May 18, 2007

Shortcuts—Linkin Park's Minutes to Midnight

Before the turn of the century, rock and hip-hop occupied opposite sides of the train tracks. Both genres established their own faithful communities, rarely allowing their loyal citizens to even peer into their estranged neighbors’ yards. Even though curiosity may have killed the cat, in a hybrid emerged of members of both communities, led by a group called Linkin Park.

Embracing the unyielding nature of guitars-and-bass rock and the confidence and brusqueness of hip-hop, specifically rap, Linkin Park made their debut with singles “Crawling” and “In the End,” demonstrating the ease with which Mike Shinoda laced his lyrical raps with lead singer Chester Bennington’s officious vocals. Even the legendary Jay-Z acknowledged their talent, working with them on Collision Course, a mash-up of classic songs from both parties. However, on Linkin Park’s third studio release, Minutes to Midnight, they abandon the sound that made them famous and take up permanent residence on the rock side of the train tracks.

From the first full track, “Given Up,” few remnants are left of the Linkin Park with which we are familiar. Aside from Bennington screaming through the chorus, one would not even know this was a track by Linkin Park, whereas previously their trademark sound was indisputably obvious. “Leave Out All the Rest” and “No More Sorrow” similarly lack any form of a hip-hop and rock fusion and achieve nothing more than a bland attempt at rock.

In fact, the album is an empty shell that has no more to offer than the average emo album. Lyrics such as “And the clouds above move closer” and “The sun will set for you” in “Valentine’s Day” and “Shadow of the Day,” respectively, are pathetic in the eyes of Linkin Park fans, but could have been forgiven if the music supporting them bore any substance.

The only worthwhile tracks are the lead single “What I’ve Done,” an eerie Halloween reenactment in song featuring Bennington’s ability to sustain a note, and “Bleed It Out.” The latter is by far one of the band’s best tracks in their musical history, showcasing Shinoda’s lyrical prowess and Bennington’s forceful vocals backed by dazzling guitars.

That said, Minutes to Midnight is not a complete failure—if nothing else, its shortcomings demonstrate explicitly that while Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory was a factual success, they probably shouldn’t indulge any further in the Emo Theory that dilutes commercial music today.