Linkin Park’s Use Of AI Tarnishes Its Own Legacy

Linkin Park has a new song! I should be thrilled about this as the band delves into its back catalogue to unearth previously recorded tracks that have never seen the light of day before. Meteora, the 2003 album that features nu-metal classics like Numb, Faint, From the Inside, Breaking the Habit, and Somewhere I Belong is receiving a revamped release to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and with it the reveal of an ancient demo once lost to time. Fitting, given that's precisely where the track finds its name.

It also comes accompanied by a music video, one that makes use of artificial intelligence and Web3 technology when piecing together its visuals, storytelling, and overall vision. It not only looks mediocre and falls woefully short of the classics that came before it, but fails to respect the legacy of late lead singer Chester Bennington it is quite clearly aiming to cement. Years after his passing, he deserves so much better.

Linkin Park is one of the most influential artists of my generation. Like millions of others, I grew up listening to Hybrid Theory, indulging in the angsty lyrics and rebellious tonal discordance that similar artists like Deftones and Slipknot also traded in at the time. Social media was in its infancy, while a society drowned in fear and paranoia made a band like this perfect for youthful outcasts looking for a place to find their feet. They were global superstars, yet also intimately connected with their audience in ways that mattered.

At least, that was the case for the first three albums. From Minutes to Midnight onwards the band opted for genre experimentation and mainstream appeal that saw its underground origins sanded down to nothing. I applaud a group of this calibre for trying new things when settling for the same style would have guaranteed success, yet it also made their hollow commercialization so clear, and how the importance of releasing a new album for the sake of it far outweighed artistic intent, and this shift was achingly obvious as Linkin Park became a cynical punchline.

Chester Bennington’s tragic passing in 2017 saw the band receive a greater appreciation for everything they’d achieved, and how the demons its lead singer sought to represent in each song eventually became his undoing. Celebrity deaths seldom knock me on my ass, but this one hurt, like a core part of my teenage years was torn away without warning. Clear signs of his suffering began to surface in the weeks that followed, but by then it was too late to reach out a helping hand. To me, and the world, Linkin Park came to an end.

The upcoming Meteora anniversary and its title track ‘Lost’ brings them back into the limelight. It’s a great song, and you can tell it was created in the same creative vacuum as the rest of the album thanks to its melancholic chorus and heartfelt lyrical message of failing to find oneself. To hear Chester’s voice on fresh work again is a rare delight, yet it’s been packaged in a way that sullies his memory for the worse.

Linkin Park is down with the kids, and by that I mean founding member Mike Shinoda has frequently expressed his interest in the blockchain, NFTs, and similar crypto bro spiel that’s become normalised in recent years. There isn’t a giant leap between this rhetoric and the rising use of artificial intelligence to steal away the livelihoods of artists and writers who do everything they can to make a living in these industries. We must sadly find a way to exist alongside technologies as they grow more commonplace, although the music video for Lost is a crass, underbaked example of how something like this can go terribly wrong.

Lost is clearly intended as a spiritual successor to Breaking the Habit, a music video iconic for its anime-esque visuals and beautifully dark tone. Produced by animation house Studio Gonzo and supervised by Kazuto Nakazawa (Kill Bill, Samurai Champloo), it became one of Linkin Park’s defining visual motifs and a classic in its own right, so deciding to build on it all these years later as a tribute to Bennington’s memory is rather fitting. Or it should have been. The finished product is an inconsistent mess of awkward proportions, false depictions of the band, and a narrative that struggles in piecing together a vision worth caring about.

It has every hallmark of AI shortcomings as it continually fails to mimic the creative spark only a human is capable of, only to produce a dire facsimile that Linkin Park should, quite bluntly, be ashamed of. This could have been a tribute that involved fans and their love for Bennington, but instead is used to push Web3 and the blockchain throughout a video that hashes together limp likenesses and an ugly mess of images that don’t respect the work of Bennington so much as walk all over it. The production companies involved don’t shy away from their intentions and the malicious consequences of this technology, and I know Linkin Park went out of its way to commission them. Aside from the song itself, which was pulled out of a vault anyway, everything here represents a cynical future we need to avoid.

Fans have spent years mourning the loss of Chester Bennington, and a forgotten piece of work being revived should be a cause for celebration, but the music video representing this song is so diametrically opposed to everything he once stood for. As a creator I will always be wary of AI’s presence and the role it plays in art moving forward, and Linkin Park toying with it so liberally under the guise of honouring such a legend has me thinking the past was best left buried.

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