Legendary nu-metal trailblazers and one of the best-selling acts of all time, Linkin Park, release their seventh studio album and somehow manage to throw aside all the aspects that drew people to their music in one fell swoop. One More Light is a pop album through and through, as the band trades in their guitars for EDM drops and bubbly choruses. The only aspect retained from their older work is lead vocalist Chester Bennington’s whiny vocals and emo inflections that harder tracks give credence to.
I should really tread lightly here, as Bennington asserted in an interview that he would punch anyone who said the band was doing this primarily for monetary gain in the face, but this is a completely unrecognizable shell of a band grasping for relevance, attempting to ride trends that are already dying off instead of creatively reinventing themselves for a new era of music. There are almost no redeeming qualities about this album, and it leaves me wondering who it was even intended for.
If there’s anything particularly good to say about this album, it is that you can see that the actual musical composition of these songs isn’t completely terrible when the guests appear. “Good Goodbye” is a track catered to rappers who actually know what they’re doing, and Pusha T and Stormzy both ride the beat much better than Mike Shinoda’s uncomfortable stuttered flow and El-P impression. Kiiara’s contribution to “Heavy” fits in because, well, it’s an instrumental that a young female pop singer would typically be heard on.
There are actually some pretty great musicians here for a project so abundantly terrible. Production and songwriting is mostly handled by band mastermind Mike Shinoda, but assisting are some of the best — current princess of pop songwriting Julia Michaels, a legend in JR Rotem and even incredibly creative rising producer Blackbear. “Nobody Can Save Me” is actually quite a bit better than the rest of these songs, as the drop at least gives somewhat of an illusion of anything other than synthetic and overproduced sounds being present, and features Bennington’s least annoying enunciations.
These tracks are all filled with Chainsmokers-esque shallow emotional musings meant to sound incredibly profound and moving. Something as egregiously catered to be uplifting as “Battle Symphony”, complete with triumphant synths kicking in on the second chorus and Bennington sounding like he’s trying to sound distraught so much it’s almost cracking him up, is the band’s response to tracks like “Roar” and “Fight Song”. And this really is the underlying problem with the album – all of this is mindless following of trends with no real artistry or identity of their own. Since the album took a few years to make, many of these trends are already outdated. This might have had a chance at a play for the radio airwaves 2 or 3 years ago when we were hearing track after track of EDM sensibilities being blended into other genres for the first time. Something like Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” comes to mind, one of many of these tracks that had the same fake-deep lyrics.
These lyrics are delivered by Bennington and Shinoda with the most obnoxious emo tone possible, which sounds laughably out of place on these pop instrumentals. Shinoda’s turn on “Invisible” sees him repeating the title in the chorus with the cadence of someone making fun of an emo piano ballad (this chorus, might I add, awkwardly picks up in tempo for no reason).
The reason people were drawn to Linkin Park initially was Bennington’s ability to perfectly encapsulate real emotions and issues that were affecting youth in his vocal delivery, delivery that was backed up by the urgent and chaotic wall of noise behind him. The most urgent thing on this album is Mike Shinoda’s pop chorus on “Sorry For Now”, as he repeats the same tried-and-true lyrics about not being there for his children while on the road, backed up by a misplaced attempt at … putting a kinda-trap beat on a kinda-dubstep drop?? Whoever did it had absolutely no knowledge of the genres they were trying to emulate, the rhythms coming it at the wrong time and creating the most blatantly unmusical song I’ve heard all year. By the time we reach the title track and Bennington emotes “Who cares if one more light goes out? Well awwwwyyy dyeeewwwww” I want to take up his offer to “stab [myself] in the face” – another thread aimed at people claiming they sold out.
I really haven’t come anywhere close to mentioning everything, but it was hard to pick and choose what the absolute worst things about this album were. Ultimately, the fact that a band that amassed a huge following by doing something new and different devolved into … whatever this is, is very sad.
Favourite Tracks: Nobody Can Save Me, Heavy
Least Favourite Track: Sorry For Now
Score: 1/10 (Yup. That’s a BensBeat first.)