I would just like to say, I’m posting this in its own thread because if I don’t want people to look over it when scrolling through the mega topic.
Before I start this review, I need to state a few things. For one, I love pop music - more specifically, I love pop-rock music. Now, there’s a huge distinction between the two genres. Pop music is hook and melody driven music that focuses on electronics and a strong lead singer. Pop-rock music is just that but add in organic and natural instrumentation on top of that.
So, going into this review, I knew that I was facing a pop-rock record, since this is a six-piece band coming out of the heaviest album in their career (The Hunting Party) and shifting immediately into this softer sound.
Now putting that in perspective, I was shocked (as were most fans) by the lead single ironically titled Heavy. For one, the fact that the song didn’t feature any lead guitar or bass line was a complete shock. The first listen I was actually underwhelmed by how soft the song was. Linkin Park had hinted at the poppy sound they would be heading towards with a series of clips leading up to the release of the single. But this was mind-blowingly simple compared to what the band normally did. The guitars didn’t even liven up until the second chorus, and the song was under 3 minutes. To any Linkin Park fan who’d been following the band throughout their entire career, this was a shock since Linkin Park’s albums and songs kept getting longer. Take the almost 6 minute lead single from The Hunting Party, Guilty All The Same for example. This song has a very lengthy intro with epic guitar riffs and a nice guest feature from Rakim. Not to dwell on the past too much though.
So, how does Linkin Park’s venture into pop-rock glory turn out? Pretty strange if I’m being honest. You see, the band decided that they wanted to turn the guitars down a bit, slow the drumming down, and give Joe Hahn an album where he basically is the main feature. After all, this album has less guitars than their most electronic record A Thousand Suns. While you can see each member contributing across the album, Joe Hahn is the most noticeable (beyond the vocalists Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington, of course).
In fact, this album falls into a few patterns throughout the entire play through. For one, let’s continue with the electronics. There’s a heavy focus on electronics over organic instrumentation that almost leads me to believe that this is more pop than rock (not necessarily a bad thing). This includes the dreaded EDM genre that’s become popular for its drops, the part of the song after the chorus or pre-chorus where the electronics go crazy. Yes, Linkin Park put drops on some of these songs. Some of them are more like electronic loops, but Joe Hahn had probably too much fun splashing modern electronics all over the music of the band who’d neglected to include him in their previous record.
Another pattern is, sadly, trap beats. You know, a drum beat that’s all snares, but a specific type of snare that can only be made with a drum machine. Again, Joe Hahn’s touches are all over this record.
Then there’s the lyrical content. Here’s a good pattern that I’m glad the band stuck to. The lyrics all across this record deal with regret, not only for personal loss but also for poor choices and for hurting others. This is a very great lyrical focal point mostly because it allows for the more personal lyrical content - Chester has a way of conveying regret great as well. And unlike previous Linkin Park albums, the regret isn’t petty nonsense about a failed relationship (not that this was EVERY Linkin Park song or anything, but definitely present on earlier releases). The lyrics-first approach the band took to this record definitely paid off in this regard.
Lastly is the strong melodic compositions that can be seen all across this record. Out of every pattern on this record, this is my absolute favorite. The fact that the guitars and drums are less of the focal point allows the band to craft some incredibly potent melodies, some of which I could totally see working on a more “normal” lp from this band.
This record was one of my most anticipated records of the year, so in order to commemorate that I’ll go track-by-track, in-depth with this record.
Nobody Can Save Me:
This song was an interesting listen. For an intro track, it’s pretty serviceable. It’s not one of the best songs on the record by any means, but it does introduce a lot of the common themes and patterns on this record. And if I wanted to stretch some themes lyrically, I can say that this song being first helps to establish the sense of hopelessness that Linkin Park may have wanted to establish in order to create the hopeful feeling in the rest of the record. I have to say that the electronic loop that opens the song and runs through the chorus is a bit irritating at times, but it’s not too bothersome compared to certain songs on this record. The first verse has very light, airy instrumentation that leads into the chorus loop that was previously mentioned. Then there’s the trap beat on this song. Honestly, this beat isn’t as bothersome. That’s probably my biggest problem in this song - it’s less bad compared to other songs on this record. However, there are some redeeming qualities that cause me to actually enjoy this song. Like I said, the melodies across this record are phenomenal, and this song is no exception. The natural drumming on this track is actually pretty well-done, probably my favorite aspect after the melody and lyrics. On the second chorus you can actually hear the guitars a bit, which is rare for this album. Although, this song does remind me of one other song on this album; the single Battle Symphony. Maybe that’s just me, but I’ll get into that when I talk about that song.
This was one of the four songs released to promote the album and it’s an official single with its own video. And I did not listen to this until the album came out. I have to say, this song disappoints and confuses me. I love that chorus. I love Mike’s verse. I like the keyboards here. I like Pusha T’s verse. But the pitch-shifted vocals, the trap snares, and Stormzy ruin this song for me. And my God! Why in the world does Stormzy have such terrible annunciation? I’ve never listened to his solo stuff, but wow he cannot pronounce anything. Not to mention his lyrics are really bad compared to what Mike and Pusha are throwing at us here. And like I said, the pitch-shifted vocals are so unnecessary! Why would they put them there anyway? Mike could’ve just sang that part, couldn’t he? He does great backing vocals! I like how Mike sounds here, really. His flow is aggressive and his lyrics are very self-confident but not in an arrogant way. Pusha is the same way - maybe a bit more arrogant than Mike, but still good. But Stormzy just can’t pronounce a single word right, and his flow isn’t even as harsh as Mike and Pusha. He just is the worst thing about this song; especially since once his verse finishes we’re bombarded with trap snares.
Talking To Myself:
This song is a God-given grace at this point. Rock elements! Guitars! Cool drumming! Trap beats are only a background element! Drumming is natural! Strong lyrics! I could just list the great qualities about this song and you would probably be satisfied with that. This song is actually very strong, especially on this record. But even outside the context of this record, the song works very well. I’ve heard Killers influences are being sited here, and while I don’t see it completely I get it. Honestly, this song is such a blessing to me. Plus I like the way the band wrote from someone else’s perspective in this song. It’s coming from the position of Chester’s wife when they argue. Great concept, and honestly very well written, composed, and performed. Yes, I wish the guitars were a bit louder in the mix, but it’s definitely still a good song without it.
Nobody Can Save Me pt. II. Or is that just me? I like this song nonetheless. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this track since I basically stated it all already up there. But, I’ll give a short rundown. The trap beats are annoying but not overpowering and can mostly be ignored. The chorus loop is a bit stupid, but it is enjoyable. The guitars aren’t very noticeable, but they’re there and I don’t think it matters a whole lot in this song. I do have to say the lyrics on this song are a bit unoriginal though. I would’ve preferred something better, like what we got on the rest of the album, but it isn’t a deal-breaker for this song.
Here we go, another great song! I love the lyrics here! And the drumming here kind of reminds me of a marching band. And you can tell this is natural drumming. The snares actually sound like they belong to a drum kit. Then there’s the amazing key work that keeps showing up on this album. And Mike steps up and takes lead vocals on this track. In fact, his singing has improved a ton since back on Minutes To Midnight with the incredibly boring In Between. He actually has emotion and depth in his vocal delivery. He’d been steadily increasing in vocal talent since that record, appearing on each subsequent record, but here it is very evident that he’s been working hard on it. And I have to say, his vocal range is actually pretty decent compared to what he used to be able to do. Then there’s the guitars which actually are a bit noticeable in this song, something I can appreciate. This song really is impactful, and serves as a good mid-way point for this record.
Boy, did I defend this song multiple times when it first came out. Honestly, I regret doing so. It’s not a bad song or anything - but MAN this song is boring! Seriously, Kiiara lends nothing to this song, the keys are the least interesting here, and the slow tempo is nothing compared to One More Light (I’ll obviously touch on that a bit more later). The intro is also super awkward with it breaking right into Chester’s vocals (and it feels more awkward in context of the album, to be perfectly honest). Another thing that bugs me is the fact that, despite Chester saying he had his best vocal performance on this record, he let Kiiara’s vocals become overbearing and overshadowing of his voice, kind of making him obsolete. She might as well have just done lead vocals the entire song, because every time she sings she takes the spotlight away from Chester. I honestly think Mike could’ve lent some better vocals than Kiiara did here. This song’s slower pace isn’t necessarily the problem either, it’s that the song doesn’t grab your attention at all. Even slow songs can be powerful and interesting. Plus the trap beats make the least amount of sense here. At least they fit the other songs! They feel so out of place, and honestly the band could’ve picked a better lead single for the record.
Sorry For Now:
This song got a ton of hype. No, seriously. In the LP community, this song had a massive following before even being released. Everyone wanted to hear this song out of every song on the record. Which is why it’s such a shame that it turned out so bad. The vocals here are good, don’t get me wrong. But once again the trap snares become a bit too loud and obnoxious. Seriously, coming out of the chorus I can’t stand to listen. And the drop here - well why did it have to be made of pitch-shifted vocals? The worst part is there are some really cool guitar parts here, but the drop ruins the whole song. This is reminiscent of Young and Menace by Fall Out Boy. The drop is too annoying for the song to be enjoyable. I wanted to like this song, especially since Chester gets to rap! But even that was disappointing since he sang-rapped the whole thing with too much autotune. Seriously, this song was a letdown for me. I really thought they had something in them to do something really cool. Although, I have to commend the strong piano outro on this track.
So let’s discuss lyrics again. This song has some of the best on the record. Not the best, but close. Seriously, listen to that opening line; “Used to get high with the dead end kids.” Damn! That is a well written line. Then there’s, “Abandoned houses where the shadows lived.” Talk about powerful imagery. In fact, out of everything they wrote on this song those two lines are my favorite. But time to talk about the instrumentation again. It should come as no surprise at this point that the guitars don’t show up a lot. But once again we have the powerful keys that show up and steal the show. And I’m happy to say the trap beat, while more prominent in the verses, is more of a background element that I can ignore. The vocals here are also very strong. One thing I think might turn people off is that they use some good ol’ “na na na’s” in this track, but honestly they don’t feel lazy in their placement. The electronics here are just as prominent, and honestly this track is just really good. Despite some of the elements I don’t like being there, I still cite this as one of the better tracks on the record.
One More Light:
Oh God. This song is hard to listen to! The first time I listened to it I felt tears building up. Some of that might just be my personal history with death (that I won’t disclose here), but I just really think this song is the most human, personal, emotional, and heart-breaking song on the record. And again we have some really great imagery being used. “In the kitchen, one more chair than you need.” Way to break my heart Linkin Park! And the chorus is just phenomenal. I have already found myself singing it repeatedly throughout the day. It’s that good. And really that chorus will jerk tears right out of you. It’s hard to listen to, hard to sing. But it’s gorgeous. The light, airy keyboard loop is very unnoticeable, which is nice. The acoustic guitars are very much the same way. They don’t stick out, but they sound nice. It’s very much the way this song works. Give more space for the vocals and lyrics to breathe life into the song themselves. This isn’t the song you listen to with friends. This is the song you listen to when you’re home alone with a box of tissues in front of you. And I can already tell that I’ll have this on repeat the next time someone I love dies because it’s so powerful, yet soothing. Because it’s the concept that this death may not matter to everyone, but it matters to him. That it matters to you. This is Linkin Park when they mature. This is Linkin Park being regretful, sad. Not angry. And it’s gorgeous. I honestly don’t even want to stop talking about this song. Like I could discuss this song for hours on end and why it’s probably the best song the band has ever recorded. No, it isn’t my favorite. But my God is it gorgeous, impactful, powerful, and mature. This is what I wanted from this record. LInkin Park finally coming into their own, being men, and showing us that they can force tears too. Please, if you’re going to listen to any song on this album, make it this one. You won’t be disappointed.
Well here’s another great track! Seriously, the three closing tracks are the best. The acoustic guitars on this record are splendid. The lyrics are great. The vocal performance is spot on. This definitely has rock influences. It’s not much that I can say though. It’s just unexplainably good. Like yeah, the lyrical themes are great. The instrumentation is great. What more can I say? Especially after the title track. This song just is great. If you don’t agree, I get it. It comes after the best song on the record after all. It’s hard to top a song like that.
So, time for a recap. This album is not bad. In fact, the record is actually pretty solid. The album falters when it gets into a pattern. But the lyrics first approach really did produce some phenomenal content. Linkin Park gave us a great look into their hearts and lives, and created some great songs that you’ll want to listen to all the time. If it wasn’t for the pitch-shifting and the trap beats, this record would be a lot better.
Best songs: One More Light, Talking To Myself, Sharp Edges, Halfway Right, Invisible
Worst Songs: Heavy, Good Goodbye, Sorry For Now
I would just like to say, I’m posting this in its own thread because if I don’t want people to look over it when scrolling through the mega topic.
Tell me, are you working at an art criticizing agency?)
It’s really nice and deep analysis
Can’t say i’m agree with you.Good Goodbye(especially, the live version) is a nice song that i liked and same about Sorry For Now. Also i didn’t like Halfway Right
Yeah, I was just teasing lol
As I said, your comments on music are more insightful than pretty much anywhere I read about it.
Anyway, cool to see we have same judgement on the best and worst tracks this time around though maybe I’d say good goodbye is in the middle
How do you even write such long reviews?
Anyway,really nice review. I knew you werent gonna like SFN since you didnt like the high-pitched vocals in Young and Menace. [quote=“Im_Normal, post:1, topic:28676”]
Although, I have to commend the strong piano outro on this track.
Dont you mean the outro of Invisible? I think you got it mixed up with SFN.
Probably, I rushed some of this to get it out today
No worries. Well-written review nonetheless.
Although my opinion on the new record differs completely from yours, I loved reading it. It was very well written!
Very well written, I really enjoyed reading! I am not with you in every point, but I really like to hear other opinions, especally when they are objectively explained like yours. Seems like music is a big passion of yours
Wow, what a review! Though I don’t agree with everything, I enjoyed reading it, you’re a professional!
I’d be interested if your opinion on the album has changed in any ways after many listens. For me it does, when I listen to a new experimental LP album for the first time, it’s, I would say, weird. Than after a few times I’m starting to like the best songs very much, but others are still weird for me. And after 1000th time I like them all and they feel very naturally LP-like, and I don’t understand how could I think they were weird
The same it is with the pitch-shifted vocals in Good Goodbye. At first listen I thought OMG, how awkward and annoying they are, they have no place in LP’s music. But now I like the song very much, just feels very natural for the new LP sound