I remember watching X Factor a few years ago. It was Rock Night and Tulisa Contostavlos was having a nightmare with her group.
Tulisa was part of N-Dubz and even her solo career was quite a distance away from “rock”. I remember the comment from one judge that said that taking any song and putting guitars on it did not make it a rock track. The implication was that rock music had an identity and a DNA and one can’t simply take any other musical style and pretend.
And so it’s intriguing to consider Linkin Park’s new album One More Light. The band themselves have said that they hope their seventh album “challenges their fanbase”. To that end, they seem to have succeeded.
Linkin Park were the band that brought nu-metal to the masses with the release of Hybrid Theory way back at the start of the century. They are a band that has pushed boundaries and jumped genres in the subsequent 17 years, and One More Light has done that as the band have placed themselves straight in to the pop market.
I’ve been listening to the album for a week before writing this, simply because it’s difficult to get your head around and I don’t know what to think about it.
When a band moves to something considered “commercial”, one says that they have sold out but, conversely, experimentation should be praised.
I’ve found it all too easy to zone out when listening to the album. There isn’t enough musically to keep it interesting all the way through and it seems terribly flat, especially with the seeming absence of Mike Shinoda on most of the record being more conspicuous than the lack of meaningful guitars.
Dedicate the time to it, though, to really listen, and the album tells a careful story of someone suffering, presumably from depression and feeling suicidal. This builds to the title track which questions the cliches around what life is. Why does one person matter when there are so many? Why do a few years matter in millennia of human existence?
The tone suits the story that it is telling and if this was an album released by Bieber, people would be pouring over it as a work of art. The “problem” is that it’s not what we expect from Linkin Park, it is not what we consider to be Linkin Park by the standards they set on previous records. I think this is why social media has seen attacks on the band rather than the album.
The album is not being judged on its merits, but being judged as a Linkin Park record. Rather than Linkin Park not being true to their identity, though, maybe it is listeners and “fans” that don’t understand them or follow them blindly as celebrities rather than musicians. After all, there is precendent.
Describing previous effort Minutes to Midnight, Chester Bennington said that the band understood that “this could honestly be like the worst decision we’ve ever made professionally,” continuing, “Creatively probably the best thing, professionally it might be the worst. We were like ‘We’re good with that. We can live with that.’”
Tulisa was criticised on X Factor because she was not being true to rock music by taking a song from another genre and pretending it was rock. With One More Light, Linkin Park are not pretending. This is still them, being different and creative and authentic.
Is it a great album? I still don’t know. I could give it a 2/10 one minute and a 8/10 the next and be happy with that decision. I have a feeling, though, that in a few years time we may look back on it as an interesting and necessary development for the band.