Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory Remains The Best Nu-Metal Album Of The Last 20 Years
Happy birthday Hybrid Theory, the album that more than lives up to its reputation.
By the time the album came out, 20 years ago today, Linkin Park had been studiously crafting their sound for four years. The high school band Xero, formed by Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon and Brad Delson, gradually evolved into Linkin Park after Chester Bennington replaced original vocalist Mike Wakefield, who left out of frustration at not landing a record deal.
With the foresight to utilise their blend of genres, the new lineup changed their name to Hybrid Theory, as the pairing of Shinoda and Bennington’s vocal styles reinvigorated the band. After a few near misses, the band landed a deal with Warner Bros. Records, and changed their name again – this time at the label’s suggestion – to avoid any confusion with the British band Hybrid.
Not everyone at the label was so taken with Linkin Park’s mix of styles and influences – ranging from rock to hip hop, heavy metal to electronica – with some even suggesting Bennington should demote or fire Shinoda so there’d be only one singer. However, the band stuck to their guns and released their debut album on October 24, 2000. What may have been a gamble for the label was never less than certain for the band, and Hybrid Theory’s legacy proves they were right to stand firm.
Thanks to singles like Crawling, In The End and One Step Closer, the album peaked at number two on the US Billboard 200 and hit the top 10 in 15 other countries. Twenty years later, Hybrid Theory is certified 12x Platinum and has sold 27 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling rock album of the 21st century.
Emerging during the rise of nu metal along with bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, Linkin Park quickly stood out and worked to separate themselves from the crowd. Thanks to the dual frontman partnership of Shinoda and Bennington mixing their styles of rapping and singing, a wider audience was immediately open to the band.
It wasn’t just the musical style that attracted such a large audience, though. Bennington’s revealing, emotional and honest lyrics quickly came to fore, striking a chord with hoards of teenagers and young adults searching for a like-minded group of friends, as much as they were looking to absorb new music. As the band’s DJ Joe Hahn told the NME, ‘We were all products of our environment so as a band, we weren’t worried about people not getting it. We knew there were people like us out there and we just wanted to get our music to them.’
Indeed, despite somewhat lazily being lumped in with nu metal at the time, Linkin Park were about much more than that, looking instead to create their own world, rather than latching on to any pre-existing scene.
As Shinoda told Metal Hammer:
At the time, if you asked somebody what they were listening to they’d say… ‘Rock. I listen to hip hop. I listen to jazz.’ It wasn’t until five years later they’d say, ‘Everything’. Hybrid Theory did some of that work. It was part of the progression towards breaking down boundaries between styles of music.
Growing up, it was clear to Shinoda that, if wanted to find a place to belong in music, he’d have to create it himself. He explained, ‘I listened to 90% rap music, then I’d look at a lot of rock bands and I’d be like, ‘There’s something too white’ [about it]. That was one of the things that turned me off, especially hair metal. Hair metal felt like very white music and I was growing up in a very diverse city so I didn’t gravitate to it. That didn’t resonate with me. And it wasn’t just about race. I don’t mean the colour of skin. I just mean the culture of it. When nu metal started at the very beginning, it was a very diverse place.’
Linkin Park’s debut arrived at a time when file-sharing was on the rise; sites like Napster and Limewire meant young music fans could get their hands on pretty much any music at any time, and Hybrid Theory seemed to capitalise on the cross-genre listening habits of their emerging audience. Coupled with tapping into their own personal stories, particularly Bennington’s openness in his lyrics, the band’s debut purposefully pushed boundaries and avoided any pigeon-holing.
Twenty years later, the album’s influence is still keenly felt throughout the music industry, with artists like Bring Me The Horizon, Machine Gun Kelly and even Brockhampton citing Hybrid Theory as having a huge impact on their own style.
As MGK put it to Kerrang!:
Hybrid Theory was one of the first three CDs that I ever had in my life. When Papercut comes on and that f*cking beat kicks in – oh my God! Imagine going from listening to the Grease soundtrack to listening to that!
The influence is still felt now, as Hahn told the NME:
Seeing the impact that album had on people as individuals, and how that echoed through different places in the world, holds a very special place to us. It let us know that what we do has an impact on people, and that’s not something to take lightly.
Selling more than 4.8 million copies in its first year alone, Hybrid Theory went on to win Grammys and MTV Awards, throwing the band into mainstream success. Linkin Park went on to release six more albums, their last being 2017’s One More Light before the untimely death of Chester Bennington.
As Hybrid Theory turns 20, and with the arrival of a huge anniversary album box set, what better way to revisit the band’s back catalogue and to celebrate Linkin Park’s – and, indeed, Chester Bennington’s – lasting influence on music today.
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