Remembering Linkin Park’s Meteora at 20


When Linkin Park arrived on the scene in the year 2000, they quickly took the scene by storm. Armed with a debut album literally loaded with hits, Hybrid Theory both put them on the map and in the upper echelon of the nü-metal/rap-rock genre. As Linkin Park crossed over into mainstream rock and even “real” hip-hop—Collision Course dropped a year later—all eyes were on the exploding band and their follow up, Meteora

The album was preceded by a whopping five singles (it was a different time!) and sold 810,000 copies in its first week. Songs like “Breaking the Habit” became part of the zeitgeist, earning gold RIAA certification and racking up nearly 300 million views on YouTube.

Since its release, Meteora has gone on to sell 16 million records, making it the seventh best-selling album of the 21st century.  Numbers aren’t the only thing that matters, but when it comes to Meteora, they don’t lie: it was a big fuckin’ album. The singles received heavy radio time, the videos lived on MTV and it seemed like every third YouTube video used a Linkin Park song. They may not be the heaviest band of all time but for many, it was their first time hearing screams, breakdowns or downtuned guitars (because they just wanted to watch a Naruto MV).

When Meteora landed, it was clear there was no better gateway band from rock into the world of metal than Linkin Park. By flirting with the mainstream via collaboration with Jay-Z and simultaneously using heavier songwriting and screaming, they served as a logical entry point to heavy music for many. Songs like “Lying From You” introduce heavier parts of Linkin Park’s sound, while singles like “Somewhere I Belong” and “Breaking the Habit” were made for broader consumption with their emphasis on melody and the accessible rap side of Linkin Park’s sound. 

Meteora was my first exposure to Linkin Park, before I was even a teenager. I knew all the words to “Breaking the Habit” (and “Numb” and “In the End”) before I even knew who Iron Maiden were. I’m not alone in that experience, either. Alongside Slipknot’s Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, Meteora introduced me and a whole generation of metalheads to a musical world we’d never been before. On its 20th birthday, that’s what I’m most grateful to Meteora for.

Linkin Park’s music stands the test of time when many of their nü metal and rap rock peers fail for a few reasons. One is just a level of musical competency that grows throughout the band’s career; though some of the ideas presented on Meteora, and Hybrid Theory before it, are half-baked, they’re never sloppily executed. Mike Shinoda is one of the better emcees of the nü metal boom, even sometimes venturing out on his own as rapper in his side project Fort Minor, and he rarely reaches the cringe level that many of his peers often did. He even carries a couple tracks, like “Nobody’s Listening,” which places heavy emphasis on the hip-hop production and rapping, without causing a stylistic departure from other songs.

The same can be said of Chester Bennington, Shinoda’s opposite on the mic, handling singing and screams. Bennington is honest in the songs about his struggles with mental illness —lyrics that feel all the more potent now —and other relatable topics. Where many of their peers tried on tough-guy machismo or to be the next Slipknot, Linkin Park wrote catchy songs that held emotional weight, a skill they never lost even as their sound changed. 

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