Chester Bennington unfortunately passed away on 7/20/17.
His death has had a very strange effect on me, personally. I’m not a fan, nor have I really been a fan of Linkin Park’s music. Hell, I can honestly tell you, had you asked me prior to 4 days ago, I’d really only be able to tell you that Linkin Park is a band that came out during the age of nu-metal and they did some stuff with Jay-Z at some point. Needless to say, I wasn’t all too familiar.
On the day he passed, I opened Facebook to a barrage of posts from heartbroken fans sharing their stories about how Chester and his music had touched their lives. Even being a music fan, I simply didn’t understand. “How could so many people find so much meaning in a band whose genre died years ago,” I asked myself as I scrolled through post after post. This was my first step down the rabbit-hole that was Linkin Park fandom.
From that point, I found myself scouring the internet; twitter, news articles, YouTube videos of live performances and interviews only offering more fuel for my curiosity. I found myself being drawn in by this man through these writings and videos. Chester dripped charisma. I found videos of him holding one of the longest screams I’ve ever seen in front of a live audience, Jay-Z’s flabbergasted face by the singers energy and voice, honest videos talking about his mental health and past, a heart-wrenching performance dedicated to his friend Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden fame), who passed away earlier this year. It’s becoming increasingly more obvious to me Chester was a man who demanded attention and received it without complaint from those watching.
In digging through articles and videos, I decided I’d revisit their breakout album “Hybrid Theory,” released a whole 17 years ago. The moment I hit play, a drum machine lightly taps away. “Papercut” plays like a lucid nervous breakdown; glitched vocals, lyrics speaking of insecurity and paranoia sung over very tight instrumentals. It’s not a particularly heavy song, but the lyrics themselves are almost crushing in comparison. From here, the weight of the content of this album only grows. This song flows seamlessly in to “One Step Closer.” Even I know this song, and I’m almost ignorant to their music. What I never realized about this song, though, is its meaning (at least, what I assume to be the meaning.) From what I take away from the lyrics of this song, it’s about the difficulty to communicate his personal feelings and be understood, and becoming completely overwhelmed with it, leaving him in a position of feeling alienated and alone.
“Runaway,” for me, is probably one of the more heartbreaking tracks, considering the circumstances. With a chorus that has Chester screaming “I wanna run away/and never say goodbye/I want to know the truth/instead of wondering why/I want to know the answers/no more lies/I wanna shut the door/and open up my mind,” only leaving me, as a listener, feeling like he was trying to grasp some form of understanding over why he had to struggle the way he did. The album’s closer “Pushing me away” is a rather somber closer when compared to what I’ve come to expect from a nu-metal band at the time. It’s at this point I realize Linkin Park isn’t just an ordinary nu-metal band, nor is Chester a standard vocalist. This is a band that expanded beyond the nu-metal genre and adapted to the revolving-door climate that is the music industry. They weren’t necessarily following what was “hip” at the time; they were writing honest music for fans just as lost as they were.
“Hybrid Theory” is a case study of isolation, insecurity, paranoia, and moving past whatever it is that’s weighing you down. It’s not difficult to understand why their fan base is so deeply hurt by his passing. For many, they lost a mouthpiece for what they were feeling at the time. Their personal struggles were now validated by the fact that someone much more well-known was struggling the same way they were. Maybe some even found inspiration in the fact that someone struggling in the same way they were was able to find recognition and adoration; something they, themselves, crave. I’m still not a converted fan, but I feel I’ve come to understand the weight of the loss of this musician a little more as I write this review, especially when I think back to how I felt on the days Johnny Cash, Joey Ramone, and David Bowie passed.
To Chester’s fans, friends, bandmates, and, most importantly, his family, I offer my deepest and sincerest condolences for your loss.
If you’re finding yourself in a place where you feel unsafe with yourself, please know you may not understand your influence on the world around you, but, I assure you, your place is just as important as any. There’s only one you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. If you don’t feel you have anyone you can trust, you can anonymously call The Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Put on some tunes, silence out the world and its nonsense, and remember this too shall pass.