By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebel
This one will be rough.
Today, we’re looking at the song One More Light by Linkin Park. You probably know this band for the nu-metal style of music they became famous for – heavy guitars with rapping, scream-singing, keyboards, and turntables – or the tragedy that befell them in 2017.
Despite the criticism the One More Light album received for containing less hard rock and more pop-centric songs, Linkin Park’s music has always crossed genres. Take for example this song they wrote for their first album.
Hybrid Theory, the name of their first album, is what the band called themselves before they settled on Linkin Park. It’s a reference to merging different music genres to create a “hybrid”. The band has never stuck with any one style of music, although their first two albums Hybrid Theory (2000) and Meteora (2003) were similar in style and sound.
With their next album Minutes to Midnight, released in 2008, they decided to change things up in a bigger and much more noticeable way. In this album, they experimented with a less restrained form of hard rock as well as an acoustic and driving soft–rock sound in place of the heavy distorted guitar. Their lyrics also included social commentary. Although the album was a lot different from their first two, this experimentation is in line with how they’d always intended to make music.
Their effort to make genre-bending music continued up to their latest album, One More Light, released in 2017. After Minutes to Midnight, the band released A Thousand Suns in 2010 (a concept album that in my opinion is their best), Living Things in 2012 (an album that, in sound and style, was like a sequel to the previous), The Hunting Party in 2014 (a heavy album in which they exchanged soft rock and techno for a harder sound with driving guitar and a lot more screaming), and their most recent album, the title track from which we’ll discuss here: One More Light.
One More Light is much different in style from the previous album; The Hunting Party features hard rock whereas One More Light is more of a pop album. It’s worth a listen regardless of your musical preference, as the songs are very well done and the band uses them to address many meaningful, personal issues.
The title track to One More Light is a mournful song reflecting on what a person feels when dealing with the loss of someone close to them. It addresses how the living wish they could’ve helped the deceased, how grief hits you in small yet devastating ways at unexpected times, and how every life is valuable no matter how insignificant it may seem.
The term “all lives matter” doesn’t do justice to what the guys in Linkin Park express in this song. My interpretation of it is that by highlighting how important every life is, they are mourning the dead while celebrating the living. The music is soft with an appropriately gloomy sound that expresses the band’s grief and contemplation on death and life.
The subject matter is obviously sad, and it was inspired by the group’s experiences with losing people close to them.
Before we discuss the lyrics, check out the song.
(Note: Due to copyright issues, you have to go to YouTube to watch the videos in this article.)
Now, we’ll discuss this song’s lyrics and overall message. The lyrics are in the video above, but you can also find them here.
The first half of this song’s first verse seems to reference the feelings one might have after a friend or relative takes their life. The second half suggests a sense of closeness with someone who’s passed away, with the end being a sad, contemplative reminder that human life is temporary (“there are things that we can have, but can’t keep”). Some people won’t always be in our life, and while their loss will hurt, it’s one of many reasons we should value the time we have with them.
The song continues into the chorus, with lyrics that express reverence for life and sadness at death. The point of the chorus (and the song itself) seems to be that all life is valuable. On a planet teeming with living entities, we should forget nobody and leave nobody behind. We should care about every living thing no matter how seemingly insignificant it is. A life might be insignificant to you, but it means everything to the one living it.
The second verse will hit close to home for anyone who’s been through a tremendous loss. It touches on the fact that when dealing with loss, grief is continuous. It comes in many forms at many different times and strikes when you’re the most vulnerable. Mike Shinoda – who raps, composes, plays guitar, keyboards, and does vocals for Linkin Park – would later touch on this in his solo music.
Simple reminders can be torturous, and as the lyrics state, you have every reason to be upset.
My interpretation of the last line (“just ‘cuz you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there”) is that grief and depression can be present regardless of how happy a person seems; especially when dealing with loss. You never know what someone is going through. We all wear a mask, and the happiest faces often hide the greatest pain.
Chester Bennington’s Death
The world learned this when Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, died by suicide on July 20, 2017. This was just two months after the band released the One More Light album. Despite the sad tone that pervades so much of Linkin Park’s music, close friends and family say Chester was upbeat and hard-working. But in his personal life, he fought a harsh battle with addiction and depression.
Four days after Chester passed, his bandmates released a statement via social media:
Our hearts are broken. The shockwaves of grief and denial are still sweeping through our family as we come to grips with what has happened.
You touched so many lives, maybe even more than you realized. In the past few days, we’ve seen an outpouring of love and support, both public and private, from around the world. Talinda [Chester’s wife] and the family appreciate it, and want the world to know that you were the best husband, son, and father; the family will never be whole without you.
Talking with you about the years ahead together, your excitement was infectious. Your absence leaves a void that can never be filled—a boisterous, funny, ambitious, creative, kind, generous voice in the room is missing. We’re trying to remind ourselves that the demons who took you away from us were always part of the deal. After all, it was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place. You fearlessly put them on display, and in doing so, brought us together and taught us to be more human. You had the biggest heart, and managed to wear it on your sleeve.
Our love for making and performing music is inextinguishable. While we don’t know what path our future may take, we know that each of our lives was made better by you. Thank you for that gift. We love you, and miss you so much.
Until we see you again,
Chester Bennington’s struggles inspired the lyrics in many of the band’s songs. The song Crawling, for example, deals with addiction and an inability to escape. The One More Light album was different; not in the sense that it didn’t express sadness, but that it expressed the desire to see the light when you could instead give in and let the darkness take you. This is a message the band had been building over time with each album, with the songs Iridescent and The Messenger being testaments to this.
The theme that runs through most of the songs on One More Light is that in the darkest of times, there is hope and the possibility of redemption.
Chris Cornell’s Death Two Months Prior
Tragically, just as the One More Light album was set to debut in May 2017, a huge loss rocked the music community. On May 18, 2017, legendary rocker Chris Cornell died by suicide. Most of us wouldn’t know it until Chester passed two months later, but he and Chris were close friends, having toured and played shows together. Chester was even the godfather of one of Cornell’s children.
After hearing about Chris Cornell’s death, Linkin Park dedicated the first song of a televised live set to him, playing One More Light instead of Heavy as was planned. Mike Shinoda later noted that when rehearsing and playing the song live that day, Chester struggled to get through it. You can watch the emotional performance on YouTube:
Chester passed away on July 20th, the day that would’ve been Chris Cornell’s birthday.
In the aftermath of Chester’s passing, his bandmates noticed that fans were using the song One More Light, which they’d written to show solidarity with those experiencing loss, to pay tribute and comfort them in their time of mourning. As a result, a couple months after Chester’s death, Linkin Park released a music video for One More Light dedicated to him.
Teaming up with other well-known bands and artists, Linkin Park put on a show at the Hollywood Bowl for their fallen bandmate in October 2017. The concert was called “Linkin Park and Friends Celebrate Life in Honor of Chester Bennington”.
During the show, Mike Shinoda debuted a song he wrote for his bandmate. Looking For An Answer, which deserves an article of its own, centers on similar themes as One More Light. But this song is specifically about Chester.
Additionally, Mike Shinoda released three songs of his own in January 2018. In these songs, known together as the Post-Traumatic E.P., Mike touches on the anger, sadness, confusion, and loss he’s felt since his friend’s death, as well as the hurdles he had to overcome putting together the tribute concert while dealing with grief that hits you out of nowhere (as One More Light explored). He also expresses the feeling of not knowing what to do and the fear that his work could be over.
Check out the videos for the three songs on YouTube.
I was one of the many Linkin Park fans hit hard by Chester’s death. Sadly, I had not heard any songs on One More Light (except Heavy) until after I’d heard the news. When I did listen to the album, I found a collection of songs that, while not rock, contained the same energy and passion but with a twist: the band was touching on more personal issues than before.
Linkin Park songs have always been known for lyrics that exemplify a struggle for happiness that often feels hopeless. But with the One More Light album, the band explored new territory by addressing specific personal struggles in the fight to see the light. As they put it, for this album, they “let the lyrics come first” and built the music around the central message the lyrics contained.
It’s tragic that Chester Bennington left us so soon, and especially so soon after the band released this album, because it’s one of his greatest accomplishments.
We miss you, Chester. Rest in Power.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/