Right from the start of his career with Linkin Park, there was something about Chester Bennington, the band’s lead vocalist, that easily clicked with the fans; his honesty. From songwriting to expressing himself through the tracks themselves, Bennington never shied away from showing the realities of his life, where he came from and how he felt. His voice’s rawness was what really complimented the rock sounds of the songs and gave a new dimension to each one of them.
The band’s debut album, Hybrid Theory, was a testament to just how strong their grip on the music they produced was. The album, in its entirety, was quite direct – they knew what they wanted to write, and they were certain about how they wanted the album to sound. And with that in mind, it was only natural that Hybrid Theory went on to be a huge hit upon its release.
‘Crawling’ was the third single from the album written and voiced by Chester Bennington. It was a fitting example of just how matured and developed Bennington’s songwriting, and voice already was, right from the very beginning of his career. And going back to the key element of honesty, Bennington said for the lyrics of the song, “That song is about taking responsibility for your actions. I don’t say ‘you’ at any point. It’s about how I’m the reason why I feel this way. There’s something inside me that pulls me down”. The song directly referenced Bennington’s own struggle with substance abuse and talked about the helplessness he felt because of it.
Bennington’s voice was equally poignant in portraying the true feelings behind the track. To put it rather crudely, the song essentially had two voices – Bennington singing and Bennington screaming – a pertinent reflection of the mood of the lyrics through music, to the point where once you’ve heard his voice in the song, you can’t un-hear it ever again. It’s almost like the effort was made for only him and no one else.
Speaking of Bennington’s voice, it can be safely said that there will never be another voice that will be able to emote the words of the song as passionately as he did. The pain, the anxiety, the agony, the torment – it is all portrayed through his voice in the most heartwrenching way.
Bennington’s voice bursts into the song with a power-packed enunciation of “crawling in my skin” that immediately captures his audience’s attention. Instead of beating around the bush, he gets right into the song’s chorus and promptly switches to a meek vocal in the verses that are reminiscent of the lyrical emotion.
But the rough, scratchy tones of his voice, the “screams”, also carry an inherent tune. The major and minor notes that overlap each other, the barely-touched notes, and the notes that carry on for long after the music has stopped. This is a stark contrast to the more composed, quieter and more mellifluous tones that are equally well portrayed in the verses. Bennington made the switch look easy when it is clear that the constant shift from rough to smooth must have taken quite a toll on his vocal cords. As he himself said regarding how difficult it was to play the song live, “’Crawling’ has caused me the most trouble live more than any other song.”
But Bennington could do it all. His isolated vocals in ‘Crawling’ really go to show just how much music Bennington’s voice carries with it even when it’s sung a cappella. There is an inherent melody that you can just hear when he starts singing, one that speaks of his sadness and undeniable talent in equal measure.
Listen to Chester Bennington’s isolated vocals in ‘Crawling’ below.