I was going to do my regular three songs post for July, because… y’know, I enjoy it, and I have my three songs picked out. And then… Chester Bennington died. And I don’t even know how to listen to music anymore, let alone talk about songs that aren’t Chester’s.
I always feel sort of weird talking about this stuff. Because… am I saying too much? Am I letting a weird amount of grief be on public display? Is it not my place to mourn? Or, most of all—am I not saying enough? Like, how do I even begin to encompass what Chester Bennington and Linkin Park are for me? How do I explain to someone that I am absolutely saddened, cannot think straight, heartbroken, over the death of a man I met once and never really knew at all except through his work? But I am. I totally am. (I am totally making myself cry while type. Freaking great.)
So, um, I wrote about A Thousand Suns, my favorite Linkin Park album (and favorite album ever) in my newsletter. And I thought about just leaving it there, because honestly, just doing that made me feel pretty raw. But it feels wrong not to say anymore, and continue on like there isn’t a big, gaping hole in the music world. And I feel like… I owe Chester more than that. I met him once–we had gone to see Julien-K, and he was friends with them and had gone to support them. And he kind and sweet and gracious and I was so nervous I said barely anything to him. My mom was with me, and she said to him, “Your music enhances our lives every day.” And that’s what Linkin Park did for me, does for me. That music brings absolute joy into my life, but those songs also tell me that it’s okay… to feel lost. Scared. Sad. ANGRY. Hopeful. Confused. Brave. That music tells me over and over that it’s okay to care for people, that it’s okay to be different, that it’s… that I matter. That art matters. Everything Linkin Park did, from writing music to how they gave back, makes me remember that there are still good people in the world. That what you do and how you face the world is important. So. I wanted to write something for Chester. Even if it’s just a short post on my blog.
I suppose there are a lot of bands that have shaped me. And changed me. I mean, there definitely are–there’s no question about that. But Linkin Park is in the small handful of bands at the top of that list. I listened to them growing up. I listened to them as an adult, floundering my way around and trying to figure out who the fuck I was. They changed my musical taste, they changed the way I wanted to make art, the way I write, the way I… put myself out into the world. That music made me feel okay about myself, in so many ways.
I remember being twelve years old, sitting in the back of a car with my best friend. She had a CD player, because yeah, I’m old, and Hybrid Theory had just come out. And she was like, “Here, listen to this,” and handed me the headphones, and played In The End for me. And it scared me, to be honest. It was so violent and angry and stunningly gorgeous at the same time. I hadn’t ever heard anything like that. I wasn’t ready for that. It was like all the musical possibilities exploded, like… the way I thought music had to be, had dissolved, and anything could happen. And I loved Linkin Park, and had the greatest respect for them, as musicians and people, from that moment on. I traveled to different states to see them play. I saw Chester in Dead by Sunrise, and when he played briefly with Stone Temple Pilots (this was one of the most incredible, mind-blowing shows ever.) I loved how passionate he was. I loved how much he enjoyed being on stage. I loved how he held the audience in the palm of his hand. I respected the fuck out of him for getting up there and putting himself out there when he was feeling down, when he was sick–when he broke his wrist on stage, ffs, and finished out the concert. And I loved how he spoke to us through his music.
I haven’t been listening to any music since he died. I just can’t. I need some time to get my head around the idea that music exists without Chester Bennington in the world. And simply the idea of listening to Linkin Park is making me cry. But. I guess I sort of need to write this for myself, if nothing else.
I’m going to bend my rules here and go with six songs instead of three. (I ended up pulling from only three albums, simply because these are some of the songs that speak to me the most, and I didn’t want to… think logically or rationally about this, really. But all of Linkin Park’s albums are well worth listening to.)
Leave Out All the Rest
So, I couldn’t listen to this today. Just could not. I’m honestly not sure I’ll ever be able to listen to it again. It’s basically… it’s basically a song about what you leave behind when you’re gone. Will you have mattered? Will people remember you and think well of you? Will you have done good? Will you be missed? I’ve always loved it because—aside from how absolutely beautiful and melodic and still Linkin-Park-rough this is—for me, music and writing and art are about as close to immortality as you can get—as I’d ever want to get. And this song expresses that so well. You put these pieces of yourself out in the world, and maybe people take something from them, and carry that on. You make your mark in the best way you can. You try to put good out there. You try to make it all mean something.
Chester did all that.
Waiting for the End and Blackout
You kind of have to listen to these two songs back to back. They’re just so much more perfect together—not that they’re not stunning by themselves. Waiting for the End is… I always thought it was about rebirth. Ending something and starting something new, even though it’s so hard. This is the one song that, whenever I listen to it, I feel better. I feel like… weirdly powerful. Calm and strong. This is what I listen to when I’m nervous, scared, sad. Or happy. Because it’s, ultimately, incredibly hopeful. It’s the ultimate energy release. I have no idea how Linkin Park managed to pack so much music, so many different pieces of sound and style, and so much emotion, into a single song and have it sound absolutely perfect and cohesive, but they did.
Blackout is very different than waiting for the end. It’s incredibly angry and sort of… in your face and violent. Quick, almost choppy rhythm, extremely harsh vocals from Chester. Very raw music sounds, heavy and dense. It’s empowering. And I love that, as in all of their songs, Linkin Park is never afraid to hold back from writing or singing about those emotions. They’re there, they feel them, and that’s okay with them. It’s okay to be that angry and hurt and be absolutely furious about it.
And then the song breaks—perfectly, I swear they made magic with this album—and Mike Shinoda comes in and sings this heartbreakingly gorgeous verse about floating away and then coming back down to earth, and it’s beautiful and it fits. When I’m done listening to these two songs, I sort of feel like someone’s taken a toothbrush to my emotions, and scrubbed. All raw and ow but also clean. Like all those emotions don’t have to pass through any kind of guilt or social conscious filter anymore. They just are.
It’s incredible to be able to do that to someone, with two songs.
From the Inside
I think this is one of the first songs, or pieces of art, or anything, that told me that anger was okay. Like, this is a normal feeling, and you can use it, and you can feel it, and no one has any right to take it away from you. The same with hurt. I was going through some stuff with family and this song was a reminder that I could stand up for myself. That it was okay to feel exactly whatever way I was feeling. That none of my emotions were false.
I love, love, love the sound of the this song. The really sweeping, melodic vocals of Chester’s, mixed with Mike’s rap, and the harsh sound of the guitar, and the always amazing drumming. It’s primal and heavy and packed with emotion.
Somewhere I Belong
I’ve seen a lot of people around the internet saying how Linkin Park helped them through this or that rough patch, or really, really rough patch. How Chester’s music bolstered them and got them through. And this is that song for me. I mean, I feel that way about all of their music. None of it was ever anything I listened to and didn’t feel something about. But this song came out and it was like… someone was speaking to me, about all the insecurities and fears I felt. Laying them out and saying that they felt it too, so I wasn’t alone. I was pretty young. *laughs* I think I was having teenage blues. But anyone who wants to dismiss teenage blues as trivial is out of their mind. I didn’t have anything that made me feel whole, and this song, and this album, did. And it never stopped doing that for me. This was one of those songs that I could listen to whenever I needed a reminder that there was someone else out there who was struggling through the same stuff as me.
Plus, the song is just rough and visceral and beautiful in how harsh it is, and I love it in every way. (This is also the song that introduced me to Dali’s elephants. Connections and connections. The music video is incredible.)
Jornada Del Muerto
This is more an interlude than anything, but it’s gorgeous. Title in Spanish, lyrics in Japanese. The lyrics mean, “Lift me up, let me go.” It’s technically about nuclear warfare—Jornada Del Muerto is the area in New Mexico where the first atomic bombs were tested. But, like the whole album this is off of—A Thousand Suns—and in conjunction with the album, it has layers and layers of meaning, even though there aren’t any more lyrics than that.
I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Linkin Park do this in concert three times, and it was easily the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard live.
Thank you for the music, Chester. I can’t even begin to say what it’s meant to me.