An Ode to Chester Bennington

bennington 1

On July 20th, 2017, lead singer Chester Bennington of Linkin Park was found in a private location with a noose around his neck. The news hit the internet immediately, and it didn’t take long before Twitter was abuzz. I recall browsing the world wide web when my sister ran down, phone in hand, simply saying, “Y’see this? This is not okay.” Chester Bennington; Born: March 20th, 1976. Died: July 20th, 2017. It took me a moment to register what I was seeing, then took another moment to remember that Google isn’t Wikipedia, where anyone can edit it. After hearing my brother utter a “Holy shit,” it finally hit me that the voice that had been embedded into my soul since childhood was gone.

I won’t pretend like I knew Bennington personally, or knew him outside of his music. I didn’t follow him through interviews, on social media, or make any effort to humanize the voice that sang the songs that gave me constant entertainment. He was simply Chester Bennington, lead vocalist of Linkin Park and abundant internet meme. Still, knowing how large a part Linkin Park was to me as a child, I couldn’t help but be saddened not just for him and his family, but for myself and my family and anyone else who was impacted by their music. It also inspired me to write this post, though this is the least I could do.

bennington 3

Linkin Park was the first band I ever really “got into.” The first band whose albums I would blast on repeat and want to know more about outside of individual singles. I recall as a kid only being interested in what played on the radio, never making any effort to explore more of an individual person or group’s work, but Linkin Park was a different scenario. The moment Minutes to Midnight released, I was begging my mother for it. I hadn’t asked my mother for anything but video games up to that point… possibly ever. Well, candy perhaps, but that’s a short-term luxury. While a so-called musical renaissance for me didn’t really flourish until my addiction to Guitar Hero years later, Linkin Park remains a testament to my first musical crush of sorts.

The love wouldn’t last, as upon hearing the first single from A Thousand SunsThe Catalyst, I found myself coming down to Earth. What was this? It’s so… electronic.So artificial. Where was the “rock”? Where was the traditional instrumentation? The band was heading in a direction I wasn’t fond of, and after getting the album and listening to its entirety, I was disappointed. Linkin Park was no longer the band I loved. It changed. I didn’t. I didn’t want to accept change and I didn’t for years. I’ve made peace with it since then, and while I’m not huge on that particular album, there are a few songs (sure enough, that don’t feature a lot of electronica) that not only sound good, but take advantage of Bennington’s voice. Still, it set the precedent for my eventual indifference to Linkin Park’s newer music. I’ve only heard one track from The Hunting Party.

In hindsight, accepting Linkin Park’s desire to experiment with new sound was something I wasn’t mature enough to handle. Now, I find that desire respectable, even if their output no longer interested me. I’m sure Bennington had a hand in some of that creative direction, though perhaps it caused some dismay seeing as he had a side-band and filled in for Stone Temple Pilots for a couple years.

bennington 2

I recall the day Bennington hung himself, I read in a Yahoo! article that he dealt with drug/alcohol addiction and was sexually abused as a child. It made me recall Vincent Van Gogh and his perilous life of having to balance his desire to paint and the tragedy of supporting himself through it. It’s almost a sad truth to accept that tragedy and creativity make an emotionally-riveting pair. To know and understand the lyrics that typically accompany Linkin Park tracks, it almost comes as no surprise that Bennington was carrying a lot of emotional baggage. He likely put his soul into his work, and not to speculate, but that may have mounted even more pressure on him to establish himself. It rings eerily familiar of another popular lead vocalist that committed suicide twenty-three-years before, and I’m sure many others.

And so I say to thee, cherish what life you have and make the best of any situation. If you ever have the darkness that clouds your judgment, please go and talk to someone about it. Get help. There is certainly much that life has to offer (even if it doesn’t seem like it) and the experiences that follow. And to any who would be affected by this, know that I feel the same. A great mind and voice was lost, and a part of my childhood died, as well. I’ve been listening to Linkin Park nearly non-stop since it happened.

Rest in peace.

An Ode to Game & Sound

gs-1

Once upon a time, I didn’t use Twitter that much. Some two years or so ago, I made the dedicated effort to start using it, seeing as I abandoned it after creating it upon realizing that talking to celebrities is harder than originally expected. A couple months into my Twitter renaissance, I suddenly got a follow from an account titled “Game & Sound,” which I originally took for some Nintendo fan account. Checking out their profile, I found out that it’s actually a user who uploads (primarily) rock-themed covers of (primarily) Nintendo titles. The prospect was intriguing, but covers of Nintendo music are hardly revolutionary. His Youtube channel was fairly barren, with only six or so videos to his name, but a cover of Super Mario 64‘s “Dire Dire Docks” caught my eye.

I clicked, listened, and strangely found myself subscribed.

The moral of the story here is that if your work is good, then you will receive attention. Following thousands of people on Twitter (I am one of 5,755 people he follows) also helps. I’m a prime example.

My oxygen-bereaving humor aside, Game & Sound is a channel that has been going relatively steady for the last two years, uploading covers of songs ranging from Sonic the Hedgehog to Chrono Trigger to Castlevania, along with a large number of Nintendo classics. While not every cover is a modern masterpiece, there are a good number of his tracks that could challenge the original tune in terms of quality. My particular favorites include the aforementioned “Dire Dire Docks,” Super Mario Galaxy‘s “To the Gateway,” Sonic 3‘s “Angel Island Zone,” among others. Game & Sounds’s means of instrumentation include his signature guitar, drums, and a number of electronic doo-dads and beep-bops, bringing a 16-bit flair to an otherwise rockin’ atmosphere.

gs-2

When I first subscribed to Game & Sound, I don’t think he even cracked 500 subscribers. Fast forward and now he’s sitting at a comfortable 5,166, with a lot more to come as long as he keeps up his craft. I believe he deserves far more attention than what he’s received, as his covers have an oozing tingling to them that one can’t help but find professional. Not only that, but his covers aren’t the simple “Take track. Cover 100% the same.” Game & Sound adds his own touch to the track that not only gives him his own identity, but doesn’t take away from the essence of the music he’s covering. In rare cases, it even enhances the track’s original energy. I believe he’s most effective when covering soft, emotionally-resonant tracks. There’s something about the tuning of his guitar that really adds a somber tone to those whimsical, otherworldly tracks.

Take note, however, that if you’re going to go above and beyond when analyzing his music, there’s one thing that’s become something of familiar territory for Game & Sound. The cover begins slowly, building up momentum, then hits its peak as the chorus arrives. After relaying a few times, a near-silent middle phase—where he typically experiments with other instruments in the tune of the track’s outer layers—will unfold, up until the point where it returns to the energized chorus as the video fades to black. Perhaps one could credit this to his own identity, but this is something I find a little too repetitive to be enjoyed in more than a few videos. Game & Sound has done this in more than a few videos.

Nitpicking and praise combined, Game & Sound deserves numerous amounts of credit for the work that he puts into his covers. His videos typically come out once every week or so, spanning anywhere from two to five minutes. With the way they sound, the quirky video overlays, and the (for the most part) consistency at which he puts them out, one has to wonder where he finds all the time. I’m not one to complain of this, however, as his music has been replayed in my Youtube history ever since I first subscribed to his channel. His video listing has a number of classic tracks covered with an execution that rivals the original. If you fancy yourself a Nintendo music connoisseur, Game & Sound is well worth checking out. Even if not, his music will at least tickle the fancy of any fan of music outside of the mainstream spectrum.

For all those interested, I will provide a link to his channel. Please consider subscribing if you like what you hear! I’m sure he’ll appreciate the support. And thank you, as always, for reading.

Quick Thoughts on Porter Robinson & Madeon’s “Shelter”

shelter

I wasn’t originally intending on watching this six-minute music video, but some serious debates over on MyAnimeList left me intrigued. It seems this music video has caused somewhat of a ruckus in the anime community for its poetic, storytelling genius in the form of a six-minute montage of sorts. Most people adore it (ranked within the top 300 as of writing this), while a few are decrying it as a clichéd attempt at making the viewers care for a pretty little thing whose loneliness overpowers her. Where am I in all of this? Outside, looking in.

Upon finishing the video, I can see why people would be so enamored with it. It offers some nice imagery and a few “deep” lines suited for the emotional demographic that anime typically aims towards. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it edgy, but the lines can be construed as something one would typically see on a melancholic Tumblr post about self-worth. People seem to enjoy things that offer some deeper level of interpretation and a sense of meaning, so long as it doesn’t feel like overkill (though some wouldn’t even mind that). Shelter does a decent job of keeping itself emotionally stable while also highlighting the harsh reality the lone heroine has to deal with. The only real issue with it is if you aren’t inclined to care about a sob story at face value, then this video won’t really be for you.

It’s six-minutes long, people. Can you establish something with so much weight in that span of time? Not usually, and Shelter is yet another case. Again, if one isn’t inclined to care at face value, then you won’t care about what’s playing on-screen. That won’t change whether at minute one, minute three, or the final second. From my own perspective, the video is a harmless attempt at trying to tell a depressing story with a bittersweet moral. I didn’t have any conflicting feelings, nor did I have any uplifting feelings. They remained complacent. That’s essentially what the video is to me, so that only leaves one more aspect to pay attention to: the music.

I’m not really a fan of the genre of, well, what can you call it? Techno pop? I’m not entirely sure. Regardless, the music wasn’t all that bad. It sticks into your brain and sets up camp without you expecting it to, with an occasional head bob every now and then during the (everlasting) chorus. I thought it did a better job of setting the mood of creative exploration than the darker undertones of the heroine’s reality, but the slower piano piece at the end made up for it. I’d probably listen to it in its original form every once in a while, but I’d hesitate to say I’m a fan of it. Decent listen.

Overall, it’s harmless. I feel people are trying to make it more than what it really is, though kudos to A-1 Pictures and Porter Robinson for trying what they could. It’s something one can think about without feeling anything of loss, with an alright tune to go along with it. Superbly overrated (Why are people taking the ratings of a music video so seriously?), but worth watching to satisfy your own curiosity. Where’s the harm in that?

An Ode to “Weird Al” Yankovic

Weird Al Yankovic at arrivals for BAD TEACHER Premiere, The Ziegfeld Theatre, New York, NY June 20, 2011. Photo By: Desiree Nava

Have you ever seen the Transformers animated movie back in the ’80s? The one with Saturday morning cartoon-like animation and the occasional swear word? Do you remember the soundtrack to that film? I do. Aside from Stan Bush’s The Touch, the other song that stuck out from the bunch was Weird Al Yankovic’s Dare To Be Stupid. Which, in hindsight, was a really odd choice for an action-oriented robo-series such as Transformers. I watched Transformers when I was about five or six years-old, and that was the first time I had ever heard a song sung by the infamous Weird Al. It wouldn’t be the last.

Over the course of my life, Weird Al’s name would pop up sporadically in random places. My music classes in elementary school featured a few songs of his. MySpace had his song White & Nerdy playing on just about every person’s profile. Random Youtube browsing had me stumble upon a few more of his songs that I had heard in other places. It seems that Weird Al has creeped up on my life enough times for me to be convinced that he’s stalking me, instead of thinking rationally that he’s quite popular and his influence simply spreads due to his talent as a writer and musician. But I wouldn’t think rationally until the beginning of my teenage years.

Listening to Weird Al’s songs, I really enjoy the range he has with his voice. His normal voice sounds very zany and nasally, insinuating the parody that his music intends. But he has a tendency to surprise me with the way his voice reflects perfectly with the tone of the song (which, admittedly, is typically silly). He can scream, he can rap, he can sing in all sorts of tones. Am I the only one who thinks the incorporation of sound effects in his songs are kinda charming?

Many people who are familiar with Weird Al’s music knows that he tries very hard to be funny. His songs are silly (usually kid-friendly), with breaking expectations as his main tool of choice. Who else do you know that will create ten-minute-plus songs about being stuck in Drive-Thrus and a random day in Albuquerque? Gangsta Paradise becomes Amish Paradise, Beat It becomes Eat It, Another One Bites The Dust becomes Another One Rides The Bus. Making songs about trivial things as if they have any importance at all is how Weird Al plays the game. A game he probably cheats at all the time.

weird-al-2
From Weird Al’s “Trapped In The Drive-Thru” video.

Some of my favorites among his tracks include Trapped In The Drive-ThruThe Alternative PolkaAlbuquerque, The Night Santa Went CrazyWhite & Nerdy, and The Saga Begins. Not a huge fan of Smells Like Nirvana. Thought he played the joke out too long for that one. And that’s kind of the essence of parody: taking a common complaint, flaw, or cliché from a subject and turning it on its head. Weird Al has a tendency to perform this flawlessly, but not always. His use of parody has a keen sense of humor and flair that makes his songs all the more enjoyable, even if his voice can come across as too stark for some.

I think I can relate to Weird Al to some degree because parody remains one of my favorite genres in, well, anything. Comedy, music, movies, video games; all of these things and more I’ll immediately gravitate to as long as there’s a promise of parody to some degree. Even anime/manga tend to have a soft spot within me so long as they’re silly and making fun of others. Maybe I’m just conceited. Maybe. I’ve always been fond of the ways people can parody various things, and Weird Al has been the standard for parodying songs since the ’80s.

A bit short for a post, but there isn’t much more I could say about a guy’s music aside from speaking of the guy himself. And I don’t know the guy. All I know is that he makes some pretty good music. Some of that is borrowed from other classic titles, but I’m willing to excuse it for the sake of parody (and comedy). Mr. Yankovic is still going at the age of 56, and I, for one, am willing to hear what he has to say until he hangs up the accordion for good. And so should you. He’s pretty good.