I'm holding on
Why is everything so heavy
Holding on, so much more than I can carry
The lead single from Linkin Park's seventh album finds lead vocalist Chester Bennington singing about feeling the emotional weight of problems that are "stacking up" and "unnecessary." It's a song that many looked to after his suicide on July 20, 2017 to help explain what he was going through.
The song features guest vocals by Kiiara, whose hit single "Gold
" peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2016.
Kiiara was the first woman to feature on a Linkin Park studio album track. (Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart did contribute to the live version of "Castle Of Glass
"). The band first discussed incorporating a female vocalist on "Heavy" in a video they posted to their website.
"It could be interesting to maybe experiment with the vocals on the chorus," Linkin Park's DJ Joe Hahn said. "Like bringing in a female vocalist to add harmony could be cool. I don't know if those are good directions, but just something that feels out of the box for us could give that dynamic it needs."
Kiiara tweeted that she "learned more in a 7 hour linkin park session than i have in the past 2 years."
The song was self-produced by Linkin Park and written by the band with pop songwriters Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels, the pair behind such hits as Justin Bieber's "Sorry
" and Selena Gomez's "Good For You
." The band's Mike Shinoda explained to Billboard
"We did think what would it be like, first of all, to write with people outside the band, to approach things with our arms wide open, wrapped around a larger audience and still make it 100 percent Linkin Park and true to what we do."
Shinoda told the story behind the song: "When we wrote this one it was me and Brad (Delson) and Chester (Bennington) from the band and [songwriters] Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels. And I remember Chester walked in and it was, 'Hey, how are you doing today?' and he's like, 'OH, I'm fine,' and we were hanging out for a minutes and he was like, 'Y'know what? I have to be honest. I'm NOT fine. I'm NOT OK. Too much stuff is just happening to me. I just feel underwater.' It was like that saying 'when it rains it pours;' It's that kind of feeling that stuff is piling up one on top of the other, and it creates this feeling of just being overwhelmed, like, 'Things feel so heavy to me...'"
Shinoda added: "What I would say is the key to it, the most important lyric to it all is 'if I just let go I'd be set free.' 'Cause for us it is about the catharsis and that element of, 'No matter what's happening to me, how am I reacting to it? What's my responsibility to it?' So that's a lyric that was really important; I felt like when we added that, it kind of solidified the message of the song."
It was Zane Lowe who introduced Kiiara to the band. The radio presenter interviewed her on his Beats 1 show and when he asked the songstress what her favorite music was, she replied without pausing Linkin Park. Lowe then emailed Mike Shinoda and suggested they meet her.
Speaking to AMP Radio's DJ Omar about the song's not-so-heavy guitar sound, Chester Bennington said: "Well, we didn't set out and go, 'Okay, let's take the guitars back.' It was, really… we had the song. I cut most of the vocals over either just a piano or an acoustic guitar. And so I would do the first main vocal take in that most simple form. And in that frame of mind, that's how the song was being inspired - to write it in that way - and then we'd build the track around it."
Directed by Tim Mattia, who's created visuals for The 1975 and Halsey, the video features Chester Bennington playing a man battling addiction. We see him attend a group therapy session, which quickly turns violent. At the end of the clip, Bennington's demons literally come to life as he fights his doppelganger in a bathroom.
Bennington told Music Choice: "What's funny is, like, this song is, like, not a heavy song, but I destroyed more stuff making this [clip] than, like, any other song. It was more violent and more intense making this video than any other video. Like, I got into like fistfights with myself, fistfights with other people, breaking a bunch of stuff. I got to take a lamp and throw it through a television set. Like, I've wrecked so much stuff, it was awesome."
Kerrang! asked Chester Bennington what "heavy" means to him. He replied: "When we were making the record we would start the songs off with these really interesting conversations, and we'd all relate to them in different ways. There's always something in my head either going, 'What are you doing?' or just mocking me. Typically when I'm inside my head like that, that's when I find myself in a bad, heavy situation."
The song centers around paranoia and fixating upon oneself. "This song is about ego - when it all boils down to the dirty nasty truth of it all, the thing that gets all of us caught up, is our projected self-image," Bennington told Genius
. "That's the epitome of self-loathing as well as rubbing it in someone's face at the same time. Like, 'I know I'm not the center of the universe, but you keep spinning around.' For me, that's the addict and the co-dependent. That's the person addicted to the thing. That's the person who's addicted to the person who's addicted to the thing."
Bennington told Music Choice: "My whole life, I've just felt a bit off. I find myself getting into these patterns of behavior and thought - especially when I'm stuck up here [points to head]. I like to say that 'this is like a bad neighborhood, and I should not go walking alone.'"
He added: "Most of my problems are problems that I cause myself. That's what that song's about: that time when you consciously look at that. Once you acknowledge what it is, you can separate yourself from it and do something about it, as opposed to just being in it."
Speaking with Billboard
, the song's co-writer Julia Michaels said that Chester Bennington was in good spirits during the process, and very pleasant to work with. The song's concept was his idea. "He was like, 'I wanna write a song about how sometimes you get really weighed down by all your problems, and sometimes it's really hard to get out of that,'" said Michaels. "I was like, 'Yeah, let's do that. And we wrote the song in about two hours."
One More Light debuted at #1 in America, giving Linkin Park their fifth chart-topping entry on the tally. But the band weathered accusations of selling out because of the album's pop-focused sound. Bennington responded to detractors in an interview with Music Week: "If you're saying we're doing what we're doing for a commercial or monetary reason, trying to make success out of some formula... then stab yourself in the face!"