Talk about throwing a curveball. When the first single for Linkin Park's new album premiered in February, many people, myself included, didn't know how to feel about the band's new direction. The band's previous effort, 2014's The Hunting Party, was arguably their heaviest album yet, so when they released a single featuring pop singer Kiiara and a complete change in sound, people either loved it, hated it, or weren't quite sure what to make of it. Cut to three months later and their new pop-influenced album One More Light is out, and I think this will be the band's most polarizing album since A Thousand Suns. Nobody expected this originally nu-metal band to have a go at pop, but now that they have, it's time to see if it's any good. As usual, I shall be doing a track-by-track review of the album.
01. NOBODY CAN SAVE ME - Immediately, listeners are thrown into an electronic frenzy full of synths, samples, and unfortunately a fairly generic song structure with this track. Then again, as much as I love them, Linkin Park don't really tend to stray far from basic song structures. Though I find this track to be one of the more forgettable of the album, it's still sounds nice enough; Chester clearly does all he can to make the song sound interesting, and it pays off mostly. However, one can hear a distinct use of autotune at some moments in this song, as well as others in the album. Unfortunately, I feel that Chester is struggling more to belt out his vocals nowadays, and that is definitely evident on this album. His voice has changed a lot over the past few years and it certainly sounds like he is struggling at some moments in this song. At least the samples nicely implemented and sound decent. Not a terrible song but nothing mind-blowing either.
02. GOOD GOODBYE - A punchy chorus and powerful vocals from Chester help makes this song an energetic and extremely fun one. Mike sounds great as usual but his rapping does sound quite basic and formulaic. Rappers Pusha T. and Stormzy also feature on this song and, whilst I don't listen to much rap, their verses are nicely structured and catchy, though the lyrics are somewhat weak ("We're linking tings in park, now I gotta tune with Linkin Park" being an especially awkward set of lyrics). Also, the song begs to have more vocals from Chester as he really does shine in the choruses.
03. TALKING TO MYSELF - Now we're talking. This song is probably the heaviest on the album (by itself, though, it really isn't that heavy) and is full to the brim with funky guitar work and great vocals from Chester. I also love the synths in this song as they blend with the guitar work surprisingly well. The song also has a great buildup, leading into a loud bridge which compliments the song very well, though at times it can get repetitive.
04. BATTLE SYMPHONY - Again, the sampling in this song sounds nice, though by itself the song is very generic in its lyrics and doesn't really contain that distinctive sting Linkin Park are known for. Besides a few synths, drums, and a piano, virtually no other instruments really get a chance to shine. Vocally, this is one of Chester's better performances, but there are still moments where he sounds like he's struggling.
05. INVISIBLE - Mike Shinoda takes over the vocals on this one, and this is by far one of the catchiest songs on the album. The chorus is very memorable and the song itself is extremely atmospheric and is reminiscent of the massive waves of sound Linkin Park are know for in their songs. Mike also gives a great emotional performance in this song, and it's refreshing to hear a different voice take lead vocals.
06. HEAVY - Here it is. The song that divided listeners across the world, and I now have to say this is probably the weakest song on the album. The simple beat and the quiet keys makes this song sound very bland and Kiiara's voice, though nice, doesn't really suit a Linkin Park song. It's a shame the band released this song as the album's first single as it was thanks to this song that many people wanted to keep away from their new sound and not give it much of a chance.
07. SORRY FOR NOW - And now we go from the worst song on the album to what I feel to be the best song. Musically reminiscent of Owl City, this dreamy track is an absolute joy to listen to. Mike has a wonderfully smooth singing voice and really puts his all into making his performance a powerful one. Chester has a chance to shine for a short time in the bridge, and he too sounds brilliant in his slightly rap-like vocals. The instrumental is also extremely powerful and bass-heavy. Even the lyrics in this song are quite creative and fit the instrumental perfectly. Everything comes together perfectly in this song, making for a truly unique and colourful auditory experience.
08. HALFWAY RIGHT - This is a really bizarre song. It contains a slightly jarring mix of piano and synths, and Chester starts to sound quite weak in his performance again. There's really not a moment in this song that sticks out to me as being good or memorable. And the inclusion of "na-na-na-na"'s in the lyrics really drags this song down for me, making it a snore-fest for the most part.
09. ONE MORE LIGHT - The titular track of the album is a beautiful and melancholic one. It's a strangely downbeat yet uplifting tune, and the lack of instruments actually helps to boost the song's emotional value. Chester gives a mostly flawless performance, although he often puts too much power into his vocals, never really giving a quiet and more subdued performance, which means his loud vocals against the gentle strum of the acoustic guitar is quite jarring. Also, the synth in this song is far too loud and it mostly drowns out the beautiful strums of the guitar. Overall, though, a powerful song deserving of the title track.
10. SHARP EDGES - Fans of the band's older music REALLY won't like this track as it wouldn't seem out of place on a country album akin to Taylor Swift's older material. Chester sounds awkward in his delivery and the autotune isn't that well-hidden, and it overall lacks that flavour that makes a song memorable. It's a shame the album has to end on one of its weaker songs. Thought it's not as bad as Halfway Right or Heavy, Sharp Edges is still quite a bore.
So was Linkin Park's venture into pop music a success or a failure? For me, it is definitely a 50/50. Whilst songs like Sorry For Now, Talking To Myself, and Good Goodbye inject a genuine sense of fun and creativity into the album, it's songs like Heavy and Halfway Right that really drag the album down. The album overall does lack that distinctive edge that made Linkin Park unique, Chester's vocals are the weakest they've been, and it doesn't really compare to their other albums, but if you look at this album as a standalone entity, what is good is extremely good; As mentioned before, the samples in the songs are well constructed and there are a few surprises that help this album get off the ground. Overall, I'm glad Linkin Park decided to try their hand at this kind of music, although I don't know if I'd want to see another album like this in the future.
BEST SONGS: Sorry For Now, Talking To Myself, Good Goodbye, Invisible
WORST SONGS: Heavy, Halfway Right, Sharp Edges
SCORE: 5 out of 10.