I have noticed since the release of "Minutes to Midnight" and now with the release of "A Thousand Suns" only days away, that Linkin Park fans seem to be very polarized about the shift in the sound that the band has produced. I'm not really that much into social media or anything...(in fact this is the closest I've ventured to social networks since the advent of Hi5...) but I have a youtube.com account and the site no longer allows to to put the comments section out of view, so you can't help but see the comments persons make on whatever you are viewing. It is through this that I have noticed the polarization of the band's fan base. On the one hand, you have the diehard fans that support the band no matter what they choose to do, then you have those that are critical of the change in sound almost thematically saying that the band is "dead" because their music doesn't sound identical to the pre-MTM era. Now everyone has their right to their opinion, and all art forms are based almost exclusively on subjectivity...so sometimes it is hard to rationally explain why people like or dislike the music, or anime, calligraphy or the countless other art forms that they do, however, sometimes the comments I see seem to be quite unfair to the band. In fact, on a whole, I dislike when people expect any artist to stay in the same scope that they first encountered them in. So this post is about the issues involved in why musicians change their sound over time and how it is received both by professional critics and by their fans.
First of all, I have been involved in the arts all my life, I started off drawing cartoons, then moved toward drawing anime, then I started to get into music beginning with the drums, then singing, then the guitar, then the keyboard...then I started writing poetry and songs...I could go on and on. I was speaking to another artist friend of mine who mentioned to me that she heard somewhere that artists almost always are talented in other arts, and if they don't seem to be, it's just 'cause they have never tried. I start off this way to show that artists are people, and people grow - they evolve as time passes and with each new experience they face. Then it shows in their work. In fact, in my opinion, a person's art or music is like a snapshot of exactly who they are and what they are feeling at the exact moment that they start the creative process and their state until its completion. Even if the artist feels that they didn't quite achieve what they wanted to with that piece, it is still an expression of something they were feeling...artists look within themselves to create. Even if they cite another artist as inspiration, haven't you noticed their work NEVER looks or sounds or tastes or feels exactly like the work of their inspiration. That is simply because it can't. It may look or sound similar, but that's as far as it goes.
Fans should look at themselves before they say things about artists...especially if they themselves aren't involved in the arts themselves. How would you feel if you were expected to do something the same way the rest of your life? Or to like the same things? To be boxed into a stereotype without being looked at as dynamic? Without feelings? Thoughts? New ideas or outlooks on life? You'd be miserable right? Feeling less than human?
If your taste in music or TV shows or food changes over time, it would hurt if someone were to say you're not cool anymore because you're not mentally in the same place as you were ten years ago, wouldn't it? Well, that is the box that many artists are placed in, especially in the music business.
I have known the music of Linkin Park since their "Hybrid Theory" days. The 1st L.P. song I heard was "In the End" when I was 11 years old. In fact, it was Linkin Park, that got me into rock music. They were unique among bands at the time, and they continue to be today. "Hybrid Theory" and "Meteora" were released relatively close to each other and represented who the band was at that time. Then Mike released "The Rising Tied" with his Fort Minor outfit. Then there was a hiatus, even spurring on rumours that Linkin Park was gonna break up. Then the band released "Minutes to Midnight." It was an album full of firsts. The sound was very different, very new, more mature. "Hybrid Theory" and "Meteora" practically sound juvenile in comparison. This is where the polarization of the fans stared to occur however. Many complained that it was too soft, sometimes I'd come across comments to the tune of, "What's the matter Chester? Can't scream anymore?" Clearly they didn't listen to "Given Up" or "No More Sorrow." Then Chester worked on his side project "Dead By Sunrise." Now with the rock anthem with an electronica twist "The Catalyst" as the lead single for their latest effort, "A Thousand Suns" they have not only grown up, developed different interests and tastes in music, but have devoted themselves to creating something that has never been heard before, while still being reminiscent of who they are as a band. My question is, what is wrong with that? They have grown, and clearly Rick Rubin has played a more mentor type role than taking over their creative process...this is their honest work, that they have put about 2 years of work into. They seem to be elated by what they have produced, and no one has the right to say what Linkin Park should sound like but Linkin Park. I think the problem many fans have is that they have "boxed" Linkin Park into a genre or an era. Just because Linkin Park sounded a particular way in 2000, it doesn't mean they should sound the same way a decade later. In fact, anyone who would expect that in truth would have unrealistic expectations. I am not saying that the fans who prefer the pre-MTM sound are bad people or anything like that. I can understand the desire for them to want new incarnations of the older style, but it is clear that the band doesn't feel that they are in the place to create that sound anymore so, if they are real fans not just of the band, and not just of rock music, they would support their effort to create something different. It is Linkin Park's artistic right to do so. If, however they are streamlined to a particular era or sound or genre, then maybe they may not remain fans of the band anymore or just remain fans of their older work. Of course, artists always take a risk in creating new work, and always risk alienating older fans of their work if they change their style, but they always stand firm in the prospect of developing new fans. I think even if an older fan doesn't like the new work of the band, they should respect them for daring to do something different. A lot of artists are out there just to make money. They just give the people what they want without having any identity, any sort of backbone. For some music fans, I guess that's okay. But REAL music fans that enjoy not just one genre, but MUSIC as a WHOLE, love when people at least try to create something new, even if they may lose out on the older fans. That shows they are artists, not simply money grabbers. Not to say that they don't need to earn money, and maintain a fan base, but they actually are trying to create quality work and aren't afraid to try new things. The band could have easily just created another "Hybrid Theory" or "Meteora" but then, as mentioned earlier, they'd be miserable deep down.
Sometimes, record companies do try to override the creative freedom of their artists to keep them profitable. Many artists have been subject to fights with their record labels over their creative control of the work they produce. Kelly Clarkson and Fefe Dobson are two examples I can think of right off the bat. Even though Kelly's "My December" wasn't the commercial success that 2004's "Breakaway" was, it was artistically who she was at the time, and I listened to it, and I thought it was great, maybe even deeper and more interesting that "Breakaway." I respected her for the fight she put up to get the songs she wrote or co-wrote onto the album, even though it didn't work out too well with the planned tour being canceled. Eventually another incarnation of the tour came about, and a new album that, while not as successful as "Breakaway" did much better than "My December" and still saw her writing making it to the album. I have also seen comments stirring up conspiracy theories that L.P. is being forced to change their style by their label or by Rick Rubin which is just ludicrous. Again...people are always free to say what they want...and no one is above criticism, and we do know that stuff like this does happen, but just by watching videos on youtube.com and seeing the band express themselves, or on the stuff they post on their website, you can see that their new sound is all them. Rick just guides them and shares his expertise. It seems almost petty to say something of this nature, just because the sound is decidedly different.
All in all, I am a fan of all of the band's music since I 1st heard them 10 years ago, right up to what I've heard so far from ATS. I eagerly anticipate the album, which to me seems as though it will be monumentally epic, and whether or not it wins any Grammys, or Moonmen or whatever, I'm pretty sure they will deliver what they always have, great and interesting music.
This video shows Mike and Phoenix answering a fan who asked about the shift in sound of the band. This is their response in their own words.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUV0ItzzjAs