Thursday, September 30, 2010

Haters & Believers: A Thousand Suns Release

"Hey guys. I’ve been getting some questions about my thoughts about the album release, so I thought that I’d try to answer them here.

To start, a quick review: about a year and a half ago, we made a conscious decision to take our music in a new direction. We predicted the album’s release would be incendiary; the new direction would be welcomed by some, and fervently resisted by others. Looking back, I wanted to address both factions.

Let’s get the simple part out of the way. To the fans who like the new album: thanks for your support. There are some of you that have been with us for a long time, and are thrilled about the new sound. There are others who weren’t sure of the new album at first, but have given it a chance, and are now reaping its rewards. And there are others who have never been fans of Linkin Park, but are interested in the band for the first time with A Thousand Suns. We’re happy to have all of you on board, and we appreciate your support.

A friend of mine told me a story from his childhood: when he was a little kid, his dad, who never had any facial hair, left for a trip and came home with a beard. His son took one look at him and ran away, demanding, “what happened to my real dad?”
So let’s talk about “haters.”

Not surprisingly, the sound of the new album (and the absence of heavy guitars and Chester’s screaming vocals) seemed to upset some folks. As I write this, the most popular iTunes (US) review of A Thousand Suns is by Janxrod, who gives the album one star and asks “What happened to the real Linkin Park?”

A knee-jerk reaction might be to assume that people who dislike ATS simply love heavy metal and hate alternative / electronic music. I don’t need to tell you that the internet is a sad breeding ground for filthy-mouthed negativity. But, in their defense, many of the “one-star reviewers” are not brainless cynics who talk shit because they’re bored. They’re real fans who were expecting to walk into a movie theatre to see “A Clockwork Orange,” and they got “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I don’t like the idea that all these folks are all lumped together as “haters.”

I’m a curious guy, so I did some research about Janxrod. Although 8/10 of his favorite albums include heavier stuff like Disturbed, Shinedown, and Dethklok…he also likes Daft Punk. He’s not opposed to electronic music. So what bothers Janxrod so much about A Thousand Suns?

One reason is that, according to his page, “They write songs about how pissed off they are at their old fans, telling them to go f*** themselves. That’s not mature, that’s just disrespectful.”

Know what? I agree. That’s a bad message. The problem is: it’s not really our message.

The other guys and I have said many things in the past, not all of it thoughtful or respectful (sorry, we’re human too). But under it all, here’s where we’re really at: If you don’t like this album right now, that’s your choice and it’s truly OK with us. But we stand behind the work we put into it, and we think it’ll be a rewarding listen if you decide to give it a chance. Our door is open.

Lastly, I need to address a comment I occasionally see (and have seen every time we put an album out)–that the band has “sold out.” As far as I know, “selling out” means compromising the integrity of your band/music in exchange for money or popularity. Since inception, A Thousand Suns was designed to go against the grain, built with an understanding that it would likely polarize and challenge the fan base at first. This is the opposite of a “sell out” album; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Do the math: if money and popularity was the goal, we would have made Hybrid Theory again.

Furthermore, outside our studio walls, the climate for music is different. According to Nielsen SoundScan, of the 97,751 albums released in 2009, only 12 of them sold more than one million units last year. People everywhere buy it by the song, not by the album. To stand behind what many people call a “concept album”–asking the fan to listen to the whole thing rather than a couple songs–is unquestionably a big a request. Some people want to color that request as a “marketing tactic,” that we are asking people to buy the whole thing instead of a couple songs. If that was the case, we’d be the worst marketers ever. Clearly, a collection of 12 “hit singles” is a better reason to buy a whole album than a concept record. The singles sell an album. A concept album requires a leap of faith. The whole argument is wholly illogical.

So why did we make such a big change? “What happened to the real Linkin Park?” We’re still here. We look and sound different, but the intention behind the music is the same as it has been since day one: in the studio, we are constantly in search of new sounds that excite and inspire us. And hearing that our album debuted at #1 in 15 countries gave us all a massive feeling of gratitude, but if being in this band has taught me anything in the past decade, it’s that you can’t base your happiness on things that are out of your control.

The truth is, we’re believers that good, honest art will triumph at the end of the day. Real success isn’t about sales, numbers, and chart position. It’s about a connection with a dedicated fan base and a chance to introduce people to a sound that we can call our own.

See you on tour, where we’ll be playing songs from “Hybrid Theory” through “A Thousand Suns.” Fans of every era are welcome."

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