the video is bloody fantastic.
TRACK FOUR – Nobody’s Listening (Meteora)
This one is a tad controversial but the more I think about it, the more I notice that if they had put this song on ‘One More Light’ I don’t think anybody would have noticed anything was out of the ordinary. This bizarre concoction of hip-hop, catchy choruses and oriental woodwind was a song on Meteora that, as an angry 16 year old kid, I would completely ignore due to it not rocking my ears off. However, as with most things you get to appreciate it a little more as you get older and Nobody’s Listening has become one of those songs that I enjoy listening to. With Shinoda’s trademark rap verses front and centre along with a beat that I’m pretty sure was made on eJay, it was never going to be a single but it’s certainly fondly remembered by this humble writer.
TRACK FIVE: Shadow of the Day (Minutes to Midnight)
Another song that could have launched on ‘One More Light’ and nobody would have noticed anything different, the tender and positive Shadow of the Day is a song that cemented the Park as a band who are simply not afraid to defy expectations. ‘Minutes to Midnight’ as a whole was a bit of leap (though not as much as some would suggest…Given Up/No More Sorrow are pure HT), and took the challenge to their fans that was simply, ‘come along for the ride or get off here’. If you weren’t into ‘MtM’ then there’s a chance you were never going to come back to the band, and Shadow of the Day is the probably the purest song they’ve ever recorded. A positive energy bursts throughout the song and leaves you feeling pretty good. A nice change of pace for the band who were known as the band who wouldn’t throw their arm around you, but rather scream with you.
TRACK SIX – Hands Held High (Minutes to Midnight)
I’m gonna be honest with you here, I hate this song. I hate its cheesy message and the dorky was it’s delivered. I despise the military drums and the ‘Amen’ chorus that should never have seen the light of day. The sheer existence of this song on an album as exciting as ‘Minutes to Midnight’ was a huge misstep for the album and it irritates the crap out of me every time it pops up on a playlist.
That said, it’s pure pop from beginning to end and sounds like a song that Comic Relief would use to push you to give the remaining pennies you have in your bank. Amen. Ugh.
TRACK SEVEN: The Little Things Give You Away (Minutes to Midnight)
I’m gonna be even more honest with you here, this is my all-time favourite Linkin Park song. The closer to ‘Minutes to Midnight’ is the most 6 minutes and 23 seconds the band have ever created. It’s a slow burner, with acoustic guitars and a subtle vocal from Chester before the end of the second chorus, to which it explodes in a crescendo of pure majesty, with the guitars kicking in and a spectacularly written drum sequence. It’s the heaviest a ballad could ever be, and pushes their message of the song into overdrive with the three vocal parts singing the song out. The Little Things Give You Away is clear proof that Chester Bennington is one of the best vocalists of our time, and should never be ignored. It’s just beautiful. It’s bloody perfect, actually and it’s even better live.
It says something about Minutes to Midnight that it houses both Linkin Park’s worst and best song, eh? And they’re both pop influenced. Funny that.
TRACK EIGHT – Waiting For The End (A Thousand Suns)
A Thousand Suns was always going to be a little tougher to find pure pop songs on, essentially because the album is so damn different to anything else LP have done before or since. The album is full of hit singles, which doesn’t mean to go on the quality, you just get the feeling the album wasn’t written with massive banging summer anthems in mind. A Thousand Suns was LP going full Shinoda and finding a couple more effects available on his keyboard. Waiting For The End doesn’t really fit the mold of a conventional pop single, there isn’t really a chorus (barring ‘All I wanna do is trade this life for something new / Holding on to what I haven’t got’ repeated throughout) but the catchiness of Shindoa’s introductory rap – seriously, I could rattle it off for anyone right now – cements the song as one that gets stuck in your head for days and days. Ergo, pop song. It’s on the album.
TRACK NINE – IRIDESCENT – A THOUSAND SUNS
Iridescent is LP’s boyband single. The focus on the simplicity of piano and vocals (shared between Shinoda and Bennington) tell of a song that is built to be an anthem in stadiums. As it build to its third act it sounds an awful lot like the drop in Coldplay’s Fix You and I’m almost certain this was by design. Whenever I’ve seen LP live this song is enormous on stage, which is impressive considering how melancholy Iridescent truly is. There’s nothing else quite like it in the LP catalogue and have you seen the video? It looks like a rejected One Direction treatment. Seriously, look. It’s above this word. And this one. And this one. And..wait..<< That one too.
TRACK TEN – THE MESSENGER (A Thousand Suns)
The Messenger is the closer to A Thousand Suns and features, primarly, Chester singing the living shit out of this lungs and an acoustic guitar. The juxtaposition of these two different sounds come together and create a beast of an ending, a pure acoustic ballad which was completely out of the ordinary for the band at the time. Still, A Thousand Suns as a whole was a huge leap so we shouldn’t be so surprised the album ended this way. A sombre tale of Chester seemingly talking to his children, the sentimentality of the song brings this whole soppy affair together. I’m not complaining. It’s a great song and one I’ve performed myself at open mic nights, I’ve just taken the key down a tad. I ain’t Chester, after all.
TRACK ELEVEN – CASTLE OF GLASS (Living Things)
Castle of Glass is probably the only song on ‘Living Things’ I’d consider putting on this LP pop album. The album, when you break it down, is actually pretty venomous, and brings out a side of LP we hadn’t seen since probably Hybrid Theory. The fact that Castle of Glass is followed by Victimised sums it all up, the latter having Chester just scream the chorus is the angriest I’ve ever heard them. Still, Castle of Glass was an obvious choice for a single as the chorus is minimalist but hugely effective. The melody of the verses is simple but works like a charm in getting the verses stuck in your head. 218+ million views on YouTube later, Castle of Glass is one of the bands biggest songs and for good reason, it’s probably one of their best.
TRACK TWELVE – FINAL MASQUERADE (The Hunting Party)
It was always going to be a struggle to find something on The Hunting Party to put on a pop album. Granted, I wasn’t expecting to find a song that would fit with the more mainstream aspects of LP’s sound. The Hunting Party is the heaviest album they’ve ever created with absolutely little to no interest to appeal to mainstream audiences, and it’s perhaps one of their best albums. Fortunately, they just couldn’t help themselves and Final Masquerade found its way onto the album and what d’ya know, it became a single too.
Final Masquerade is a powerful track which I listen to quite regularly. it seems to resonate with me quite strongly and, at least in my mind, seems to have an 80’s rock ballad sentimentality to it. I’m pretty sure its the downbeat synth at the beginning which makes me think that. I get the feeling Tears for Fears weren’t too far off releasing something similar. Another big hit when performed live, Final Masquerade finishes off this album in great style.
So then here’s the tracklisting of this album in full.
In The End
Breaking The Habit
Shadow of the Day
Hands Held High
The Little Things Give You Away
Waiting For The End
Castle of Glass
Now, would you buy that album? Cus I damn sure would. Throw this playlist together, give it a listen and get yourself ready for ‘One More Light’.
Linkin Park have always been a pop band, but that’s not what they’ve always been. As you can see I’ve chosen one or two tracks from each album, not five or six. The point being is that the seeds were always there for them to become the band that would eventually release something like ‘One More Light’. They’ve always been a band that will challenge you and mess with your idea of what they are and that’s what’s so damn interesting about them. The fact that they’re even still around is a testament to that. Think of how many bands lived through the nu-metal era of the early 2000’s and are still going now (but not ironically)……exactly.
(RIP Alien Ant Farm)
What’s your favourite Linkin Park songs? Disagree? Sound off below.