The Missing Link
04.05.2008Derided by detractors as a 'rock boy band', Linkin Park bridges pop and 'nu-metal' music.
When a certain debut album called Hybrid Theory sold 14 million copies in 2001, it plucked Southern Californian outfit Linkin Park out of obscurity and placed them in pop music's big leagues.
Today, they're still hitting them out of the park, on the charts.
The sextet of 20-somethings who got together in 1996 — vocalist Chester Bennington, rapper Mike Shinoda, guitarist Brad Nelson, DJ Joe Hahn, drummer Rob Bourdon and bassist Dave Farrell — are the safest bet in rock today.
How safe, you ask?
For one thing, you won't find a single cuss word in Hybrid Theory's entire 38 minutes playing time. "We just want to be honest and not hide any emotions with vulgarity," bespectacled vocalist Bennington once explained.
That alone — as far as record company suits and record store owners are concerned — makes Linkin Park's potent blend of hip-hop, metal and electronic music a perfect, more palatable alternative to other complaint rock doyens such as, say, Limp Bizkit, Korn or Marilyn Manson. (Cross-dressing, corpse-look-alike Manson, for instance, is notorious for his death-obsessed lyrics. He was blamed by many right-wingers for the Columbine tragedy in the United States a few years ago, after it was discovered that the two high school shooters were big fans of his.)
And that is a large reason for the success of Hybrid Theory.
With catchy, pissed-off anthems such as One Step Closer and Crawling, it came to be the sound of teenage angst of today, with or without parental-warning labels. Their first album made Linkin Park one of nu-metal's hottest stars, if not the biggest.
Not that the members appreciate the "nu-metal" label.
"We don't care much for the whole 'nu metal' thing," rapper Shinoda told British website dotmusic.com.
"We just make music that we want to listen to. Rather than writing to be part of a genre, we just write what we feel moved by," he added. Said guitarist Nelson: "The biggest misconception is that we're just a rock band. We think our music is a cross- section of many genres, a hybrid of what the six of us have grown up on."
Labels aside, the band has found instant favour with the world's disaffected teenagers, looking for a fix for the problems of ... well, whatever troubled teens have to grapple with.
Linkin Park's critics — the ranks of which will always swell proportionally with a band's success — have other ideas though.
Unconvinced by its pop-chart baiting radio hits, teen-friendly lyrics and clean-living lifestyles, detractors deride the band for being "manufactured", and "too attractive" to be the genuine thing — unlike, say, what Nirvana was to a generation before.
The more unkind lump Linkin Park together with Limp Bizkit as "rock music boy bands". Bennington scoffs at the idea.
"None of us got into this because we craved celebrity or even because we wanted the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll," he told British newspaper The Guardian. "We got into it because we love music and we love playing music with people that we like."
Linkin Park's second album, Reanimation (released in late 2001), was a remix of Hybrid Theory and featured collaborations with Korn vocalist Jonathan Davis and Orgy lead singer Jay Gordon.
Meteora followed early last year, proving that the band was no one-album wonder. First week sales hit the high six figures in the US alone and Meteora soon hit the top spot in 18 other countries.
It made Linkin Park one of the most popular rock bands on planet Earth.
Not a band known to rest on its laurels, Linkin Park is also known for its military operation-like world tours. The energy and tightness of its performances have secured legions of fans worldwide. Not surprisingly, live performances also remain the favourite part of the music-making process, the band says.
"Touring is cool. When we're on tour, the show is the best part of the day," said Shinoda. "So, we look forward to getting out there and giving people our best and sometimes gear what we're doing on stage to what's going on in the audience."
Fans here can get a taste of Linkin Park live tonight, when the band holds its first gig in Singapore, which is part of the band's five-city Asian tour. Tickets for the 8pm, one-night-only performance cost $85 and $150, through Sistic (Tel: 6348 5555).
"Ever since the beginning we've always tried to maintain a strong relationship with our fans," drummer Bourdon told a fan website recently. "It's our way of giving back. Our fans have helped us to realise a dream we didn't know was possible."
The concert, by the way, will be an open-air affair at the Padang — near Parliament and the Esplanade, and right in the shadow of City Hall.
Today - June 22, 2004