written by Kevin Young & Urooj Ali Rizvi
Linkin Park gave the world countless anthems, exploring heavy cynicism, anger and self-doubt but also, the idea of recovery, of remaking oneself. Constantly managing to reshape their sound, they also held onto their alternative-rock roots. At the heavily public forefront of their success was lead singer, Chester Bennington.
Bennington’s swift tonality of tinkering across the balance of soft-crooning notes and screeching vendettas made him an irreplaceable asset to Linkin Park, no less than iconic, an angry yet poetic music god of contemporary rock music.
As the world mourns his sudden, upsetting passing — the loss of a modern rock legend — Atwood Magazine would like to pay tribute to him, to his art, by sharing our ten favorite songs from Linkin Park.
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- “In The End” (Hybrid Theory, 2000) – Kevin
It would be madness to talk about the greatest Linkin Park songs without including “In The End.” It cemented Linkin Park as a household name while peaking at number two on billboard showcasing their alternative-rock roots. “In The End” is a timeless tune because 17 years later many can still relate to “Trying so hard” but then realizing “In the end it doesn’t even matter.” Also who could forget the song’s ghastly entrance chords and tear-jerking chorus? It’s the raw story that life will always throw hurdles at you. “In The End” validated Linkin Park as authentic for going to the dark places many artists at the time would forgo for something more fun and light.
- “What I’ve Done” (Minutes to Midnight, 2007) – Urooj
The first time I heard Linkin Park, I was in the fifth grade and the school band was settling into the unmistakable, unforgettable chords of “What I’ve Done.” I would recognize that intro anywhere. Bennington’s slamming vocals in the chorus, championed by the angry electric guitar and the very distinct drumming — drawing together angst and guilt into a defiant anthem, a final goodbye to the past. Released in 2007 as a single off Minutes to Midnight, it was made infamous by the sci-fi hit film Transformers and went on to become one of “the” songs of Linkin Park, challenged only by powerful tracks like Numb and Leave Out All the Rest. A decade may have gone by but if the introductory chords were to be heard today, there’s no doubt that everybody would know exactly what song is playing.
- “Burn It Down” (Living Things, 2012) – Kevin
“Burn It Down” talks about the slippery slope of fame. Mike Shinoda (rapper and vocalist) and Bennington bare it all sharing their experience of becoming stars only to be “broken back down” again. It can be interrupted as a criticism to celebrities and the negative stigma attached with today’s social media troll culture –also known as having the ability to spread negativity while hiding behind a screen. The scary part is this celebrity culture continues to intensify with today’s youth obsessed with wearing Yeezys and Kylie lip gloss. Perhaps Bennington wanted the youth to stray away from it? It’s worth noting Bennington’s raspy holler notes are delivered flawlessly.
- “Numb / Encore“ (Collision Course, 2004) – Kevin
Linkin Park wasn’t afraid to take risks with their sound. This synth-rock classic tells the tale of one standing at a cross-roads choosing between going forward or changing paths to keep one’s identity. Bennington belts out “All I want to do is be more like me and be less like you.” This hit became even more of a mainstream staple after it was remixed with Jay Z’s “Encore.” This rock hip-hop fusion earned both artists a Grammy. Although this wasn’t the first marriage between rock and hip-hop –RUN DMC and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” will always be the pioneer rock hip-hop banger—but it was another step forward to inspire artists to take greater risks and work with people they would normally not think of.
- “Iridescent” (A Thousand Suns, 2010) – Kevin
Known for their heavy-pessimistically dark view of the world heard and felt in many of their songs, Linkin Park also had the uncanny ability to churn out hopeful rock ballads offering listeners solace. “Iridescent” is the epitome of that. The track talks about moving forward after falling to your all-time-low. Bennington is forgoing the signature scream for a softer croon encouraging fans to “Remember all the sadness and frustration and let it go.” This was another hit used by the Transformers movie series. Bennington’s voice complements the soft chords and then ignites with the guitar rift for the finale –it could be the subliminal message of not giving up when you feel the weight of the world on you.
- “Blackbirds” (A Thousand Suns, 2010) – Urooj
A stellar track from their 2010 album, “A Thousand Suns,” Blackbirds opens on the ominous guitar chords paired with Bennington’s vocals. Tricked into thinking the song will be softer as the pitch changes, an unassuming beat kicks in, transforming the atmosphere and setting the base for Mike Shinoda’s effortless rap that bears strong resemblance to choral odes in Ancient Greek tragedies. “It’s harder starting over than never to have changed,” is some perceptive, self-directed wisdom that the bridge presents, Blackbirds creates a dark mirage of images — “I dig this hole through my skin and bones”, “I’m digging out my grave,”, “They close in, swallowing me,” and leaves quite the impression. Drawn into a strangely haunted, macabre and yet cathartic vision, dealing with penitence and guilt, Blackbirds is hard to forget.
- “Castle of Glass” (Living Things, 2012) – Urooj
A gem from Living Things, “Castle of Glass” was released towards the end of 2012 and swept through fans of rock music, garnering plenty of adulation and popularity. Heavy and laden but managing to couple the menacing setting with an impossible rhythm, Linkin Park impeccably layer the mood with bare synth-work alongside their excellent drumming — vaguely reminiscent of Mumford and Sons. Nodding one’s head to the bridge and chorus then simply becomes a symptom of listening to “Castle of Glass.” Keeping in line with the electronic sampling and influence of their album, Living Things, “Castle of Glass” stands out as a testament to their constant experimentation and growth, firmly rooted in their identity of the makers of modern rock music.
- “Sorry For Now” (One More Light, 2017) – Kevin
“Sorry For Now” is an electro-ballad off of One More Light –the band’s latest album showing their surging stride into an electronic sound. The track is a message from Shinoda to his kids about feeling sorry that he has to leave home for extended time because of work –a reality faced by parents and their children. The final chorus eloquently shows how Bennington and Shinoda maintained vocal chemistry throughout the years often trading off lines. A hidden gem in this track is Bennington taking a stab at crooning a rapid verse with flow like a seasoned rapper.
- “Leave Out All the Rest” (Minutes to Midnight, 2007) – Urooj
A softer track than many others, Leave Out All the Rest has acquired newer, perhaps more upsetting meaning in the past few days, with the passing away of Chester Bennington. Tributes all over social media are quoting the song,
And when you’re feeling empty,
keep me in your memory,
leave out all the rest..
The song comes from a place of vulnerability, but also exceptional maturity which is why it’s such an important track. Not only does it explore the idea of insecurity and fear, it also offers an upsetting reassurance, a small plea to be remembered, asking to ‘leave out all the rest’. Released as the fifth and final single from the band’s third album, Minutes to Midnight, it is often the very first song that comes to mind when ‘Linkin Park’ is uttered. Perhaps this is how we’ll remember Chester and how we’ll remember to leave out all the rest.
- “The Messenger” (A Thousand Suns, 2010) – Kevin
Arguably “The Messenger” is one of Bennington’s best vocal performances. It’s one of the most stripped down songs released by the band only using very light and simple guitar strums enabling Bennington’s naked vocals to drive the song. “You’re growing desperate from the fight. Remember you’re loved,” Bennington belts out to tell fans you’re not alone in whatever you go through and that there’s always love around. The most powerful aspect of this song is the adlibs giving listeners the chills. Bennington’s natural croon is unmatched putting a rock spin on a tool prevalent in R&B. It’s fitting that this song closed off the album and it’s also a fitting hopeful song to end our list.
Linkin Park’s vast catalogue has imprinted itself onto the music industry and far more importantly, has reached impacted the world, transforming millions of lives. Bennington was always an integral part of Linkin Park, from the very start and a role model for thousands of angst-ridden, dissatisfied, conflicted individuals. He was open and outspoken about his demons of drug and alcohol abuse, creating a platform for conversation about the same and perhaps wanted nothing more than to inspire others to do well, to do better. He is survived by his wife and six children.
It’s going to be rather rough, if not downright harrowing, to listen to these treasured songs with Bennington gone — but let’s all do him a favor and celebrate his life and talent. Let us respect and honor his legacy. He has created some of the best music of contemporary times, offering thousands of us the strength we would not have found otherwise. It pains us to have to bid farewell to him, so suddenly, so sadly, but we will remember him always, and we will be grateful for all that he has done, all that he has given.
Atwood Magazine will miss him, just as much as everyone else, terribly and dearly. We’ll keep him in our memory and leave out all the rest.
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