You have sold millions of records worldwide, including a Diamond album certified by the RIAA. You have successfully taken to new heights a mixture of some of the most popular genres during your time. You have collaborated with some of the hottest and most recognizable names in other genres. You earned a nice collection of awards, including a couple of Grammys. You were the first rock band to achieve one billion hits on Youtube. You’re LinkinPark.
Three Agoura High School friends, Mike Shinoda (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Rob Bourdon (drums), and Brad Delson (lead guitar), began recording music shortly after graduation in Shinoda’s bedroom studio. Joe Hahn (turntables, samples, programming, keyboards), Dave “Phoenix” Farrell (bass, backing vocals), and Mark Wakefield (vocals) rounded out the group. The originally were called Xero, and then changed that to Hybrid Theory, eventually settling on LinkinPark. It was supposed to be Lincoln Park, the namesake of a Santa Monica park, but they wisely changed it to Linkin in order to obtain the internet domain linkinpark.com. They recorded their four track demo, yet failed to get a record deal. Soon after the failed demo, Farrell and Wakefield left the band for different reasons. With the departure of Phoenix, the band went through two replacements for bass duties; Kyle Christener in 1999, then Scott Koziol from 2000-2001. Farrell would eventually rejoin the group after Koziol’s tenure. With the departure of Wakefield, the band recruited Chester Bennington off of a recommendation form Zomba MusicVP Jeff Blue. Blue would also be instrumental in obtaining LinkinPark their first record deal when he became VP of Warner Bros. Records.
With five years of material and growth, LinkinPark released their major-label debut, Hybrid Theory, to a massive success. The debut sold just shy of five million copies during its debut year. The best selling album of 2001 went on to be certified Diamond in the US while peaking at number two on the Billboard 200. Hybrid Theory contained the hit singles “One Step Closer”, “Papercut”, “Crawling” and “In the End”. The album was a showcase of musicianship and progressive creativity that was never experienced before. With most members of the group providing multiple fields of instrumental/vocal duties, LinkinPark was able to keep a wide audience interested and listening with layers of sonic goodies. They took nu metal and rap metal to new heights on the skills if Hahn and Shinoda. The pair was able to display authentic hip-hop skills that would fit in seamlessly with the urban genre. On the flip side of the coin, Bennington’s vocal versatility and Delson’s saturated and dynamic guitars provided the group with equally authentic metal chops. And the group melds the two genres of hip-hop and metal well, but the icing on the cake maybe the performance and creative interplay with the bands two distinct vocalists.
In 2003 LinkinPark followed up with Meteora. The album peaked at number, but fell short if their debut Diamond status, still selling an impressive four-plus million copies. The album produced five singles, including “Somewhere I Belong”, “Breaking the Habit” and the Platinum hit “Numb”. Though Meteora was a commercial success, it received mixed critical reviews. Many critics felt the album was close to a carbon copy of its predecessor. Allmusic described it as “nothing more and nothing less than Hybrid Theory Part 2”. The band may have been guilty of trying to add too much depth and grit the album, making it darker than Hybrid Theory. But it did follow much of same mold; it was after all just their effort. And as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke…”
The band took a hiatus after the Meteora album cycle. They released a remix album entitled Collision Course featuring rap icon Jay-Z. The album featured lyrical mash-ups of both the band’s and rapper’s hits. Bennington and Shinoda started the side projects Dead by Sunrise and Fort Minor respectively. Fort Minor received the help of Jay-Z to release their debut album, The Rising Tide. Collision Course won a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration with the song “Numb/Encore”.
They released their third album, Minutes to Midnight in May 2007. The anticipation built from the hiatus seemed to serve the album well. It debuted at number one in the US, as well as other countries. The album itself went double Platinum, but the singles were especially impressive. The album produced five singles with three going at least Platinum. “Bleed It Out” and “Shadow of the Day” each went Platinum with “What I’ve Done” going double Platinum. The album was more of a rock album than the nu metal from their previous releases. Though there was still plenty of Shinoda’s lyrical poetry, there were less of the instrumental hip-hop insured elements the other releases had.
In September 2010 LinkinPark released A Thousand Suns. The album debuted at number on the Billboard 200, a distinction the band was already familiar with. But it was their first release to fail to achieve Platinum status. The album was experimentation for the band, perhaps brought upon by previous critical reviews. Christopher Weingarten of The Village Voice compared the album to Radiohead’s third studio album, OK Computer, describing the record’s composition as “uninhibited hooks, daffy left turns, piano-soaked bathos, explorations of the human relationship with technology, [and] a complete avoidance of metal.” In this effort, the band almost forgot about guitarist Delson, and Shinoda repeatedly shuns his rap lyrical vocals to provide sung vocals. A Thousand Suns produced the gold singles “The Catalyst” and “Waiting for the End”.
For the 2012 release Living Things, the band’s fifth album, Linkin Park attempted to meld the best aspects of their early nu metal roots with their more experimental previous releases. It was another number one debut for the band, yet another failed Platinum certification as to date. Once again the record would garner mixed reviews for the band, with NME giving the album 5 out of 10, stating that “…their foray into said genre here is restricted to the three minutes of ‘Castle of Glass’. The rest is… well, to be fair, they’ve obviously been listening to a bit of Skrillex, and thus the heavy guitar thud of yore has been replaced by a new, heavy electronic thud, but that aside it’s largely the usual semi-hilarious histrionica to which we’ve become accustomed.”
But one must wonder, has Linkin park’s musical experimentation really caused their sales the fail them as of late? Or is it that the digital age of music is more to blame than the bands willingness and effort to evolve sonically. There seemed to have been a time where bands were applauded for thinking outside of their box. Make know mistake though, when it comes to the ‘box’ of nu metal and rap metal, LinkinPark can still throw down with the best of them. Their place in the pantheons of the genres is cemented in time.