When I heard the news about Chester Bennington the first thing I did was rush to the internet to see if it was true. ‘It can’t be true’ I was thinking. It didn’t make sense with their new album release, an upcoming world tour planned, and Chester’s large family in the picture. Unfortunately, it was. I was baffled. While there had been more musicians that have passed on before him, this one hurt just a little bit more than the rest. I want to let you know that I am by far a superfan of Linkin Park. Do I appreciate the amazing music that they have contributed to rock community in their career? Of course I do. Do I turn them on when I need something to drown out any dark, angry thoughts I might be having? Absolutely. But I am not writing this piece for the sake of trying to resonate with the longtime fans that are mourning the death of their idol Chester. I am writing this because there is something important that needs to be addressed in the music community. There is an unofficial ‘Be yourself, but don’t be yourself’ mentality that our favorite artists have to struggle with everyday.
“Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.”
Music in an of itself is an art. It’s an emotional experience that not only the fans get to apply to their lives but so do the artists singing the songs flowing through our ears. Regardless of their style or genre, there will always be at least one person who’s been touched by the music coming from that artist. That’s why our favorite artists are our favorite artists. There can also be cases where different albums or songs resonate with you more in certain times of your life. For me personally, there has been many a time where I hadn’t been particularly fond of a specific release. Yes, I voice my opinions on them and even more so if I’ve been fans of them for years. But just like a lot of fans, I know what it feels like to try your hardest to find redeeming qualities in your favorite band’s new release that you don’t really care for. There have also been times where I’ve been disappointed to hear that not even the lyrics have saved an album. However, it’s so easy for us to take the easy route and just base our opinions on the surface without really giving it a full, undivided listen. And yes, I admit that I’ve been guilty of comparing a song or album to a past work and having conflicting feelings about it.
“He was proud of this music and we turned our back on him.”
I read an article from Brian Storm of Rockfeed that discussed the utter rejection that Linkin Park’s newest album One More Light produced from critics and fans (something anyone who pays attention to music news all knew). This article included a video clip of him being boo-ed off the stage when he was singing their current single “Heavy.” That kind of reaction right there is something we as a music community needs to talk about. It’s one thing if fans dislike your new stuff, but it’s a whole different level of failure when your work is despised to the point where those same ‘fans’ who said that you got through tough times are the ones that are going out of their way to shit all over it. The behavior from so-called ‘fans’ in that video showcased a really fucked up side of the modern music community that transcends way past these in-person actions. With social media as the modern day soapbox, music fans now take to *insert preferred social media platform here* to voice their negative opinions to those who share the same love for that artist or even the artist themselves. That’s something we’ll never be able to change because we all have a right to our own opinions on an artist’s work. Hell, even my written work is still 60% my personal opinion. But we have to come to realize that we as a music community have been showing some pretty ugly parts of ourselves both on and offline. The behavior that Chester received playing a song that obviously meant so much to him didn’t deserve that kind of treatment. No artist ever deserves that kind of treatment.
There’s something that we as music lovers don’t quite understand unless we magically can step into the shoes of our favorite artists. They go through a never ending cycle of being fearful of their fans’ reactions to their music. Every song, every album, every show they put on is ultimately for us – the fans. I always say that artists deserve the right to grow or not grow in their music. If they never try anything new, we say all their stuff sounds the same. If they want to explore new elements in their music we say they’re selling out or it’s shitty because it doesn’t sound like *insert album(s) name here*. There’s no winning for them. It doesn’t matter how many social media posts and interviews the artist does to voice how personal that piece of work is because there are still people out there who refuse to listen if it’s too different from the albums that put them on the map. To an artist, their music is their entire heart and soul. And while there are always going to be some works that completely hit the mark, it’s our duty as a fan to at least attempt to be supportive of them because they mean so much to us.
I’ve been wanting to write this piece for awhile and both Storm’s article and Chester’s death ignited the flame that I needed to sit myself to do it. Thank you Brian Storm of Rockfeed for the insightful and emotional piece. I send my deepest condolences to Chester’s family, friends and bandmates and wish his spirit the peace that he so desperately needed. To all of the Linkin Park fans that are mourning the loss of their hero, you are a community that fell in love with the same band. Be there for each other, support each other, and remember that there are so many other people that are feeling the same way that you’re feeling. Chester may not be with us on this Earth anymore, but his music lives on and will be there for us when we need it.
Photo Credit: Murjani “M.J” Rawls