Linkin Park has never been shy about changing their sound in the face of criticism. But with their forthcoming release “One More Light,” they’ve ditched the thrashing, nu-metal sound which popularized them in the mid-2000’s, in favor of a simpler, pop-oriented sound. Unsurprisingly, fans are confused and upset.
Featuring the raspy stylings of heavy-metal vocalist Chester Bennington, mixed with slick, artful rapping from Mike Shinoda, Linkin Park is considered among the elite heavy-rockers of the mid-2000s. With tens of millions of albums sold, multiple chart-topping hits and worldwide popularity, the band felt the need to try something different, and boy did they ever.
Linkin Park released “Heavy,” featuring 21-year-old pop-singer Kiiara. Shockingly, the song was unexpectedly light and generic-sounding, all while featuring an almost entirely computerized sound. It’s unquestionably designed for the mainstream radio audience.
“Battle Symphony,” the second song released from “One More Light,” didn’t shut down concerns fans had about the album being too poppy, as it featured the generic pop-drops, finger snaps and a repeated chorus you’d find in a Justin Bieber song.
Finally, a couple weeks ago, the band released “Good Goodbye,” featuring rappers Pusha T. and Stormzy. Again, it featured everything you’d expect from a mainstream pop release – drum machines, safe-for-work rap verses, generic songwriting and a constantly repeated hook.
The sharp change in direction has caused a majority of Linkin Park fans to turn their back on the band. Reading through their Facebook page is a great look at how betrayed the fanbase feels about the new album.
Yes, there are diehard fans who will love Linkin Park no matter what, but “One More Light” has clearly polarized listeners. However, the California-based rockers have never been shy about molding their sound to fit despite previous, sustained success in a different genre.
After releasing the heavy, scream-filled singles loners loved to listen too and which ultimately popularized the band, like hits such as “Numb” and “One Step Closer,” from the albums “Hybrid Theory,” and “Meteora,” Linkin Park released the extremely commercial, Rick Rubin-produced “Minutes to Midnight,” in 2007. The album foreshadowed the band’s pop-sounding intentions, with songs like “What I’ve Done,” being featured in ad campaigns, the first “Transformers” movie and in video game soundtracks.
The band followed that up with 2010’s “A Thousand Suns,” an electronic rock album, which was as progressive and experimental as the band’s ever been. If anything, it represented another tonal shift towards a new flavor of sound.
“A Thousand Suns,” doesn’t sound like a standard Linkin Park release. It polarized fans, but the shift towards a more electronic sound was met with acclaim from outsiders. It is simultaneously the band’s best and most complicated album.
Taking everything they’ve learned from their past three releases, 2012’s “Living Things” was a conglomerate of all the change Linkin Park experienced. Featuring the alternative sound of “Minutes to Midnight,” the electronic rock of “Living Things,” and the rap, metal elements that popularized them, the album represented a realized sound after testing the waters with different musical elements.
So, with the evolution seemingly complete, Linkin Park went old school for 2014’s “The Hunting Party.” With pulsing guitars and drums, heavy vocals, and the nu-metal sound which angsty teens (now adults) fell in love with, the album was a throwback to what made the band so popular, to begin with.
Which brings us back to “One More Light,” the album Linkin Park fans are dreading to listen too.
Yes, it’s got a poppy, commercial sound. But, Linkin Park has earned the right to experiment with their music. They haven’t done a pop album. They’ve dabbled in the genre, but with “One More Light,” they’re allowing themselves to push ahead and creatively expand, even at the cost of fans.
This isn’t Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift or Maroon 5-levels of selling out. Instead, it’s a natural progression for a band unwilling to stick to a norm. For better or worse, “One More Light,” is a bold risk that’s worth taking – even if it pisses fans off. I’d rather a group like Linkin Park try to extend themselves creatively and fail, than stick to Nickelback’s formula, and release songs that are indistinguishable from one another.
So, for those clamoring about Linkin Park’s new sound, realize this: There’s little chance their next album after “One More Light” will sound the same, so just wait and you’ll eventually hear something different.