Note 01/29/2018: I wrote this July 22, 2017. Two days after the death of Chester. I wrote it, saved it, and closed it. I knew I wanted to publish it, but I was not ready at the time. I looked at it for the first time to edit it after 2017 – Raw Hindsight was published. I edited it before posting, but with the intent to keep the raw emotion intact. I actually shed tears while editing this article; I also smiled. I did not want to rewrite it from my January 2018 perspective. That would ruin the therapy.
I have been meaning to write about two things. One, about the bad shit happening in my life in 2017. Two, a review for Linkin Park’s newest album, One More Light. Chester Bennington’s, the lead singer of Linkin Park, death brings about reason for me to write about both. Somewhere I can place my emotions.
Chester committed suicide July 20th. This is one of the few celebrity deaths to shake me to my core. I make no secret that I am a huge fanboy for Linkin Park; I probably understate my affection for the band. Chester’s voice carried me through some of the most emotional times of my life. The songs from Hybrid Theory and Meteora got me through my teenage years. The lyrics are often times memeified as “angsty,” which is not 100% wrong, but that’s also the kind of music I needed in my teenage years. Minutes to Midnight and A Thousand Suns carried me through my post high school life as I formed my own opinions about how the world should and shouldn’t work. A lot of the lyrics from these albums are filled with political statements about how things are going wrong, but they also offer hope. Living Things and The Hunting Party came about when I became a functioning member of society; a life with a career and other adult things. The lyrics are filled with motifs like losing a relationship, feeling powerless in life, and masquerading as someone you are not. I literally grew up with Linkin Park, and Chester’s voice playing in my head.
My anticipation for their newest ablum, One More Light, was nothing I have ever experienced. Before it was released, the members of Linkin Park commented that they had changed their writing process for this album. They wrote the lyrics and melodies before the music. They treated their writing sessions like group therapy; “how was everyone’s day?” someone would ask. Everyone answered honestly, and based on the answers, they would write lyrics. If a band member was feeling like they were neglecting their family, they would talk, and write lyrics. When someone close to them died, they wrote the title track, One More Light. This writing process definitely shines through the album. The album shows you what it is like to be human. The melodies might be upbeat, but the lyrics are downright emotional.
Chester’s singing cuts right down to the core, from the start of the first track Nobody Can Save Me. “I’m dancing with my demons, I’m hanging off the edge, storm clouds gather beneath me, wave break above my head.” Chester’s vocals paint a very desperate picture. “Who cares if one more light goes out, well I do,” from One More Light is filled with caring and empathy. I love it when Chester performs this track live and yells “I do!” near the end. The final track Sharp Edges, Chester sings “Sharp edges have consequences, Now every scar is a story I can tell.” Chester’s voice gets sharp by the end between “can tell.” That bite shows us this man has experienced so many sharp edges from life. The song writing on this album is Linkin Park’s best work, but it is also Chester’s best vocal work. His voice drips with emotion. I can tell these songs mean a lot to him.
By the beginning of the 2017, Linkin Park had shared that they were writing the lyrics first, and that this album would be the most human album they had ever created. This sounds cool, and made me excited for the album. However, something else fed my anticipation for the album; gave me need to hear it. 2017 has been shit for me, and this album sounded like something I needed.
In January, my mom was rushed to the emergency room. She was moved to the ICU, and needed a breathing tube. My mom was pretty calm, and told us not to worry and go home. As the nurses were prepping her breathing tube, the doctor took us aside and said, “The swelling is getting worse, and if we don’t put in a breathing tube she could die…” and at that point, I stopped listening. Die? My mom? Being in your late twenties, and told that your mom might die shakes you to the core. Can you imagine a world without your mom? I couldn’t. I had a minor crisis at this point.
February rolled around. Family and friends were gathered at my house. We were playing Jackbox, and having a good time. A huge “POP!” noise broke our laughter. The lights flickered. Someone ran to the basement and yells “fire!” I called 911, and the firefighters arrived. The circuit breaker caught fire. We were without power for two days; we were out of our house for a week.
March. My cousin died in a house fire, leaving behind two toddlers, one less than a year old, and a wife, not to mention his parents and the rest of our family. No parent should have to bury their kid. We went to his funeral, and visited my grandma in the nursing home. She was not feeling too well, and wanted to sleep…
Easter in April was rough. We visited my grandma in the nursing home. She was not getting out of bed or eating. She did not look like herself. What should be a fun time with food and family, was a very solemn occasion. We have Easter dinner with my uncles, but everyone’s thoughts were preoccupied about my grandma. I knew this would be the last time I see her, and I made the most of it. Leaving shook me to the core. One of my friends got married out of town a week later. I went, and put on a fake smile, and pretended to have fun on the days leading up to the wedding. At the reception, another friend and I snuck out for a moment to visit the bar. We were sitting there in silence, and he asked me, “How are you doing?” I broke down, and answered truthfully, “Shitty. I can’t stop thinking about my grandma, no matter how much I pretend.”
In May, we had my grandma’s funeral. I do not know how my uncle can take it; burying his son, and now his mother. The entire family was shaken. She taught us the importance of family. She is the reason we have frequent family reunions, and the reason why I know my cousins, even though they all live several hundred miles apart.
By the middle of May, One More Light could not come soon enough. It was so much more than just anticipating their new writing approach. I did not know what it could provide me. I just knew I needed it. I eagerly awaited the leak, so I could listen to it early. It did not leak until the week of release. I hungrily downloaded it, hoping it could provide me with something I needed. Hoping it would be everything I needed it to be. And it was. No other album in my catalog could lift my heavy heart. I feel like life dealt me a shit hand in 2017. One More Light reminds me the heaviness is all about being human. Life can be cruel sometimes, but you have to revel your battle symphony and march onward.
Chester’s death left a hole in the world. He marched onward despite his depression. Abuse, drug addiction, loss, and more contributed to it. But he touched so many lives with his voice. He helped others fight their own depression, even if he couldn’t save himself. For that, I thank him, and wish someone could have saved him.
I could bury myself in the depression, but I choose not to. My mom didn’t die in January. She wasn’t worried in the least, and told us to go home, while nurses ran around preparing her for her breathing tube. She told us not to worry her mom (my other grandma who is still alive), or her sister. Of course, we did the opposite, and they came and supported her. She made a full recovery, and I am thankful for that.
The fire in February didn’t hurt anyone. It didn’t even destroy any of our belongings. All it did was kill our power for a few days, and made our house smell like smoke for a week. That was cleaned up, and we were able to continue to live normally.
My cousin’s death left a hole in this world. But all I can do is continue to live and remember him as he was.
My grandma lived to be 97 years old. My grandpa died when I was ten, and I remember him a little bit, but not very well. With my grandma, I was able to get to really know her, and learn from her. I’m able to take the lessons she taught me, and apply them to my life. I would not be the same person I am today without her. Having her for 28 years of my life is a blessing, and I won’t take that for granted.
One More Light can be a very sad album, especially if you are someone who life seems to keep throwing shit at you. Addiction, loss of a loved one, or not being able to be there for the ones you love. All of these themes can be found in the album. But we must not forget that this album wasn’t written by a robot. This was written by a group of people; people who have felt all of these things. Chester was one of them, and hearing the songs he sang from this album, you could tell there was true emotion in his voice. The words that Linkin Park wrote, the vocals of Chester and Mike, and my own personal experience makes this one of the most important album I have ever heard.
My heart goes out to Chester’s family, his friends, and the rest of Linkin Park. I pray that Chester doesn’t feel like he’s hanging off the edge anymore. RIP.
I don’t have a leg to stand on, Spinning like a whirlwind nothing to land on
Came so far never thought it’d be done now, Stuck in a holding pattern waiting to come down
Cause I’m tired of the fear that I can’t control this, I’m tired of feeling like every next step’s hopeless
I’m tired of being scared what I build might break apart, I don’t want to know the end, all I want is a place to start
– Mike Shinoda, Place To Start