Why Linkin Park Were So Much More Than a Nu-Metal Band

To be totally honest, I haven’t spent much time listening to Linkin Park lately, and I’m not familiar with their most recent albums. My Linkin Park phase was in high school—Hybrid Theory (2000), Reanimation (2002), Meteora (2003), and Collision Course (2004) came out during that time. At that point in my life, I was mostly a classical, jazz, and rap fan—I wasn’t into heavy rock or metal, so Linkin Park was the most intense thing I listened to in my teenage years. And as I think back on it, it seems bizarre that I liked the band so much, because they really didn’t fit with anything else I was listening to. But it makes sense now, because the reach and scope of their music were powerful enough to grip people outside the typical realm of nu metal.

There’s something almost transcendental about early Linkin Park. They were too anthemic to be fully nu metal (à la Korn, Limp Bizkit, or P.O.D.), too hip-hop to be rock, and too emo and mainstream to be “cool,” at least as far as what was considered cool among my peers. Theirs was a profoundly relatable music that flipped the script on what it was supposed to be. Their lyrics had a radically human core, one that embraced and tried to work through longing and alienation. These people were dealing with complex emotions like guilt and shame when the Dave Matthews Band—probably the most popular band in my community—was singing about getting high and ejaculating. And the actual music of Linkin Park was very intriguing, boasting intelligent percussion, authoritative washes of reverbed guitar, disciplined use of electronics, and methodical pacing. Listening to Meteora as an adult now, I’m still moved by its quality, its musicianship, and its acuity.

Growing up before social media, in a fairly bland, conservative suburban community, I didn’t know a lot about the world of music. I don’t remember too much of what I listened to back then, but I do remember relating to the angst and hopelessness of Meteora in a powerful way. Linkin Park were basically my Smiths, and I’m fine with that. They were the therapeutic outlet that was available to me, and I’m glad they were. It’s sad that Chester Bennington is dead, because his music always pointed, more than anything, toward a desire for deliverance from pain. I don’t know whether he achieved that in the end, but I do know that his music was there for countless lost teenagers like myself.