The band’s later work moved away from nu-metal, exploring genres like alternative rock, hip hop, and electronica, but, present throughout their entire back catalog is the unique blend of Mike Shinoda’s harsh, deep rapping and Chester Bennington’s gritty, melodic singing (and screaming). These two, along with Brad Delson (guitar) Dave Farrell (bass), John Hahn (samples/turntables) and Rob Bourdon (drums) have pretty consistently made up the band’s lineup, receiving a number of extraordinarily impressive accolades together. Hybrid Theory is one of the best-selling albums of all time, and the band were the first rock artists to surpass one billion views on Youtube. They’ve even been listed by the future King of England, Prince William, as one of his favorite artists!
Together the band have released six studio albums, many live albums, two remix albums, and even won a Grammy for a collaboration with Jay-Z. By never being afraid to explore new sounds and keep up with the zeitgeist, Linkin Park have managed to stay relevant when other nu-metal bands have been forgotten. Here is our list of what we believe to be some of the best Linkin Park Songs.
# 10 – The Catalyst
Taken from the band’s fourth album A Thousand Suns (2010), this is the record’s penultimate track and the first of its singles to be released. The Catalyst serves as the perfect introduction to the Thousand Suns’ album campaign, concerning itself with the seemingly unavoidable war-like nature of human beings, and the effect this has on innocent lives. As the title of the album that this track comes from suggests, this campaign was about the possibility of nuclear war.
Given its subject matter, it’s no surprise that this song is dramatic and epic in scope. The track begins with some ominous organ notes, which are perfectly contrasted with Hahn’s trademark scratch effects. This blend of traditional end-of-the-world “what hath we wrought” instrumental with modern digital effects works flawlessly to create a foreboding and believable apocalyptic soundtrack, something which is only enhanced by the anthemic and captivating chant that makes up the vocals.
Guitars only play a minor role in this majestic, Muse-inspired song, yet it is easily the most theatrical and dramatic single Linkin Park have ever released.
# 9 – Burn It Down
Another experimental track, Burn It Down (2012) plays with the synth heavy sound usually associated with dance music, although it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear it played in a traditional nightclub. Chester Bennington’s voice works really well with the (comparatively) light instrumental, which features guitars mainly during the songs catchy chorus, shredding and grinding.
As usual, the song concerns itself with deep, cerebral elements, with the song featuring imagery eliciting the idea that humanity is stuck in an unbreakable cycle of destruction; that no matter how civilized we become, eventually our toxic nature can only result in ruin. Equally, the song could be read as an allegory for a relationship ending in disaster; a more relatable way to approach the track.
By adopting a more popular, contemporary sound, Burn It Down allows the band to revisit ideas they’ve discussed in the past, without becoming stale. If you’re looking for a dance-tinged rock track, you can do no better than this.
# 8 – Breaking the Habit
This song is an interesting one as, despite coming from just the band’s second album Meteora (2002), it sees the band tentatively stepping away from the nu-metal sound of Hybrid Theory – featuring absolutely no rap elements or distorted guitar sounds. Chester Bennington has made no secret of his past drug abuse, so you might assume the lyrics of this song were written by him. In fact, this is not the case, and the song is actually the brainchild of Mike Shinoda, written before he even knew Chester. Although, it is said that Bennington related so much to the song’s lyrics that he had difficulty performing it for a while.
Although you might think, given the subject matter, that the song is negative and downbeat, listening to the lyrics will reveal the track actually gives listeners some hope for the future; that the song’s protagonist has identified his problems and will strive to overcome them. Perhaps this is echoed by the song’s instrumental, which features swelling strings and is quite light compared to the band’s usually heavy fair.
Breaking the Habit is a powerful track, perfectly displaying Linkin Park’s ability to construct compelling narratives through their lyrics and music.
# 7 – Papercut
The siren-like guitar riff which recurs throughout this 2001 song acts as a warning to listeners; this song is dark. Papercut didn’t originally get a release in the US and was only put out to capitalize on the success of In the End. Therefore the song tends to be more popular with UK fans, where it got a proper release and charted at number 14.
The track revolves around paranoia, anxiety and the darkness that lurks within. The band manages to perfectly capture the essence of these painful phenomena in the song, which is a flurry of tightly spat rap, grinding guitar riffs and unsettling whispers. The key change at the songs final bridge seems to suggest hope for the future, but this light end of the tunnel is dashed by the lyrical content, with the song ending on a harsh and cold-blooded scream-note by Bennington.
The way Papercut manages to transpose the pain of paranoia and darkness to the medium of music is something to behold, and it’s no surprise that Chester Bennington lists this nu-metal highlight as one of his favorite songs.
# 6 – What I’ve Done
The first single from 2007’s Minutes to Midnight, What I’ve Done is somewhat of a summation of the album as a whole. Indeed, the song was written to represent the musical evolution the band had gone through leading to this third album.
Appropriately, the song concerns itself with regret and rebirth, instructing fans (and nay-sayers) to forget what they thought they knew about Linkin Park. As such, the song features some elements which, at the time, the band had little experience with. The song is most notable for abandoning the tripled vocal effect which Bennington previously relied on, allowing his natural un-edited vocals to take center stage. Similarly, the guitars and drums have a very raw and visceral feel, lacking the crunchy, twisted effects associated with nu-metal.
This brave abandonment of the elements which were responsible for the band’s monumental success shows how the band were not prepared to rest on their laurels, and, as such, What I’ve Done has more than earned its place on this list.
# 5 – Faint
This fan favorite from Meteora features a middle eastern-inspired synth hook that is remarkably similar to the one on Britney Spears’ hugely catchy Toxic. Still, it seems unlikely that the pop princess would approve of this song’s shouty, gravelly, screamo-inspired chorus and bridge.
This brutal nu-metal track sees the band at their most furious, compelling whoever’s at the receiving end of their impassioned verbal onslaught to pay attention to them. Frankly, this request is almost impossible to ignore, with Faint seeing Bennington at his most enraged – screaming and growling over infectiously catchy heavy guitar riffs. The aforementioned “Toxic” hook works remarkably well, perfectly complimenting the song’s savage guitars with an incessant earworm that placate the listener between choruses.
Although the band have never managed to reach the heights of their early success, with songs like Faint in their arsenal, it’s impossible to understand why.
# 4 – In The End
For many, this is the Linkin Park song, and, for anyone of a certain age, the nine-note piano riff which opens the song is indelibly trapped in their brain, right next to the intro to MCR’s The Black Parade.
Perhaps this song is most notable for the excellent interplay between Shinoda’s harsh rapping (only improved by the songs use of digital effects) and the haunting, wistful vocal runs of Bennington. The band take full advantage of this superlative dynamic and use it to stand out from their nu-metal contemporaries.
The song concerns itself with the idea of running out of time, after all, everybody dies, and this concept is echoed by the music of the song. The iconic piano riff which pervades the track seems to build and build, but ultimately just ends up repeating itself, and similarly, the chord progression of the chorus’ guitar riffs somehow brings to mind the turning of cogs and ticking of clock hands.
The contrast between the two singer’s vocals, coupled with a clever combination of lyrics and instrumentals, helps to cement In The End as an essential Linkin Park listen.
# 3 – Numb
This single from Meteora is perhaps best known for its remix/mashup with Jay-Z’s Encore, which strips the guitar elements and replaces them with a more appropriate hip hop sound (it also happens to be the benchmark by which all other mashup tracks are judged). Still, we’re not here to talk about Jay-Z, and Numb can confidently be judged on its own merits.
Like Faint, this song opens with a superbly distinctive synth hook, this time sounding like a crunchy digitized 90’s ringtone. Unfortunately, the hook is not revisited until the song’s final chorus – the only criticism anyone could possibly have of this otherwise solid track. Chester Bennington dominates Numb, with Shinoda having a minimal presence (besides a few lines of the vocal hook), allowing it to act as a showcase for his immensely recognizable voice. Simultaneously scratchy and melodic, Bennington’s unique voice is a pleasure – and a rollercoaster – to listen to. His ability to go so effortlessly from melodic to brittle is something to behold, and Numb perfectly illustrates this.
No doubt this relatable song soundtracked many a teenage rebellion upon its release, and, after listening to this exceptionally emotive track, you’ll feel anything but numb.
# 2 – Crawling
This devastatingly personal song sees the band perfectly capture how hard it can be to struggle with addiction. It begins with an uncomfortable, otherworldly synth riff, before kicking its listener in the face with a taste of its enormous and impassioned chorus.
The fifth single from the band’s Hybrid Theory debut, Crawling is the perfect title for this song, with its repetitive synth, dreamy backing vocals, and unsettling tone somehow replicating the sense of innumerable, intangible fiends plaguing one’s body and mind – a visceral metaphor for addiction. There’s something almost primal about the uncomfortable sensations it produces – as if your body is unconsciously picking up on something being not quite right.
The subdued and almost emotionless way that Bennington sings on the verses is the perfect contrast to the angry and distressing atmosphere of the chorus, in which you can feel the pain, grief, and fury which lurks behind every word he spits. Perhaps this dichotomy is intended to emulate the emotional and physical ups and downs experienced by those battling addiction.
Chester has said that he has struggled to perform this song in the past, but if you’re ever lucky enough to see Crawling live, then prepare yourself for something truly special; an intense, fervent, truly personal experience which you’ll never forget.
# 1 – One Step Closer
As this list has shown, some of Linkin Park songs concern themselves with big, cerebral issues, but One Step Closer is not one of them, and that is exactly where its strength lies.
Rather than pontificating on war or the broader failings of the human race, One Step Closer concerns itself with the immensely relatable feeling of being on the edge of breaking point. As everyone knows, you can only be pushed so far before you inevitably snap, and this track perfectly captures the crushing and maddening frustration one feels in this situation, trying to hold yourself back from doing something you might regret later.
Despite the lyrics suggesting otherwise, the astonishingly angry bridge must surely see Bennington at breaking point – it certainly sees him at his most enraged and frenzied – compelling the unfortunate victim of his diatribe to leave him alone.
This straight up nu-metal track illustrates everything wonderful about the genre; the crunchy, heavy guitars, the rap and screamo vocal elements, and the inspired use of turntable scratches. That the band managed to produce such an extraordinary track as their debut single displays how since their very inception they’ve been a rock force to reckon with.
Although they’ve moved on from the sound that made them famous, Linkin Park’s evolution has enabled them to stay in the public consciousness while their contemporaries have been forgotten, and, as this list has demonstrated, it certainly hasn’t stopped them from producing some outstanding rock music.