Genre: Electropop, EDM
Label: Warner Bros, Machine Shop
Media Types: Digital, Streaming, CD, Vinyl
Release Date: May 19th, 2017
Linkin Park is one of those bands who many see as being past their prime. Many fans criticize their more recent work for not sounding like and not being as good as their first two albums, Hybrid Theory and Meteora. Since those albums, they have been experimenting with more pop and electronic sounds, and with the release of their fully electropop style seventh studio album, One More Light, this is, in a lot of ways, an inevitable progression to what they’ve been doing. However, they must’ve known the backlash they were going to receive. So they must’ve decided the best defense is a strong offense, as singer Chester Bennington has been on the press circuit telling fans to move the fuck on from Hybrid Theory and that he’ll punch them in the fucking mouth if they accuse them of selling out. It’s never smart to bite the hand that feeds you, but all artists should be allowed to explore new facets of their craft. So with the band being so defensive about this album, is it any good? Does it add to the sound of Linkin Park? Or is it a disaster? Did they actually sell out? Let’s find out! But first, some context so you know where I’m coming from.
I’m not the biggest Linkin Park fan, but I definitely have a history with them as they were huge when I was in high school. I owned Meteora back in the day, which I thought was just okay, and I’ve heard Living Things, which I didn’t care for. I know the singles from Hybrid Theory and Minutes to Midnight as well as “Pts of Athrty” from Reanimation and I know nothing about A Thousand Suns or The Hunting Party. So I’ve not heard everything but I definitely know of them. Regarding their later work and its reputation, I’ve always been of the opinion that I respect Linkin Park for wanting to try new things, but their experimentation often results in subpar material. In fact, I was going to pass on this album until I heard about all the stuff the band was saying leading up to it. Curiosity is really my sole motivation here so my expectations are low. For this review, I listened to the album three times. The first and third times were casual listens while the second was more intently and while reading the lyrics. I didn’t want to listen to it anymore than that because, well, you’ll see. Alright, with that done, let’s get to the review.
Albums like this are hard to write about because you’ll often catch yourself being redundant. The reason for this being that there’s not really much to say. This is a generic dour electropop album not unlike something the Chainsmokers would make. Any semblance of rock in their sound is completely gone aside for one song, which I’ll get to later. Unfortunately, the switch to a more pop sound has resulted in oversimplified song writing. Tracks like “Battle Symphony” and “Invisible” have no discernable hook or beat, and often rely on trite clichés, such as the millennial whoops in “Halfway Right” among others. “Good Goodbye” and “Heavy” also have the stereotypical guest vocalists who don’t add anything to the song, especially “Good Goodbye” since guitarist Mike Shinoda could’ve done the rap verses himself. It’s as if a robot created these songs using some pop song formula. There’s no soul or personality to any of these songs at all; there’s just skeletons of songs here, with simple chord progressions and melodies.
The instrumentation on this album is practically non existent. In fact, with most of the songs being created with computer generated sounds, I wonder how much bassist Dave Farrell and drummer Rob Bourdon actually performed on this album. Songs like “Nobody Can Save Me” and “Heavy” have little to know improvisation or even layering of different sounds. Even the one rock song on this album, “Talking to Myself”, buries the guitar riff down in the mix, which is too bad because it’s actually halfway decent. It’s almost sounds like the band (or 1/3 of the band) recorded one or two takes of a guided demo for each song, which were then watered down even more in post-production. As bland as the compositions are, it’s the vocals that typically sink these songs. There’s no heart in any of Bennington’s or Shinoda’s performances aside from “Talking to Myself” and “Sharp Edges”, where Bennington partially lets his screaming vocals come out, and the title track, where he does give a wonderful performance. Many of the songs call for more reserved performances, which is fine, but they both seems to think that to get a softer sound, you need to perform with less effort. It not only makes their performances mundane, but inauthentic.
Lyrically, the album is just as barren and shallow. The album is unfocused, tackling a variety of formulaic topics. “Nobody Can Save Me” and “Battle Symphony” talk about finding inner strength, “Halfway Right” and “Sharp Edges” talk about growing up and learning from past mistakes, and “Invisible” and “Sorry For Now” talk about being there for someone where they weren’t before. Now there’s nothing wrong with the premise of these songs but the word choices are painfully overused and simplified to the point that they sound like they were a first draft of a song or even worse, a basic idea for a song. There are some exceptions. “Heavy” talks about depression and although simplistic, it does a decent job conveying that situation. Also, the title track has some poignant lyrics as it talks about the value of human life, no matter how small or insignificant, with Bennington staunchly declaring “Who cares if one more light goes out? Well I do.” However, most of the lyrics are stuff like “I’m dancing with my demons, I’m hanging off the edge” and are hackneyed and sound stale in 2017.
It’s clear to me that the shift to a more electronic sound didn’t work out too well. Given my knowledge of the band, this has to be the worse album the band has released. I know for me personally it’s a contender for the worst album of 2017. There’s a clear lack of effort in every aspect of this album, from the songwriting to the performances. It adds nothing to the electropop genre or to the band’s body of work. The greatest accomplishment this album can claim is that there’s nothing offensively bad here since it’s so unmemorable it doesn’t stick around in your mind long enough to piss you off. Highlights of the album are the rock-influenced “Talking to Myself”, the country-tinged “Sharp Edges” and the beautiful “One More Light”so check those out if you’re curious, but really, there’s no reason to every listen to this album aside from morbid curiosity. You know, Linkin Park, sometimes you need to know where you came from to know where you’re going. Maybe next time you should go back to your roots so you know how grow. Just a thought. Also a request. On second thought, make that a plea.
Thank you so much for reading this review. I really appreciate those who will read a more thorough and in-depth review. If you liked this review, share on all the socials and leave a comment. Feel free to check out other album reviews I’ve done as well as all the other content I made here on my website. Until next time, peace and love, audiophiles and music lovers! Colorwind out.