When the news of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington’s death became public, a generation was shaken. The generation who grew up listening to the near-perfect vocals of LP’s frontman. It was personal, the news. As much as Chester’s songs have been.
The singer had committed suicide on July 20, 2017, leaving his fans and loved ones reeling with shock (he was 41 years old). Chester’s contribution to music has been considerable. The lead singer of the nu-metal band established himself as the voice of the youth as he sang his way into their hearts with his smooth as silk voice. Linkin Park’s debut album Hybrid Theory was one of the best-selling albums of all times, reaching the sweet spot of number two on Billboards.
Th opening track of the Hybrid Theory, Papercut, was reportedly one of the favourite tracks of the singing sensation. In an interview to ShortList, Chester had said, “I’ve always loved Papercut, as that song captures exactly what our band is about”. And it’s not hard to see why. The powerful lyrics of the track, which speak of facing personal demons, and an almost upbeat music make for an interesting clash. Take, for instance, the following stanza:
Why does it feel like night today?
Something in here’s not right today.
Why am I so uptight today?
Paranoia’s all I got left
I don’t know what stressed me first
Or how the pressure was fed
But I know just what it feels like
To have a voice in the back of my head
Two singles of the album that quickly became fan favourites were Crawling and In the End. In the End spells futility and the inevitableness of life. The lyrics are about personal battles, they speak of inner strife, more than anything else. Crawling, on the hand, is about insecurity, discomfort and hurt. Early on, the band showed the promise to connect with those who were going through the same struggles the musicians wrote of.
Linkin Park’s second album, Meteora, also created quite the noise. With singles like Somewhere I Belong, Breaking the Habit, and of course, Numb, Chester’s voice was becoming recognisable. The delicious irony was that while the songs continued to speak of angst and self-doubt, Chester’s voice grew confident. The singer’s voice had an elastic quality, from unruffled to raspy, he could do it all. And this is also one of the reasons why his singing is categorised as metal, rock, and pop.
Chester’s vocals in Bleed it Out croaks, gravels, and breaks, but it placates, calms you down in the acoustic version of Crawling. The band’s last album before Chester’s death, One More Light, explored the electronic pop genre. The songs were happier, at least in its music, if not in its words. Talking to Myself is almost breezy and whimsical in its tone, but one look at the lyrics, and you know the track is not what you’re thinking it’s about.
The single One More Light is an almost hopeful song. When Chester croons, “Who cares if one more light goes out? Well, I do”, your heart does a double-take, as you weren’t really expecting an answer to the question. It’s a sweet surprise, and it’s also something that doesn’t happen often in LP songs.
Chester had a difficult childhood and was reportedly sexually assaulted as a seven-year-old by an older male friend. After keeping his silence on the subject for years to follow, he took to substance abuse. The situation at home was also not stable, as the singer had given interviews about how abandoned he felt after his parents divorced and his father was given his custody. Owing to long work hours as a police detective, Chester was unable to spend quality time with his father.
Looking back at everything, it’s safe to assume that art is personal, at least it was so in Chester’s case, and the music world will forever be indebted to the man for his gift.