Sample Music Research Paper on Linkin Park – Living Things (2012)

Introduction: A Biography of Linkin Park

            Linkin Park is one of America’s most popular contemporary rock bands. The band currently comprises of members Mike Shinoda, Brad Delson, Dave Farrell, Rob Bourdon, and Joseph Hahn. Linkin Park recently lost its front man, Chester Bennington, who died on July 20, 2017 (Garratt et al. 242). Since the release of its breakout album, Hybrid Theory (2002), the band has enjoyed unrivaled success across the United States and beyond. Linkin Park is popular for having facilitated the smooth transition of the rock music genre from metal and electronica of the 1990s to the more modern alternative. Nonetheless, Linkin Park’s music incorporates a wide range of influences, including hip hop and contemporary pop and EDM. It is important to note that each of the band’s seven studio albums explores a different style of music, making their sounds diverse and worthy of commanding a huge fan-base. This partly explains Linkin Park’s success as arguably the most popular rock music band of the twenty-first century. In fact, having sold 68 million records worldwide, the band currently ranks as the bestselling music group of the twenty-first century (Garratt et al. 242).

             Apart from the seven studio albums, all which have performed exceptionally well on local and international charts, the group has also released five live albums, two compilation albums, two remix albums, three soundtrack albums, as well as several extended plays, LPs, and singles (Garratt et al. 242). Cumulatively, Linkin Park has featured in up to 1500 songs (see attached discography). Out of 190 nominations, the band has secured 63 awards, including but not limited to: 5 American Music Awards, 2 Grammy Awards, 1 Billboard Music Award, 10 MTV Europe Music Awards, and 4 MTV Video Music Awards (Garratt et al. 242).

Section 1: Album Specifics – Living Things (2012)

            Linkin Park released their fifth studio album, Living Things, in 2012. The album stands out from the band’s earlier albums based on the fact that it incorporates most of the genres explored in the other albums. This album was extensively influenced by pop music, the genre that was wildly popular during this period in the timeline of music history. The influence of the pop genre is noticeable from the incorporation of Chester’s smooth vocals into mellow tunes, as maybe observed in the track Powerless. Similarly, it is also easy to recognize the influence of heavy metal on the album, apparent from the tracks Victimized and Lies Greed Misery. A touch of the electronic genre is also felt in the songs Lost in the Echo and In My Remains. As with several tracks in the 2008 album, Minutes to Midnight, which is heavily influenced by hip hop, the band incorporated Mike Shinoda’s rapping skills in various tracks, notably Until it Breaks, Burn it Down,and Lost in the Echo, making the hip hop influence on the album noteworthy. Although the album is influenced by a range of genres, it is primarily founded on hard rock, the signature genre of Linkin Park. Thus, all songs have a hard rock element, a factor that proves important in upholding the band’s identity.  

            Despite that the album is influenced by a wide range of genres, the songs are unified by a common theme. The songs are all based on a personal theme, with the artists exploring the different issues that people deal with at a personal level. For instance, the album’s last song, Powerless, talks about a soul who goes through a lot of trouble, having exposed its weakness to a friend who is guided by their selfish desires, ending up being powerless. Lost in the Echo, on the other hand, talks about broken promises, which leads the persona to let go off the person they confide in. Similarly, In My Remains talks about a broken heart. Unlike previous albums, particularly A Minute to Midnight, which explores a wide variety of themes, Living Things sticks to the common theme of personal matters, which also explains the name of the album. 

Section 2: Four Songs from the Album

            One of the songs in this album is Roads Untraveled. Not only does the song have powerful lyrics, in which the artists encourage the listener to let go off their dark pasts, the corresponding instrumentals enhance the song’s musical appeal. The song starts out with a mellow beat to accompany Mike Shinoda’s verse. Intensity of the beats is increased at the chorus, maintained through Chester Bennington’s second verse, and intensified again towards the end. The more one listens to Roads Untraveled, the more he discovers the uniqueness and depth of the song. Despite being only three minutes long, the song’s appealing nature makes it an ideal source of strength for someone struggling with the inability to let go off a difficult past.

             Victimized is an even shorter song that runs for just1 minute 38 seconds. Much different from Roads Untraveled, Victimized is a fast-paced track that explores the persona’s unwillingness to falter in the face of victimization. This message is appropriately delivered with hard rock elements, which makes the sound catchy while giving it the right amount of aggression. The record is also modified with electrifying heavy metal elements, evident at the song’s climax towards the end. These aspects sum up to make the song complete and essential to the theme of the album.

            Powerless is the other catchy and meaningful song from Linkin Park’s 2012 album. Powerless is also arguably the most popular song in the album. This song is the last on the list of songs in the album, but its popularity supersedes some of the other songs in the album for being the soundtrack for 2012 film, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  The song’s music video, which features scenes from the film, was directed by the movie’s director, Timur Bekmambetov. The song was also used in the film’s closing credits. Other than its association with the film, Powerless is noteworthy for the manner it combines evocative lyrics performed by Chester Benningthon with lock-step beats, as well as a catchy guitar performance by Brad Delson, one of the band’s members. Nonetheless, it is the song’s piano-based production that initially captures the listener’s attention. In line with the theme of the album, this song suggests that the persona willingly showed loyalty, only for his devotion to be reciprocated with betrayal.

            The fourth track chosen for this analysis is Castle of Glass. This song is remarkable for utilizing electronic elements, similar to those that dominate the band’s previous album, A Thousand Suns. In line with a review by Melinda Newman, the song’s instrumentals tend to borrow from country music, adding to the diversity of the album’s sound. Upon listening to this song, one understands that the band was indeed enthused to create an album with a wide range of influences. Considering that each of the band members is uniquely talented, so that every individual’s input contributes in increasing the diversity of their sounds, it is possible to understand why the band stated that Living Things was significant in creating a new identity for the band (Childers and Linkin Park 77). At the same time, listening to Castle of Glass captivates the listener to interpret the song’s message with a whole new understanding, considering that the song is produced with non-traditional electronic elements. On the one hand, the song talks about a broken soul, who has little worth in his society (only a crack in this castle of glass). On the other hand, the song is multi-leveled, containing diverse instrumentals and auto-tunes, so that it is unlikely for the listener to pay attention to the actual message communicated by the lyrics.  As such, the song succeeds at sustaining the album’s theme; while simultaneously adding to the unique sounds that add up to make this album a masterpiece by Linkin Park.

Section 3: My Listening Experience for Linkin Park’s Living Things

            I enjoyed listening to Linkin Park’s 2012 album. Being a Linkin Park fan who has had the chance to listen to most of their songs, I feel that Living Things represents the band’s progress, as well as their ability to evolve and adapt to the changing interests of their ever-increasing fan base. With Linkin Park having facilitated the transition of rock music from traditional genres like heavy metal to more modern styles like alternate rock, the group uses this album to provide listeners with an opportunity to experience diverse sounds of rock music, albeit with modern influences. I would recommend this album to every fan of rock music because it stays true to the foundational elements of hard rock music, in spite of the fact that Linkin Park has been under relentless pressure to shift to contemporary genres like EDM and pop music. In order to deal with the pressure, while staying true to their identity, as well as meeting the interest of their new-school listeners, the band ensured that the 2012 album borrowed the influence of multiple genres, including but not limited to EDM, pop, electronic, and country music. Considering that the album is inclusive of elements from other genres of music and that it has a personalized theme, I would also recommend it to lovers of music who have not had the chance to listen to rock music.

Conclusion

            Linkin Park has sustained its popularity as one of the most beloved rock bands of the twenty-first century by staying relevant. The band has achieved this by continually staying relevant through the years by releasing music that identifies with the interests of their ever-increasing fan base. The band has consistently ensured that their music evolves on a consistent basis. This is apparent from the content of Living Things, an album which borrows from the influence of multiple genres, while upholding the same personalized theme. While achieving these objectives, the album also succeeds at upholding the hard rock elements that proved useful in creating the band’s identity in the early 2000s. I would therefore recommend the album to all lovers of music who would like to delve into rock music.

Work Cited

Childers, Chad, and Linkin Park Get Full. “3.5. 10 Release history 3.5. 11             References.” Linkin Park (2009): 77.

Garratt, S., D. Muggleton, and R. Weinzierl. “Northern Soul.” Popular Music: The Key             Concepts (2017): 242.

Newman, Melinda. Album Review: Linkin Park’s ‘Living Things’ Breathes life into Band.             Uproxx. http://uproxx.com/hitfix/album-review-linkin-parks-living-things-breathes-            life-into-band/. Accessed on November 13, 2017.

Appendix

Figure 1: Linkin Park’s albums