Before diving into this review, I need to warn you: I am a ‘poptimist.’ I don’t find all pop music to be inherently flawed, and I am aware that some Linkin Park fans coming to read this review of One More Light will subscribe to ‘rockism’ and, as a result, will be approaching their latest record with a preconceived bias, assuming that due to its pop-leaning nature, that it is less impressive than the band’s earlier works.
So, you’re probably wondering, what is popism, and what is rockism?
Rockism vs Popism
Rockism was a phrase coined by English musician Pete Wylie in 1981 to refer to the rise of rock music fans who felt that pop music existed on a lesser plane, requiring less effort or ability. The term referred to the prevailing mindset among rock fans that if an artist is ‘pop,’ they must be less talented or less capable than their rock-leaning contemporaries.
This is a regrettable point of view to have and, for lack of a better word, absolute bullshit. But, sadly, this is a point of view that I fear a decent amount of people who decried the band’s single “Heavy” may find themselves subscribing to and that in itself is the biggest shame of all.
Because deliberately missing out on the band’s latest record, One More Light would be denying said fans the chance at hearing what may be some of the band’s best-recorded tracks to date.
There’s something quite risky and daring about going full-pop at this stage in their careers, especially after their heaviest record to date, The Hunting Party. With Linkin Park known predominantly as an ‘alternative’ band, there’s no secret that a percentage of the 60 million-plus Facebook fans of the band likely prefer their Linkin Park to be as far away from pop music as possible. But the truth is, Linkin Park has never been a stranger to pop music.
Featuring pop influences as far back and early as “In The End,” Linkin Park has always been labeled by some metal critics as “too poppy to be metal.” While such comparisons may have potentially bothered the band before, One More Light shows Linkin Park confidently playing with their pop influences in one of their most foreign yet risky releases to date.
More Personal Than Ever…
The foreign nature of this album is instantly clear on tracks like the Owl City-Esque “Sorry For Now,” which showcases an outstanding Mike Shinoda on lead vocals. Mike offers a semi-apology to his children, who cannot understand why their father is constantly away on tour in a lighthearted moment on the album.
In lines like “Thinking of you back on the ground, there with a fire burning in your eyes, I only halfway apologize…” he explains that they are not old enough to understand that this is daddy’s work. But, feeling one day, they’ll appreciate his sacrifices, he goes on to say, “I never wanted to say goodbye…”. Already a standout track on One More Light, “Sorry For Now,” continues the surprises by concluding with a sung-rap bridge by Chester, offering a bizarro-world version of Linkin Park where Mike Shinoda sings, and Chester takes over rapping duties.
The theme of regret and recollection continues on perhaps what may be the weirdest track of the album, “Halfway Right,” which sounds like an R&B and trap-tinged Broadway play, both vocally and musically. Playing out like a conversation between middle-aged Chester and his teenage self, he contemplates ruefully about being so reckless with his life.
In lyrics such as:
“Told me, kid, you’re going way too fast.
You’ve burned too bright; you know you’ll never last…”
Chester finally makes peace with his demons from so long ago. The main themes also continue on the surprising Mumford and Sons-Esque “Sharp Edges,” which can be likened to the band’s 2007 hit “Bleed It Out,” except with a country feel. Progressing slowly into a clap-along instrumental straight out of a backyard hootenanny, Chester sings about the lessons his mother has always tried to tell him:
“Sharp edges have consequences, I
Guess that I had to find out for myself…”
Because of its unexpected nature, this is one of my favorite tracks Linkin Park has ever written, even despite the short playtime. And perhaps this track is all the more jarring and unexpected when paired with the song that came before it, the sad, slow, and heart-wrenching “One More Light.”
One More Light’s Heartbreaking Title Track
Going into this album, I had read the interviews that the title track was about finding out a beloved friend had passed away from their battle with cancer. However, because I unexpectedly lost my father to a heart attack last year, nothing prepared me for the absolute emotional wallop presented within that track. My dad would always leave his hat on the chair, and the night before his unexpected death, he placed his hat there for what would be the last time.
A year later, both chair and hat haven’t moved. With lyrics like “In the kitchen, one more chair than you need,” this song is sure to strike a chord with anyone who has ever lost someone they truly loved and cared about.
Make no mistake. This album is truly and utterly Linkin Pop, and the confidence shown on this record showcases that the band gives zero fucks if you’re a rocktivist. This is an album for the poptimists of the world. Listen to this record, and you may become one yourself.
But to look at the album as simply a ‘pop record’ would be ignoring the personal journey the band has taken in writing and crafting One More Light. There are tracks on here that are some of their most intimate, and in some ways, their most risky. After all, what greater risk than to release a pop record when you’ve released nearly 20 years’ worth of adventurous rock music? If there’s anything this record shows, it’s that the band can literally excel in whatever genre they see fit. The risks shown on One More Light are deliberate, brave, and as weird as it may be to say this about a Linkin Park record? Fun.
Sure, depressing moments exist on this record, but perhaps what’s more exciting than ever is the optimism shown in many of these songs. While Linkin Park is no stranger to melodrama in some of their lyrics, this album shows a band firmly in their 40s, looking to the future and approaching their regrets and pain with the maturity that comes with middle age.
One More Light feels like a new chapter or perhaps a new book in the Linkin Park universe. Sure, there will be many people who may disagree with that sentiment. There will be people who loathe this record, just like there will be people who think it’s one of the band’s best records. But that’s perhaps what makes risks like these so exciting, that fear of the Linkin Park unknown.
BONUS READ: Read our review of One More Light Live, released after this album came out here.
It’s not risky when pop music is the most popular thing on the radio and what everyone listens to
See my reply to Joshua.
If you are Linkin Park and you are well known mostly for screamy rap/rock tunes that contain heavy guitar, it a super huge risk to make a pop record that s not aggressive at all and contains only one rap song. It s like if Coldplay would team up with SOAD for the next record : really risky. It woud have been really safe for LP, in my opinion,to put out a HT part 3 instead of MTM or A Thousand Suns and it would have been safe for them to put out a New Divide type of song instead of Heavy, but they didn t 😉
Michele gets it 100%.
Totally wrong. It isn’t risky. Pop is mainstream you buy music you like. Pop is mainstream because it’s likeable. People don’t care about what band releases which song as long as ist sounds good.
What’s the problem in this case? It’s a lot of people see linkin park changing to mainstream. It’s not challenging at all. Give me 3 minutes and I’ll make a good pop song. A German comedian proved it with a song written by apes…. Sorry but this is bulls***
Thank you for your opinion, but I will respectfully will have to agree to disagree with you on this one.
It is risky when a sizeable section of the fanbase gets offended. Like you, for instance.
I don’t consider it risky or daring to make music in the blandest, most easily accessible to the lowest common denominator genre of noise, that can play innocuously in the background of stores and commercials. A Thousands Suns was risky. It was bizarre and challenging and at times completely nonsensical, but it was interesting. Engaging. Admirable. “Heavy” was just about the most anodyne string of vaguely sad platitudes I’ve ever heard. I cannot believe how much I hate this sound. It conforms perfectly with every example I’ve ever used of bad music. Honestly, Linkin Park’s lyrics have never been brilliant, but their delivery, the energy, the bite, is what made them so powerful. This is the opposite of all of that, and every single song on this release gave me the exact opposite of what I wanted to hear from what is one of my favorite bands in the world.
People who tell Linkin Park that they’re not risky because they’ve gone pop fail to realize that they are the ones the band is taking the risk on. The band is risking losing fans like you, and that in itself is risky and daring. You hated the album, and that’s the chance the band was taking! Playing it safe would be making rock for the rest of their careers to appease the ‘rocktivists’ of the world.
I feel these people are just crying. Make a hybrid theory part 3? That’d be redundant and boring as hell. Part of why LP is my favorite band is because they take risks. Minutes to midnight is still my favorite album of theirs because it was the first to show that they weren’t afraid to take risks and embrace a poppier sound. Living things is easily their worst album because you can tell they tried to make a record just to please the fans and it came out as crap. If you love old Linkin Park, including tracks such as My December, Breaking the habit, or even A cure for the itch, then you acknowledge that they have been poppy from the get go. That was part of their initial appeal, that they were a hybrid of different genres. That has yet to change. If these people want to keep whining about what the band has been doing for decades now, why are they even here? To stroke their ego and try to tell a worldwide successful band what type of music they should or shouldn’t be making? If you don’t like the new sound (by the way, Heavy sounds just like Pushing me away w out guitars) then don’t buy the album. Just go somewhere else to cry about it, cause y’all sound like spoiled brats who got their candy bar taken away and are refusing to eat the broccoli in front of them, as though broccoli doesn’t hold it’s own.
And broccoli is healthier for you anyways.
Agreed, Broccoli has an extremely high Protein-to-Calorie ratio!!
You failed to disclose any information regarding hiring additional writers for the album, like they’ve never done so outside of collaborations, this most definitely does not sound like Linkin Park, and if it weren’t for Mike and chesters recognizable voices, thsee songs would get lost in the ocean of all the other bland pop music. I’m not crying about Hybrid Theory so don’t pull that card, I’ve never been able to chose my favorite album because I love them all, but so far OML is a horrible representation of what Linkin Park is capable of, everything about the album screams “generic” and “this isn’t us.”
It’s not necessary to disclose said info since Linkin Park are far from being the only band or artist out there who have hired outside writers. And for the record, the band still wrote the tracks. They just had outside writers looking over the lyrics and contributing occasional ideas.
It’s not the first time they’ve done it either. They had outside help on Final Masquerade.
Lastly, you’re not the band. So technically what’s “us” is up to the 6 members of the band.
Been a fan since the start , not going to lie , the new tracks took some adjusting to but now I love them ! As the reviewer said many times in his review , the guys are into there 40’s now , they have mellowed and matured and I’m glad they are willing to take risks, would be boring listening to the same style of music for 20 years.
My favorite album from Linkin Park by far is Minutes To Midnight, so I’m not one of those fans who only want to hear Hybrid Theory over and over again. I also listen to tons of different kinds of music that is much different than Hybrid Theory. I just cannot get into this album at all from what I’ve heard so far. It’s the exact kind of music that I’ve always hated. I really have never been a fan of R&B or pop done in this style, and I’m also not huge on hip-hop, either. I like a lot of alternative rock, indie rock and electronic based music primarily, so you can see why Minutes To Midnight would be my favorite out of all of their albums. I hated Heavy right from the first listen when it came out way back in February. Battle Symphony wasn’t my cup of tea, either, but I would say it’s probably the least offending of the tracks I’ve so far heard. Good Goodbye was one that I disliked even more than Heavy, and Invisible was probably on par with Battle Symphony. I’ve heard Talking To Myself (Live) and One More Light (Live) and I’m definitely not a fan of Talking To Myself based off of what I heard. One More Light is ok, but I feel like they already accomplished the sound of that song on many songs from Minutes To Midnight. The thing that bothers me the most is that I know Linkin Park can do better than this. In recent years, they have wanted to make the band more of a brand and have come forth publicly about it. Having guest writers and vocal coaches come in for this album also bothers me a lot, especially the vocal coach, because nobody can say that Chester Bennington ever sings badly, he is an amazing singer, and a lot of super groups out there have recognized that over the years, even outside of Linkin Park. It bothers me because Linkin Park used to write all of their own music on their own, just the six of them, and I really respected that about the band. It made for good music. Now, I haven’t really enjoyed Linkin Park’s music since Minutes To Midnight (wasn’t a fan of A Thousand Suns, Living Things or The Hunting Party), so I can’t fully be that upset here, I guess. But I really wanted to like this album, I tried hard to, but in the end, I just couldn’t get into the songs. Maybe the songs I have yet to hear from the album will change my mind, but I doubt, based off of the descriptions.
They make millions of dollars, they don’t give a shit about what the fans want them to make. They make their own music and people will still buy it. If you don’t like it, just don’t listen to it!
First i’m not against LP to take risk in anyway, we all take risks in our life we all try something new, but i wished LP take risk and make something more uniq, and that what i used to hear from LP, more uniq sound, different and wonderful. They made 10 soundtrack or less to tell stories they could do it on singles, or maybe and LPU album, but i’m not agree with a hall pop album, its not i don’t like pop music, but what they are making its not a cooler pop music, its just like LP members talking about stories, that they can tell in 100 different way.
I’ve been Enjoying music from all kind, pop-rock-dance-dubstep…etc but this is not what i was looking for, or what i was expecting, well LP can take any risks they are the band and they are the musicians-composers, but this album not my type … hope next album be good enough.
theyll never ba good enough album! theyve totally lost it! they are not the creative and innovative band they used to be
i think all of the music of one light is good… i mean more than good. i am linkin park fan.. so whatever they did.. i truly love it… so fuck all negative reviews. just enjoy one more light.
If you don’t like this album, I wouldn’t worry so much about the band. Knowing Linkin Park, their next album will be something completely different anyway. This is what has kept them going for so long.
“Owl City-esque” is not something I wanted to read about a song, but, I’ll still be giving it a shot.
I do feel like there’s so much undeserved hate with almost anything LP does, but on the flip, and perhaps because of it, fans feel more need to defend it and lost objectivity when critically analyzing.
It’s all subjective at the end of the day, so, to each their own, I guess.
Thanks for giving me some hope. I must admit I did not like “Heavy”. In fact I have been hearing that song play on the local Top 40 station some people listen to here at work, and I had NO IDEA it was LP! I am all for a band broadening their horizons and I like LP enough to give anything they do a chance.
For the record, we welcome critical opinions of this review. We encourage both people who love the record, as well as people who completely hate the record to comment on this story. This album isn’t for everyone, and that’s both understandable and respectable.
However, comments consisting of personal attacks against other people in this comment thread (including the writer) will not be tolerated. If you cannot express your negative opinions respectfully, maturely or with dignity…please don’t bother wasting energy in replying. Your comments will NOT be approved.
Oh yes, only comments praising new album will be approved. Got it
Since you blindly commented without reading, let’s quote the very post you just replied to: “We encourage both people who love the record, as well as people who completely hate the record to comment on this story. This album isn’t for everyone, and that’s both understandable and respectable.”
How much clearer can you get that both negative and positive comments on the album are welcome than that? Go ahead and talk about how much you hate the album. That’s welcome and encouraged. Just don’t personally attack people.
I personally don’t care either way what type of music they release. I’ve always enjoyed their music, but I’ve never been a hardcore fan. I can say it is quite disappointing as I am a rocktivist (I hate labels), I would have loved more metal related releases from them. But they as a band have the right to make decisions for what they release. It is THEIR music, right?
My only problems is that my girlfriend Kaylee loves them. She has since she was 8 years old, she’s been to several summits and has seen them four times. She is trying her best to maintain her interest but to see them release the generic pop sound that she hates more than I do, it crushes her. She knows they’re better than that.
We are still supporting them either way. #BlinkinPark is going to be a great show!!