Linkin Park have finally given up on sounding like Linkin Park
Once upon a time, there was metal. Then metal grew old and weary. Then, at the dawn of the new millennium, metal was reborn. Metal was nu.
There was Korn. There was Limp Bizkit. There was Slipknot. There was *racks brains* Static-X? Mudvayne? Eesh. But the biggest and shiniest nu-metal band of them all was Linkin Park.
A bunch of lads from California who had guitars, DJ decks and a whole lot of Feelings, Linkin Park bypassed the sweaty cellars and dive bars of the metal underground and found themselves in the mainstream from the get-go.
Their first record, Hybrid Theory, was loud, shouty and scratchy, but it was radio-friendly too. Everyone had a copy of Hybrid Theory - it was the best-selling album of 2001 in the US, shifting 4.8 million copies which, for any younger readers unfamiliar with the concept of physical media, is a fucking fuckload.
Above all though, Linkin Park were heavy, albeit in a commercially acceptable way. Songs like 'Crawling', 'One Step Closer' and 'Papercut' all had crushing guitar riffs and screamed vocals, masterfully blended with the hip-hop trappings that put the 'nu' in nu-metal - samples, DJ scratches and rapping.
And as everyone knows, this formula was not built to last.
Nu-metal fell out of vogue pretty quickly. The mosher movement was overtaken by guys wearing skinny jeans and Fender Stratocasters, who in turn gave way to EDM and the pop music it influenced.
Korn, Limp Bizkit and bands of their ilk went back under the surface, with the former retaining a loyal fanbase and the latter morphing into a touring nostalgia act - Christ knows what Mudvayne are up to now. It was all over for nu-metal.
But Linkin Park are still one of the biggest acts in the world. They headline major festivals while their genre compatriots stumble around the mid-level slots. Their albums still sell in the hundreds of thousands, a major achievement in an era when no one buys anything anymore.
Linkin Park evolved. Linkin Park changed. Linkin Park stayed - wait for it - relevant.
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
So what's wrong with moving with the times? What's wrong with staying relevant? In essence, nothing. Artists are products of their environment; the things around them influence the work that comes out of them. You don't see many bands dropping monster riffs over hip-hop beats and making a success of it these days.
But Linkin Park have always been a band that held commercial impact at the front of their mind. They precisely craft their songs to push as many listeners' buttons as possible, and repeat the formula over and over. With the possible exception of Slipknot and Korn, Linkin Park were the first to really capitalise off nu-metal, but they had no qualms about abandoning it either.
The follow-up to Hybrid Theory, 2003's Meteora, was similar in sound and meticulously crafted mass-appeal, but as nu-metal's popularity wained, so too did Linkin Park's fondness rock as a whole. On subsequent records A Thousand Suns and Living Things, guitars took a backseat to big beats and pop vocals.
In fairness to Linkin Park, their 2014 record The Hunting Party was a return to their roots, a straight-up rock album that features Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello and legendary MC Rakim. It was heavy, it was good. It was also their slowest-selling record since Meteora and lowest-charting record ever (it was their lowest-selling album too, but as we've established, sales mean nothing these days).
So here we are, in 2017, with the band's new single Heavy dropping just the other day, and it's anything but heavy. Everything There's nothing in it that would give you any clue that you were listening to Linkin Park and not just another generic pop production. No discernible guitars at all, no screamed vocals, just soft synths, pulsing beats and a guest spot from upcoming pop singer Kiiara.
All would be forgiven if the song was any good, but it's not good enough to mask the cynicism that's driving the production. Bands are allowed and must be allowed to have the space to develop, to explore, to try new things and fail, but Linkin Park aren't trying in defiance of artistic failure, they're trying in pursuit of commercial success.
They've flirted with pop before, but with Heavy, they signed the marriage certificate.
This article originally appeared on JOE.co.uk.
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