Linkin Park’s debut full-length Hybrid Theory arrived at a pivotal point in rock music’s sidewinding trajectory. In 2000, grunge had 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, though 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.
Written and ranked by Sara Parker