Nothing I say in this review will matter to any of Linkin Park‘s diehard fans, they have managed to keep the band going through cultural and musical changes, and good for them. But this is my review, and you’re welcome to complain. I was once a Linkin Park fan, I loved their first two albums and really got into “One Step Closer” and “In The End”. Second album was really good too, bought the deluxe edition. Then their music started to sound more, in my opinion, more pop accessible. Those pop elements were always there, you can hear it throughout those first two albums, but it just seemed to be the general focus. I was and remain a huge Mike Shinoda fan, love Fort Minor and what he was able to do with that. But this is far from being Fort Minor.
Living Things (Warner Bros.) shines differently from their recent efforts, and a big reason for that is Rick Rubin, who produced this album alongside Shinoda. In fact, the reason there’s any level of Shinoda rapping in some of these tracks is because of Rubin, who probably said “yeah, I love what you guys do, but Shinoda can’t be just mere eye candy for girls who love hapa guys”. I think the two work together, so what you have on this album is a nice blend of the pop-friendly metal that fans have come to love, accenting everything that has made Chester Bennington a stand-out vocalist. Let’s face it, if he was into R&B, he would be a variation of Justin Timberlake. Here, he can rock it out and keep it going because he has that strength. I’ll be honest, Bennington’s voice can occasionally get on my nerves because on the pop-side, he could easily be doing music with Justin Bieber as well. Songwise, all of the tracks hold up and I think it may show not only the growth in the band, but also knowing what their fans want too. This is about growth and strength in a world that sometimes feels like it lacks the need for both. While not quite being their equivalent of Metallica‘s self titled album (the Black one), it comes close to that level of maturity, as if they were doing this just in case they decided to call it a day. in other words, if this was the last, they could leave this behind feeling good about themselves.
For me, what makes these songs great is when Shinoda drops rhymes on the mic. It is what has always made Linkin Park a damn good band when they can be, and in tracks like “Until It Breaks”, he shows why he is not to be messed with, all while giving a slight nod to Biggie Smalls while he’s at it:
“here’s something for you people on the block to black out and rock ta
give me what you need, like Poppa, who shot ya
separate the weak from the obsolete
You meek? I creep hard on imposters
I switch styles on a dime, quick witted
Y’all quit trippin’, I don’t have time for your cryin’
I grind tough, sucka make your mind up
Are you in the firing squad or are you in the line up?
Bang bang, little monkey man playing
With the big guns only get you slayed, I ain’t playing
I’m just saying you ain’t gotta sliver of a chance
I get iller, I deliver while you quiver in your pants
So shake shake down, money here’s the break down
You can play the bank, I’mma play the bank take down
And no mistakes now I’m coming to getcha
I’m a Banksy, you’re a brainwash, get the picture?
It’s like that”
Now, based on that alone, if they wanted to create a remix project for this entire album where they brought in a number of rappers to compliment Shinoda, I’d welcome it. Hell, I’d love it, get me to assist in being an executive producer for it.
My high praise for what Shinoda should not take away anything from Mr. Bennington, because what he sings is the lure that keep pop and pop-metal fans listening. For hip-hop fans who aren’t afraid to rock out, Living Things is quite good and I think fits in as something that could easily compliment the band’s first two albums. The production is superb, and while Rubin definitely doesn’t need an apprentice, if this leads to more outside productions between Rubin and Shinoda, I’m all for it.