Pierre's Weekend Calendar: July 22 – 24, 2022
Linkin Park: Their 20 Best Songs, Ranked
Linkin Park’s debut full-length, Hybrid Theory arrived at a pivotal point in rock music’s sidewinding trajectory. In 2000, grunge had long worn out its welcome, nu metal was having its moment and indie rock had become diluted in the mainstream spotlight. Cue Linkin Park, who rewired the machine to build something completely new.
This album was the first to expertly balance the trifecta of hard rock, hip-hop and electronic music. It’s in the name: a hybrid of sounds. It could have easily dissolved into a pretentious, self-serving mess, but the band used their collaborative chemistry and pop sensibilities to create huge, hooky songs. It became a gateway album for music lovers who were confined to one corner of the record store until this LP made it acceptable to examine other genres. The album has gone on to rack up 32 million units sold – huge for any album, especially a debut.
October 24th is the 20th anniversary of Hybrid Theory, but Linkin Park is so much more than their iconic debut. The introspective fury of vocalists Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda rejected the macho I-hate-my-ex narrative of much of late ‘90s rock, and provided space for self-examination. Along with bandmates Rob Bourdon, Brad Delson, Dave Farrell and Joe Hahn, they welcomed the weary, cultivating a massive fan community and prioritizing community outreach.
Linkin Park has aged gracefully over two decades. Far outpacing their nu metal contemporaries in album and ticket sales, their crossover appeal and wide influence make them deserving of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status, (they won’t be eligible until 2025). They’ve made a conscious effort to avoid becoming sonically stagnant, and that’s especially clear on their latest release One More Light. (It was the last album they created before the passing of Chester by his own hand in 2017. LP has been quiet since.)
To celebrate Hybrid Theory and the music that followed, we’ve ranked 20 of Linkin Park’s best songs. We left remixes out of the running, but you can find plenty of those on the brand new Hybrid Theory box set.
“Forfeit the game.” Mike Shinoda firmly plants his flag in the ground with this demand, and the rest of the band quickly follows. The fourth track on ‘Hybrid Theory’ was never a single but its glitchy stomp made it a fan favorite.
Chester’s distorted scream on the ‘Hunting Party’ opener is a welcome release for the metal faction of Linkin Park fans. Fresh off a run of ultra-polished concept albums, the rawness of this LP felt exciting. “Keys to the Kingdom” kicks it off with a snotty punk snarl.
What begins as a lone piano loop builds up to a rich, soothing soundscape. ‘A Thousand Suns’ contains a handful of tracks that serve as atmospheric padding, but this one is more substance than filler.
On an album that served as a hard reset for the band, this standout track on the their latest release offers shades of familiarity (you can actually hear the guitars!). It’s a glossy rock song that could have been a huge single, if not for the unfortunate timing; the video premiered hours before news of Chester’s passing broke.
Hardened but hopeful, Linkin Park sing the anthem of the underdog on this synth-heavy track.
Chester did not write these lyrics, but his pained delivery is haunting: “Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there”. After his suicide, “One More Light” became a hymn for grieving fans.
Mechanical samples under an easily singable melody make this futuristic folk song a highlight of 2012’s ‘Living Things.’
This cut from ‘A Thousand Suns’ is bookended by Mario Savio’s “Bodies upon the gears” speech, to great effect: it’s the perfect setup for the industrial beat and aggressive delivery of both Mike and Chester.
Linkin Park has always been meticulous in their execution, but this bare-bones singalong is such a fun diversion. From Mike’s irreverence to the sloppy claps that carry the tune, it’s a reminder that we don’t always need to take ourselves so seriously.
One of the longest songs in the band’s catalog was inspired by a visit to New Orleans where the band witnessed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina firsthand. The anger we’re used to hearing is replaced by profound sadness, punctuated by a soaring solo from Brad Delson.
The final track on ‘Meteora’ came together easily for the band. Moody and not overly complicated, it’s the perfect pop-rock single.
This song highlights the band’s dexterity in production. It’s an ambitious piece, so heavily layered that it took over a year to complete, but their diligence paid off. It’s even more impressive live: there’s so many elements that some of the band members jump between two or three different instruments to pull it off.
The seamless collaboration between Chester and Mike in “Lying From You” shows what a perfect team they were. As harmonious as those two are, though, the music itself is dissonant and creepy, making for a strangely addictive brew.
The ‘Transformers’ soundtracks introduced LP to a younger generation in the late 2000s. “New Divide” sounds appropriately robotic while maintaining an organic rock rhythm. It doesn’t appear on any of their studio albums, but the song achieved success as a single.
Another song used in the ‘Transformers’ series, the shimmering “Iridescent” originally appeared on ‘A Thousand Suns’. Its uplifting message shined on both the album and soundtrack version, which was mixed differently for the movie.
The opening track on ‘Hybrid Theory’ sets the tone for the journey. An ominous guitar riff follows Mike’s agitated delivery while Joe Hahn’s scratches draw your attention. By the time you reach the melodic payoff in the second half, you’ve been briefed on each of Linkin Park’s signature sounds, and for this reason Mike has called “Papercut” the band’s “calling card.”
“Against my will I stand beside my own reflection.” This Grammy-winning single shows us the delicate introspection that set LP apart from other heavy music in the early aughts and endeared so many to the band in the first place.
All six members of the band are well-represented here. A symphonic intro is overtaken by chunky, distorted riffs. Mike’s rapid staccato is carried by the drum beat. The tension releases at the bridge with a roar that solidifies Chester as one of the greatest voices of the 21st century.
After two albums overflowing with angst, Linkin Park allows room for forgiveness on ’Minutes to Midnight’ and this song in particular. Where “Faint” was the paragon of Chester’s screams, “What I’ve Done” is one of his strongest performances as a singer. Mike doesn’t take a lead vocal on this song, but his handprints are all over the composition and production.
The song is certified four times platinum… One billion views on YouTube… A staple across multiple radio formats to this day. In the end, was there any question that Linkin Park’s signature song wouldn’t top this list? The universal lyrics, while rooted in negativity, offer a place for us to air our grievances. Mike’s frustrated verses find balance with Chester’s defeated repose. For most of us, this was the first time we heard their chemistry, and it was gripping. Sonically it transcends genre; every type of music fan knows this song. In three and a half minutes, this one track encapsulates everything that makes Linkin Park remarkable.