"Tend to do my best when everything goes wrong
That's why sad songs make me happy, cause I don't have to feel alone"
-A Day To Remember
Welcome to the Sad Songs Series! Today's track is "Looking For An Answer" by Linkin Park.
Technically "Looking For An Answer" was released under the name Linkin Park; as the only known recording of it was from their Chester Bennington Celebration of Life tribute show at the Hollywood Bowl on October 27, 2017. However, the song was clearly written and performed by Mike Shinoda which brought many of us Linkin Park fans to question why a studio recording of the track didn't make it to Mike's album, Post Traumatic, as it seemed so fitting. During the listening party of One More Light Live, Mike said, "I don't know. I haven't really worked on that song. Actually, believe it or not, I was thinking of working on that song today or this week. So, we'll see what happens. I haven't really done it. I talked to the guys about it, like, on Monday. I sent them a copy, like I have a recorded version. I sent them a copy of that. And I know Rob downloaded it, so that means he'll be working on some drums to it. We will see." Later, on Instagram Live, Mike posted this studio update:
As we can hear, Mike was keeping the song in a similar vein to the tracks on One More Light using the piano's chord progression with a synthesized tremolo sound however the drum tones sound straight out of Post Traumatic. The final update on Looking For An Answer came when Mike said "It still exists, I just want to figure out the right presentation! I made a version of it with lots of cool sounds, but that seemed to take away from the power of the song. Maybe I'll restart with piano only?". Personally, I couldn't agree more. Like the live recording, this song needs nothing more than Mike and his piano. At this point, it may be hard for us Linkin Park fans to get used to a studio version with more added to it. Sometimes in music a time and place, or a moment that you can use the music to reflect off of, is far more important. Down to the wrong note at 2:56 that now feels so right, all of us tuned in to watch this emotional tribute regardless of quality and the moment definitely stuck with us. We don't need a different version. Releasing the live recording on all platforms would be helpful though.
"Looking For An Answer" was written by Mike Shinoda about eights days after finding out the news that his beloved band mate, Chester Bennington, had passed. In the first verse Mike begins to explain the grief he's feeling:
"There's an emptiness tonight
A hole that wasn't there before
And I keep reaching for the light
But I can't find it anymore
There's an emptiness tonight
A heavy hand that pulls me down
They say it's gonna be alright
But can't begin to tell me how"
Like many of the sad songs we'll come across in this series, the theme in this verse is emptiness and uncertainty. Similarly to how Mike opens his album, Post Traumatic, with the song "Place To Start", Mike has no sense of direction. Like most in his hopeless state, he begins to turn inwards:
"And I ask myself out loud
Have I been lost all along?
Was there something I could say
Or something I should not have done
Was I lost all along?
Was I looking for an answer
When there never really was one?
Was I looking for an answer
When there never really was one?"
In their first statement after Chester's passing, Linkin Park said "We're trying to remind ourselves that the demons who took you away were always part of the deal" which Mike seems to touch on in the chorus. He opens the next verse with a tearjerker that never fails to get the best of my emotions:
"Is there sunshine where you are?
The way there was when you were here
Cause I'm just sitting in the dark
In disbelief that this is real
In disbelief that this is real"
Mike uses imagery to depict the difference he's feeling after his loss. Chester represents light and without him we're all in a darker world. It now seems to be fitting that Linkin Park's last album with him was titled "One More Light".
The Sad Song Series first started as a list article I was working on. There was no doubt in my mind that "Looking For An Answer" was going to top that list. Since my first listen of Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park has been my all time favorite band. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes music is about moments. While there will probably be lyrically sadder songs and better musical compositions in this series, the moment I burst out in tears after hearing "Is there sunshine where you are?" will always make "Looking For An Answer" my saddest.