If you were asked who had the highest selling album of the year 2001, chances are you’d probably answer Britney Spears, or one of the other highly popular pop acts on the radio at that time. What you may be surprised to find out is that the answer is actually not a pop artist at all, but the now multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning rock band Linkin Park.
Exploding onto the scene fifteen years ago in late 2000 with their game-changing, and future-music-inspiring Hybrid Theory, the band defied all industry expectations and label sales projections, selling 4.8 million records in 2001, becoming the best-selling album of the year. In a matter of only 4 years, the album would achieve Diamond certification from the RIAA (10 million copies sold), and go on to sell over 20 million records worldwide, becoming the best-selling début album of the 2000s.
As Linkin Park celebrates the anniversary of Hybrid Theory through a line of exclusive limited edition apparel, we here at AltWire look back at the past 15 years to pick what we believe to be the band’s greatest songs, in no particular order.
Papercut – Hybrid Theory (2000)
“It’s like I’m paranoid lookin’ over my back, it’s like a whirlwind inside of my head, it’s like I can’t stop what I’m hearing within, it’s like the face inside is right beneath my skin”
There’s simply no better way to start this list than with the very first track from the band’s first major label record. With its schizophrenic lyrics of paranoia, absolutely creepy music video (full of hidden images), fantastic bass line and energetic lead synths, it was clear from the very first notes that Hybrid Theory would be a game changer. Having been featured in a majority of the band’s setlists over the years, Papercut remains a hardcore fan favorite even 15 years later.
Numb – Meteora (2003)
“Can’t you see that you’re smothering me, holding too tightly, afraid to lose control?
‘Cause everything that you thought I would be. Has fallen apart right in front of you.”
There’s no denying the impact that “Numb” had on rock radio when it hit the airwaves in 2003. Spending 12 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks Chart (6 weeks in 2003, and 6 in 2004), “Numb” remains one of the band’s most well-known, catchy and instantly recognizable tracks. It would later become part of a fantastic mash-up titled “Numb/Encore” which can be found on the band’s 2004 collaborative mashup EP with Jay-Z titled Collision Course. “Numb/Encore” would later become ‘Yesternumb’ when the Jay-Z and Linkin Park surprised the world with a Yesterday/Numb/Encore performance with Paul McCartney at the 2008 Grammy’s. You can view that here.
Special Fact: The pained looks during Chester’s performances during the music video may be more real than you think. While most of the video was filmed in Prague, the church scenes were filmed in Los Angeles while Chester was still recovering from a stomach hernia that lead to tour date cancellations earlier that year. Can’t help but applaud the man for his dedication.
Shadow Of The Day – Minutes To Midnight (2007)
“In cards and flowers on your window, your friends all plead for you to stay, sometimes beginnings aren’t so simple, sometimes goodbye’s the only way…”
Whether or not it was an intentional homage, “Shadow of The Day,” off of the band’s third studio record Minutes To Midnight, shows Linkin Park sounding the most like U2 they ever do when they channel the U2’s classic hit “With Or Without You” for this beautifully written track. The song’s music video is notable as well for being one of the very few videos in the band’s history to not feature the entire band, instead just depending on lead vocalist Chester Bennington to achieve the video’s doomsday narrative.
When They Come For Me – A Thousand Suns (2010)
“Even a blueprint is a gift and a curse, ’cause once you got a theory of how the thing works, everybody wants the next thing to be just like the first.”
Labeled as nu-metal’s standard-bearers for most of their career and dealing with pressure to replicate Hybrid Theory from both the label and their fans, the band’s fourth studio record A Thousand Suns showed the band defiantly moving away from anything that even remotely resembled their earlier work. Nowhere is this clearer than on the highly adventurous, electronica meets bhangra sounding “When They Come For Me.” With lyrics that showcase the band’s frustration with being disrespected and pigeonholed into a single genre, this standout track delivers a notice to the band’s naysayers: we’re not going anywhere, and you better recognize and catch up… motherfucker.
Special Fact: A misheard lyric on this song, ‘try to catch up motherfucker’ lead to an internet meme within the Linkin Park fanbase titled ‘Try The Ketchup Motherfucker’.
No Roads Left – Minutes To Midnight* [*B-Side. Only Available on iTunes/Tour Version of Album] (2007)
“In my fear and flaws, I let myself down again, all because I run, ’til the silence splits me open
I run ’til it puts me underground, ’til I have no breath, and no roads left but one…”
I debated for a little while whether or not B-Sides should make their way onto this list considering the fact that not everyone will have heard those songs, and certainly it’s a risk putting a song on that some less hardcore fans may not have heard of. However, “No Roads Left” stands out as one of the more interesting tracks from the band’s 2007 recording cycle, and on its own merits is definitely worthy of a mention. Only available originally as a bonus track on the iTunes release (and later on the Tour Edition) of Minutes To Midnight, “No Roads Left” was one of the first tracks ever released by the band with Mike Shinoda solely on lead vocals, and the performance is revelatory. Prior to this track, not many fans knew just how good Mike Shinoda could belt or if he could lead a hard rock track by himself. After its release, it was clear: Chester Bennington wasn’t the only one in the group with a good set of pipes.
Castle of Glass – LIVING THINGS (2012)
“Fly me up on a silver wing, past the black where the sirens sing, warm me up in a nova’s glow, and drop me down to the dream below…”
When Linkin Park started work on their followup to A Thousand Suns, 2012’s LIVING THINGS, many of the album’s promotional videos and material’s focused on how the band was inspired by early folk music while writing and recording in the studio. While most of the genre’s influence was subtle, the album’s standout track “Castle of Glass” stands out as being the closest the band has ever gotten to putting out a folk-country song on record. It’s folk, but with the electronics and atmosphere you’d expect from Linkin Park. Some would think that such a genre would sound awkward coming from a band made famous for being ‘hard rock’, yet “Castle of Glass” proves once again Linkin Park’s mastery of songwriting and ability to be blend like a chameleon between various genres. A standout track worthy of praise.
Special Fact: Linkin Park’s own Mike Shinoda churned out a pretty badass remix of this track, taking out the song’s folk influences and replacing them with a complex yet addictive four on the floor dance beat. Listen here.
In The End – Hybrid Theory (2000)
“I tried so hard, and got so far, but in the end it doesn’t even matter…”
This is the song that would that change the band’s life forever, and make all six members of Linkin Park rock superstars. Reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and rising to the top of many top ten lists worldwide, this song is considered by many to be the band’s signature track. It even ranked 84 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of The 00’s.
Special Fact: Despite the song’s mass appeal, and impact on the album’s record sales, not every person in the band enjoys the song. Chester Bennington once stated he was never a huge fan of the track, and didn’t even want it to be included on Hybrid Theory.
The Little Things Give You Away – Minutes To Midnight (2007)
“Don’t want to reach for me, do you? I mean nothing to you, the little things give you away,
and now there will be no mistaking, the levees are breaking…”
Since the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, Linkin Park have made huge strides to give back to victims of natural disasters, and other people in need through the charity they founded named Music For Relief. As a band they’ve always been passionate about using their fame and fortune for good causes, and it was during a visit to the hurricane ravaged lands of New Orleans that one of the band’s strongest political statements “The Little Things Give You Away” was born. Frustrated by what they deemed to be the lack of a right response to the disaster by those in power, the band penned this heart-breaker of a track, writing what would end up being one of the longest songs they’ve ever recorded. Clocking in at 6 and a half minutes, this track is a condemnation of the government’s response to Katrina and provides one hell of a finish to what would prove to be one of Linkin Park’s most divisive albums to date.
Special Fact: Originally titled ‘Drum Song’ while in it’s demo stage, the drums on this track were re-recorded many times and went through several different takes to try and perfect the performance, until the band ultimately decided that the first take was the best take after all.
Final Masquerade – The Hunting Party (2014)
“The light on the horizon was brighter yesterday, with shadows floating over, the scars begin to fade. We said it was forever but then it slipped away, standing at the end of the final masquerade.”
For their 2014 track “Final Masquerade,” Linkin Park pulled out all the stops, showcasing one of Chester’s best vocal performances. Written over a gorgeous hard rock instrumentation complimented by airy synths and reverbed drums that give the track a 80’s stadium rock feel, this was one of my favorite tracks on The Hunting Party when I reviewed it last year, and one year on it still hasn’t lost its touch. It’s one of their most maturely written ballads yet, and a great example of how even after all this time, the band’s still got it.
Special Fact: As a special thank you to the fans, the band released a very impressive acoustic rendition of the song, which takes the original in a completely new direction. Listen here.
Breaking The Habit – Meteora (2003)
“Memories consume like opening the wounds, I’m picking me apart again. You all assume, I’m safe here in my room, unless I try to start again…”
Formed lyrically around an idea that Mike Shinoda had tried to convey for 5-6 years before the recording of their sophomore album Meteora, “Breaking The Habit” originally started out as an instrumental track titled ‘Drawing’ before the band decided to experiment with adding lyrics to the track. Perhaps through what could only be considered fate, Shinoda found the inspiration to finally finish the lyrical ideas he had played with for so long, and wrote a song that would come to carry intense personal weight for vocalist Chester Bennington. Having suffered through substance abuse for most of his life prior to Linkin Park, Chester took one look at the lyrics and instantly related them to the struggles he had faced as a teen and young adult, making the song very much his own through one incredibly anguished studio performance. To date it remains one of Chester’s most emotional vocal deliveries, and when one considers the track’s importance to Bennington, it’s not hard to figure out why.
Special Fact: The track’s stylistically animated music video was done by none other than Studio Gonzo, the studio responsible for the animated segments in Kill Bill Vol. 1
Blackout – A Thousand Suns (2010)
“Fuck it are you listening?”
Blackout is one of those songs where you just get the feeling that the band had a lot of fun recording it. You have Chester Bennington doing his own variation of rapping on the track, Mike Shinoda singing at the end, Joe Hahn going wild on the synths, and a hell of a lot of energy from Brad Delson, Rob Bourdon and Dave ‘Phoenix’ Farrell to balance it out. Then you have that solid almost prog-rock synth breakdown in the middle, before the song comes full circle and combines all elements to finish it out. There’s many elements in this track to like, and it’s impossible not to have a smile on your face when listening to this highly addictive and standout cut from A Thousand Suns.
High Voltage – B-Side / One Step Closer UK Single (2000)
“Sometimes I feel like a prophet, misunderstood, under the gun like a new disease…”
Featuring samples from “Cure For The Itch” it has been speculated that this track was originally intended to follow that track on Hybrid Theory as both songs blend together perfectly. Featuring one of Shinoda’s most popular verses with fans, “High Voltage” is a remixed and re-recorded version of the track of the same name from the band’s Hybrid Theory EP released prior to their signing. It did not make it on to the Hybrid Theory LP, but was later released as a B-Side on One Step Closer in the UK.
Leave Out All The Rest – Minutes To Midnight (2007)
“I’m strong on the surface not all the way through, I’ve never been perfect but neither have you…”
Perhaps in a nod to the album’s title (itself an allusion to the doomsday clock), much of Minutes To Midnight seemed to deal lyrically with frustrations towards the world, regretting mistakes made, or simply letting go of your fears. On the fifth and last single from 2007’s Minutes To Midnight, Linkin Park explored a sobering thought: if you were to be gone tomorrow, what would you leave behind? Would you be proud of your accomplishments, or regretful of your failures? Could you leave behind some reasons to be missed, or would you end up being resented for the person you let yourself become?
With its mature relatable lyrics and catchy chorus, the song should’ve been a sure-fire hit but surprisingly it did not chart as highly as some of their earlier singles. Sadly overlooked, and definitely underrated.
Waiting For The End – A Thousand Suns (2010)
“Flying at the speed of light, thoughts were spinning in my head, so many things were left unsaid, it’s hard to let you go…”
My personal all time favorite Linkin Park song, “Waiting For The End” is a perfect example how sometimes less is more. For a good part of the song’s 3:51 running time, the song is stripped down to just a simple chilling string synth, high echoed piano notes, a hard hitting drum beat, with light bass riffs accentuated throughout. You won’t find much guitar on this song except for bits of distorted guitar used sparingly in the beginning, and finally within the song’s excellent climax (that starts at around 3 minutes in). Instead, most of the song focuses on Chester’s haunting vocal performance and the song benefits as a result. Only on this song can you find the band combining Beatles inspired melodies with reggae influenced rap vocals, and their signature Linkin Park electronics and sound. It is one of the strongest and most distinct singles they’ve ever written, yet one of the most quintessentially Linkin Park songs in their entire discography. If you ever needed to have a great introduction to their genre blending style, this is the track for you.
One Step Closer – Hybrid Theory (2000)
“Everything you say to me, takes me one step closer to the edge, and I’m about to break…”
The first single ever released by Linkin Park, and the only Linkin Park music video to have the distinction of being directed by a former porn director (giving ‘one step closer to the edge’ a whole new meaning), this is the song that started it all. It may be simple, and it’s lyrics straightforward, but “One Step Closer’s” themes of angst and alienation provided an anthem for millions of music listeners both young and old who felt oppressed, angry and needed an outlet for their frustrations. With the surprise ‘shut up when I’m talking to you!’ bridge, “One Step Closer” arrived like an atom bomb on the music scene, and fifteen years later, Linkin Park still has the same energy, intensity, and ability to surprise.
Naturally with so many songs to choose from we were bound to leave some truly great tracks off the list, but we’d love to know your opinions. What are your thoughts Linkin Park fans? Do you agree with the choices, or do you feel we forgot some great tracks? Did you dislike any of the songs mentioned? Do you like Linkin Park? Be sure to make your voice heard in the comments.