In today's age, we often forget to help ourselves. We are so wrapped up in the world and the problems that others face that we forget about our own, leaving them to grow and fester as we continue to neglect them. At some point, they envelop us, and take us to places where all the light is gone.
Sometimes the best way to heal ourselves when we find ourselves drowning is to have a conversation. It can be hard, however, to say the thousands of thoughts in your mind when you have so few words to explain them with. That's where Linkin Park comes in with their new album. This band has faced it all, been through thick and thin, and don't want us all falling down to the places they did. On their new record, they focussed on the lyrics which were born out of conversations they had with each other about life. With the help of some of music's best writers, Linkin Park reminds us that we are all human in One More Light.
Before discussing the impact of the record's message, the sound has to be addressed. Since the release of the album's lead single, the band has been receiving a lot of flack for the poppier approach to the new music. Instead of defending or opposing the sound, I'll provide a question, so you can answer yourself: at what point does genre equate to quality? That is to say, when does the style of music deem how good or bad a song is? What is really important in a song? Once you've answered these questions, be prepared to tackle a whole world of sounds that is available to you.
When you are drowning in an abyss of sadness, often times what you will do is mask your sorrow with unwavering optimism. That idea is exactly how One More Light begins, the upbeat tone of 'Nobody Can Save Me' being largely deceiving. Everything about it has a generally positive tone to it: the gentle affected vocal intro, the sweet guitar work by Brad Delson, the wavering synths, and Chester Bennington's melodies all have a happy tone to them, but when you look at the lyrics, you can see the opposite is true about the song. The very first lyrics on the record are "I'm dancing with my demons / I'm hanging off the edge / Storm clouds gather beneath me" as Bennington explains that he has been pushed to the very edge. The chorus comes in even darker, Bennington saying that he is beyond anyone's help: "But nobody can save me now / I'm holding up a light / I'm chasing up the darkness inside." The ending shifts tone with a single word, Bennington now stating that "only I can save me now," meaning the only person left to help him is himself.
One More Light isn't about saving yourself on your own, however. It's about realizing you're not alone, no matter who you are. That idea is expressed clearly in 'Heavy,' the duet between Bennington and Kiiara having a key meaning for the record. Bennington sings with a somber tone as the dark synth chords introduce the song, his drug and alcohol abuse giving the chorus lines "I keep dragging around what's bringing me down / If I just let go, I'd be set free / Holding on / Why is everything so heavy" a very strong reality. Kiiara joins the song, her inclusion making the point that anyone, regardless of age of sex, can face the same problems. As the two come together in the explosive bridge, they reach the realization that they never had to fight alone; they always had each other, two people who knew the other's pain, to come to. As the song explodes with a powerful, guitar-driven emotional climax, their newly realized bond serves as the key to their healing.
A similar idea is channeled in 'Halfway Right,' where Bennington's dreamy melodies serve as a message to his younger self, warning him about the tough times ahead. He explains it as a battle he can never win on his own but there's no one left to fight with him, the chorus chanting: "I scream at myself when there's nobody else to fight / I don't lose, I don't win, if I'm wrong, then I'm halfway right." Chester also reflects on his past in closing track 'Sharp Edges,' the folk pop track where he wishes he had heeded his parents' advice, the chorus chanting "Never listened when she said sharp edges have consequences, I guess that I had to find out for myself / Sharp edges have consequences, now / Every scar is a story I can tell" with a groovy melody to back it. While it doesn't have defining concluding quality to it, 'Sharp Edges' reminds us to remember the foundations of what we know, and the people who love us will always have the answers to heal us.
Not all of the struggles are our own, though. That's where 'Talking To Myself' comes in. It's synth-lead in is accentuated by alternative guitars and a funky bassline, giving it a very energetic sound, and even though its message isn't as upbeat, it really fits together nicely. The song comes from the perspective of Chester's wife, the pain she felt while watching Chester suffer through his darkest times while she watched on, powerless being the subject of the track. The same feeling of helplessness is the subject of the pop rock ballad 'Battle Symphony,' but instead of talking about being helpless, it reminds you that even when all seems loss, people are there for you. The chorus chants, "I hear my battle symphony / All the world in front of me / If my armor breaks / I’ll fuse it back together," the voices of all those who back him being the armor that protects him from hitting rock bottom. He begs, "Please just don’t give up on me," before he truly feels the love, ending the chorus with the confident outcry, "And my eyes are wide awake." Energy like this is channeled in 'Good Goodbye,' where, with the help of Pusha T and Stormzy, the band builds upon a sense of trying to be put down when they are at the top of their game.
Not all songs are about each other, and not all songs are about healing our own problems. Others are about helping us heal others, such as the powerful track 'Invisible.' Mike Shinoda takes the lead here, the synth-led intro going straight into his sweet melody. The track is directed to his kids, as he apologizes for all the future fights they will have and for always being gone. For any parent, it's only natural that there will be disagreements with their children, and Shinoda puts all of those struggles to the perfect words in the pre-chorus: "I was not mad at you / I was not trying to tear you down / The words that I could've used / I was too scared to say out loud." Through all the disagreements they may have, at the end of it all, Shinoda will be there for them to the very end: "If I cannot break your fall / I'll pick you up right off the ground / If you felt invisible, I won't let you feel that now."
Shinoda continues his message to his kids in 'Sorry For Now,' the song where the band's pop sound comes to perfection. The guitar intro is fantastically chopped up, Shinoda coming in with a beautiful melody. The choruses come in huge with Shinoda chanting strongly, singing "So I'll be sorry for now / That I couldn't be around / Sometimes things refuse / To go the way we planned." Instead of apologizing to his kids about conflicts, Mike talks about the sacrifices he is making for them, hoping that "There will be a day that you will understand." Chester changes things up by rapping in the bridge, furthering Shinoda's message. As the final chorus kicks in, Shinoda takes things up a whole other notch, delivering one of his finest vocal performances ever as he admits that he, too, wishes he could've spent more time with his kids with the lines "There are things we have to do that we can't stand." The way he ends he sings the final "you will understand" is pure emotion, Shinoda's crooning being a defining moment for the record.
The most devastating periods of our lives are when we lose someone important to us. As we try to cope with our loss, we are reminded by others that it could've always been worse, that in the grand scheme of things, it's a small loss. But what they won't understand is what you truly lost. You lose the chance to let that person know how much they mean to you, you lose the chance to make more memories with them, you lost the chance of ever having another conversation with them. That's where the track 'One More Light' comes in. The song is about losing a close friend of the band, and reminding us to let everyone close to us know they are important to us. Bennington delivers one of the most emotional performances in the band's discography, tragically asking in the very first verse, "Can I help you, not to hurt, anymore," then recalling "We saw brilliance, when the world was asleep / There are things that we can have, but can't keep." Many sobering images are relied on in the songs, such as that of "The reminders, pull the floor from your feet / In the kitchen, one more chair than you need, oh." Instead of telling you to put the loss behind you, Bennington assures you that "you're angry, and you should be, it's not fair Just 'cause you can't see it, doesn't mean it, isn't there." The choruses are the most powerful moment of the entire record, Bennington crooning "Who cares if one more light goes out? / In a sky of a million stars," the piano and guitar supporting him beautifully, as Bennington promises, "I do."
Whether Linkin Park is warning us of the state of humanity (Minutes To Midnight) or even the threat of nuclear warfare (A Thousand Suns), they are always sharing an important message. They have shared what is perhaps the most important one of their entire career now with their new album. Most importantly, they're not the same band who created Hybrid Theory and Meteora. They've evolved and have grown with us as people, much like they were by our side this entire time. In a world where it's so easy to forget about ourselves, Linkin Park reminds us that we are all human in One More Light. There's never been an album that the world needed more. Whenever you need these songs the most, they will now always be here for you, and when all is falling down, One More Light will remind you that someone will always be there for you. There's no stronger message than that.
Favorite Tracks: One More Light, Sorry For Now, Invisible, Talking To Myself
Least Favorite Track: If I had to choose one... Halfway Right
Rating: 98 / 100
Buy or listen to One More Light on Apple Music or Amazon: