Sacred Cows make the best hamburger
First and foremost, I’m not saying I condone the terrible things people are saying about Chester Bennington recently. And I shouldn’t have to defend those things – the only people answerable to those things are the people who say them.
I’m not excusing what’s been said, but I would like to offer an explanation as to why I think people reacted the distasteful way they did (and continue to do).
I’m also not writing this to pay any sort of tribute to the late singer. If you want to do that, the band has set up a webpage for fans to do just that.
The following is my opinion (albeit an opinion backed by 20 plus years as a metalhead), so you can take it or leave it. But I think by asking certain questions we can provide some context (and clarity) to the situation as a whole.
What Was Linkin Park’s relationship with the metal community?
I’m not particularly fond of double speak, especially when it’s as opportunistic as this. When it comes to metal, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You’re either a metal band or you’re not. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in any of these sentiments.
As far as Nu-Metal goes, whether you consider it “real” metal or not is purely subjective – but the vast majority of metalheads (at least begrudgingly) admit that it has a place in the metal family tree alongside grunge, hair metal, metalcore, and all the other “mainstream” genres.
I’m not going to go into that here, but if you’re really interested in learning about this dichotomy please read my previous article entitled The Two Faces of Metal (ironically, written partially in response to Bennington’s claim that his band kept metal alive).
Long story short, there is also a pretty large number of metal fans who do not consider any of the mainstream genres metal in any way, shape, or form. Which is fine, and technically accurate. People are entitled to their opinions.
When discussing Linkin Park though, it’s kind of important to note that they’ve been a whipping post for the metal community for almost 2 decades. Dislike bordering on hatred would be a mild understatement. Metal news sites were in on it. Fuck, even his friends/fellow tour-mates were in on it.
David Draiman of Disturbed even mentioned it in a remembrance post (below). Guess what – Chester was in on it too, because that’s what metalheads fucking do. They jokingly talk shit.
Then, when their new album dropped, Chester told his own fans to grow the fuck up and move on when they expressed dislike of the new album.
I’m sure they loved that.
He also claimed that they hadn’t done anything to streamline or go “mainstream”, or follow any industry formulas with their music. Specifically, I believe he said, “But if you’re gonna be the person who says like ‘they made a marketing decision to make this kind of record to make money’ you can fucking meet me outside and I will punch you in your fucking mouth because that is the wrong fucking answer.“.
He continued, rather eloquently, with this, “When you make it personal, like a personal attack against who we are as people, like dude shut up. That means that I can actually have feelings about it and most of the time my feelings are I want to kill you.”
Really? You’re telling me the Millennial Whoop at the beginning of the chorus was completely the band’s doing, and had zero influence from the pop-machine? And that, as a person who is potentially going to buy the music, I can’t decide for myself whether the band fell under the influence of the music industry?
Let’s look at what people were talking about when they said the things Chester was responding to…
Here’s a short video explaining the Millennial Whoop
For reference, the first chorus starts at 29 seconds into the video.
The musical interval itself certainly isn’t a product of the music industry, it’s been around for a long fucking time. In fact, I think Fur Elise has the same interval.
But the pattern in popular music to use the interval to give a sense of identity and familiarity to new music is certainly something that the music industry has taken note of and exploited.
And there is no fucking way in hell that Linkin Park just happened to throw that in there randomly. Especially when the song featured guest vocals from millennial artist Kiira – there’s no such thing as coincidence.
I’m not judging here, but I am saying that when you very publicly give a large “Fuck You” to your fanbase while making a very obvious attempt to broaden your fanbase by dipping directly into pop-music territory (using pop music formulas) – there might be a little backlash.
There was, and I think Bennington took it all to heart. Just my opinion, but if I were in his position it’d be hard not to.
What Was the Media’s Role in all This?
The metal media is a two-fold operation in this article – I’m talking about the recording industry (including booking agents, producers, etc) and hard rock/metal oriented news outlets.
As far as the recording industry end of things – What the fuck were they thinking booking Linkin Park to play Hellfest?
I mean, I know Billy Idol has played it. But let’s take a look at the audience demographic here. You’ve got a huge French Festival that features bands from every goddamn genre of metal imaginable with ONE thing in common (well two if you count a love of metal) – disdain for the pop machine.
Most of the people there probably don’t like Linkin Park (see above), and the people who do but dislike the band’s new material have recently been slammed in the media by Bennington.
And that’s how you get things thrown at you, boo’s, and middle fingers through the entire song.
(actually, it’s at 18 seconds in this version – I included it because I think during tragedy people tend to lose context. in this case the context of just how much the new album was disliked)
Couldn’t have said it better myself. These people took time off from work, and spent good money to listen to metal music at a metal festival – and the guy decides to double down on their dumpster-fire PR strategy and play a pop song.
To put it in perspective – if I went to a burger joint, paid for a burger, was expecting a burger, and then I (along with everyone else in the place) was served a bowl of soup – I’d be fucking pissed. I’d probably throw things at the server. Because consumers have a right to get what they paid for.
And as much as metal is a community and a culture – it’s in large part consumer based. Service providers don’t have the luxury of telling you what you want to buy, it’s the other way around. That’s just how things work.
I’m not thrilled that it happened – but what the fuck did these guys expect? Just because American music festivals are going to shit with “diversification” doesn’t mean they are in Europe.
I’ve been bitching for a long time about the slow and steady streamlining process metal festivals have been going through in the name of capitalism and revenue (working on another piece at the moment, in fact). A large part of my problem is the fan demographics.
Perfect example – GWAR is taking shit for saying, “Suicide is no joke, but Linkin Park sure is!”. Now, if they were playing any fucking metal festival (or one off show, or tour) – nobody would have a problem with it. Par for course. If you’ve been to enough metal shows (especially GWAR shows) you’ll know that there’s no such thing as a sacred cow to them. It’s never too soon to joke about things, and that’s what people fucking love about them.
Throw them on the Warped Tour, and all of a sudden you’ve got thousands of butthurt indie rock fans who can’t handle a transgressive joke. Many of these same people, the day before, would have laughed at any joke at Linkin Park’s expense.
If metal was a club, club dues would constitute not being offended by anything. When I talk about the difference between metalheads and metal fans (or rock fans, or indie fans), this is what I’m talking about.
As far as the metal media is concerned – google “Linkin Park Suicide” and see for yourself – these guys have been prostituting Chester Bennington’s corpse for cash since before the body went cold. I know there’s a demand for it and all, I have nothing against that. I do have a problem with a single site posting 9 articles in 3 days about the subject.
I guess bad taste is subjective, and a lot of fans would rather see people in various positions in the music industry make money off of the singer’s death – but I personally consider it to be in much worse taste than the occasional off-color joke.
Fuck me though, right?
Does getting offended on the internet, blogging/posting/tweeting about suicide awareness, pretending to like a person or a band, etc. accomplish anything (other than making the person who did it feel good about themselves)?
Having worked in the mental health field for a time myself, I can conclusively say that mentally ill people need more from you than tweeting out the suicide hotline every time a famous person kills themselves.
Last I checked, actually helping someone get through a mental health issue requires a little more effort.
Talking someone down when they’re having suicidal ideations, telling them to run a sink-full of ice water and to plunge their hands and arms into it to alleviate the desire to cut themselves – that’s real help.
Being a keyboard warrior who gets offended on the behalf of others and posts mental health awareness links isn’t.
Fuck me though, right?
Who does his death really effect, and what did fans really lose?
(note – I actually stole this next part from the comments section of a metal news website, it pretty much sums up my opinions)
Let’s not be hypocrites: the death of this person may be a tremendous tragedy for those close to him . And it will certainly have negative consequences for those who were in a professional or other kind of ‘formal’ relationship with them.
But it does not affect the lives of the vast majority of people reading or writing on this blog. So instead of adopting a sanctimonious “holier than thou” attitude and urge each other to pretend, we might as well leave the mourning to those who are actually sad and have good reason to.
You still have Linkin Park’s entire discography. All those songs that helped people get through dark times and blah blah blah are still fucking there. Hybrid Theory, Meteora, etc – they’re not going anywhere.
Anyone who said the new Linkin Park was helping them get through difficult shit in life should have no problem picking up literally any song with a millennial whoop and getting the exact same effect out of it. And it’s not like the band was even remotely hinting that they were going back to the old sound – exactly the opposite. As outlined above, Chester himself was very vocal about the band’s new direction.
So really, the only thing fans have lost is the chance to see Chester Live. Real talk.
It it OK to be mad about this?
Of fucking course it is. Just don’t forget who took whatever it is Linkin Park means to you away.
On the bright side, Linkin Park album sales are up 2,100% (yes, two thousand and one hundred percent).