Remembering Chester Bennington, a Chris Cornell for the nu-metal generation

Two months ago, Chris Cornell's suicide devastated fans who grew up in the grunge era. Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington sang Hallelujah at the ceremony to help lay his friend to rest.

Tragically, Bennington died Thursday at age 41, and the Los Angeles County coroner said authorities are investigating the death as an apparent suicide.

With Bennington's passing, another generation of music fans has lost a frontman who represented the seminal rock music of their youth. For listeners who came of age post-grunge, just after Cornell's heyday, genres like rap-rock and nu-metal provided a musical education. 

Linkin Park's 2000 debut, Hybrid Theory, arrived alongside albums from peers Limp Bizkit and Korn, but it also shared its DNA with other turn-of-the-century releases like Kid Rock's Devil Without A Cause and Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP, aggressive and testosterone-fueled releases with distinctly blue-collar faces.

Music critics have long cracked jokes at nu-metal's expense, but in 2017, when Kid Rock is prepping a Senate campaign and working-class anxieties are rising, nu-metal has never seemed more prescient. 

Beyond that, while Linkin Park's Collision Course mash-up EP with Jay-Z and Limp Bizkit's many rap collaborations may not have registered as groundbreaking at the time, fast forward to the present, when hip-hop is obsessed with heavy metal and genre boundaries have all but melted.

Bennington's band also evolved with the times, collaborating with Steve Aoki and toying with EDM on their 2012 Living Things album, scoring the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen soundtrack with Hans Zimmer and releasing the closest thing they've ever made to a pop album earlier this year with One More Light, rebuking some listeners that just wanted more of the hard-rock same. 

In fact, the last time Bennington made headlines before his death was when an angry audience member threw a jug at him onstage at France's Hellfest festival as the band played new single Heavy — a shame considering the pop banger is one of the band's best recent singles. 

Bennington took the incident in stride, laughing it off on Twitter. "Hellfest was fun. Had a blast watching people mosh to In the End and then flip me off when we played Heavy. I blew them kisses," he wrote afterward, referencing another of the band's most enduring hits. "Don't worry. They'll be moshing to Heavy in 15 years too."

For all the sorrow among Linkin Park fans this week, let this be a suitable way to remember Bennington, unapologetic for Linkin Park's musical risks, ever-appreciative of his longtime listeners, and even, for just that moment, hopeful for the future.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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