All throughout the now 22-year history of Linkin Park, one thing has been certain. Fluidity through change. You can look back at their discography and point to specific instances. From the much beloved, rap-rock infused Hybrid Theory to the hard rock and angst The Hunting Party, the band have tried to retain some semblance of who they were while incorporating other types of popular music.
In an interview on the Zach Sang show, lead singer/guitarist/pianist Mike Shinoda had mentioned that One More Light was the first album where the band wrote the lyrics first. The musical structure soon followed after. This was also the first album that outside songwriters like Julia Michaels and Justin Parker were invited to collaborate with the band. “Heavy”, the first single from the album was our first introduction to the new” chapter” of Linkin Park. Featuring Kiiara which was more of a mid-tempo, alternative pop record. The reception among fans spoke to a divided tone. Fans and bands alike have this shared conundrum as they get older. As we go through things, how do we relate to each other without sounding like a stranger?
One More Light is a relatively quick listen, finishing in under almost 36 minutes. One would think that Linkin Park had to be somewhat influenced by the current marriage of electronic and alternative rock in top-40 radio. This infusion may make them more accessible to a new fanbase because this album shows off a more concise and refined songwriting structure. Considering this, it draws away the signature musical punch that’s associated with Linkin Park’s music. It’s not to say that the screaming and more aggressive guitars need to be present to further elevate the emotional narrative. There are some songs where being direct works in conjunction to fortify the more somber and retrospective themes.
“Nobody Can Save Me” and “Battle Symphony” set the tone for electronic overtones with a semblance of guitars and percussion. The guitar that was so prevalent throughout 2014’s The Hunting Party melds into the background on this album. It’s not until the indie-rock “Talking To Myself” where we find Brad Delson’s guitar in a more pronounced role.
“Good Goodbye” is the only track on this album that you can attribute to being a sibling to older Linkin Park material. Featuring rap verses from Shinoda, Pusha T, and Stormzy , the song sticks out like a sore thumb. This song is more of a reminder to their fanbase that they still have the ability to make those type of songs. Do you want to commit to something new or do something to appease older fans?
“Halfway Right” is a situation that shows where you can go wrong writing lyrics before you compose the music. Here, Bennington is recalling his struggles in his younger days that in a very detailed manner. However, the cadence on how the lyrics are sang in some parts, does not fit within the 808-laden track.
Within the ten song narrative , you can listen and sympathize with the different instances of fear that both Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda provide. Unlike previous albums, Linkin Park are willing to be less ambiguous and put a face on their hardships. For instance, “Talking To Myself” and “Nobody Can Save Me” speak to Bennington’s battle with drug addiction both from an inner and outer perspective . “Invisible” and “Sorry For Now”, in which Shinoda is singing, are two songs that reveal his worries as a parent. This is both speaking about the required travels of a successful band member and from the view of his child growing up and questioning what they know. Years in a band can wear on you and those you love.
There are two songs that stand out on this album that occur at the tail end. The title track draws its beauty in being as stripped down to let the meaning permeate. Bennington’s voice, both warm and somber, floats against a simple backdrop of guitar from Brad Delson and piano from Shinoda. All in an emotion-heavy tribute to a friend they lost to cancer and one of the standout tracks on the album. “Sharp Edges” is a part country, part-folk retelling of lessons that Bennington recalls his mother teaching him before the hardships that he speaks of in the bulk of the album.
Seven full albums into a long, storied career, we find a band that strives to embrace some type of uniformity while shedding their previous process. One More Light as a whole might be the first dip into the cold pool for their older fanbase. One of the album’s triumphs is that it shows off a more complete songwriting experience. These songs have a digestible structure to this. With that, comes a major caveats. At what point do the collaborations take away from Linkin Park’s foundation that it makes them indistinguishable from the crowd?
Featured Image Credit: James Minchin