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Best Linkin Park Songs: 20 Classics That Launched A Nu-Metal Revolution
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Best Linkin Park Songs: 20 Classics That Launched A Nu-Metal Revolution

With era-defining woe and howls of incandescent rage, the best Linkin Park songs fused rap with metal and changed alternative rock forever.

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Taking over MTV with an enraged stream of angst-ridden rock songs, alternative-metal pioneers Linkin Park emerged from California in the early 2000s to become the biggest rock group since Nirvana. With their debut album, Hybrid Theory, selling 27 million copies worldwide to date, their fusion of Mike Shinoda’s rap-rock crossover vision and the late Chester Bennington’s vexed yet melodic voice cut through the post-millennial noise, inspiring legions of followers, from metalheads to hip-hop fans. Fully backing the group’s reputation as nu-metal titans, the best Linkin Park songs are a testament to the Californian six-piece’s musical evolution, demonstrating their enduring appeal as one of the most exciting rock bands of the 21st century.

Listen to the best of Linkin Park here.

20: Castle Of Glass (from ‘Living Things’, 2012)

A strong anti-war sentiment pervades much of Linkin Park’s music, and Castle Of Glass was the band’s stirring and emotionally powerful soundtrack offering to the video game Medal Of Honor: Warfighter. With a music video that told the story of a young family struggling to cope after their soldier father is killed in military action, the song chugs along to a slow, EDM-laced folk-rock groove with lyrics that Chester Bennington said were all about “finding yourself as this broken part of this big machine, and feeling like you’re not part of that”.

19: Pts.OF.Athrty (from ‘Reanimation’, 2002)

Remixed from the Hybrid Theory original, Points Of Authority, by Orgy vocalist and industrial-metal musician Jay Gordon, and released as a single in March 2002, Pts.OF.Athrty peaked at No.9 in the UK. Originally inspired by The Roots’ 1996 album, Illadelph Halflife, the song goes heavy on off-kilter hip-hop rhythms propelled by turntablist Joe Hahn’s red-hot scratching skills and guitar lines that were gleefully chopped up by Mike Shinoda on Pro Tools. “That’s one of his superpowers,” Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson said of Shinoda’s work. “He almost plays some of the recording technology like an instrument.” One of the best songs from the band’s first remix album, Reanimation, Pts.OF.Athrty boasted a CGI-laden music video featuring robots battling aliens on a far-off planet.

18: Leave Out All The Rest (from ‘Minutes To Midnight’, 2008)

With lyrics rendered painfully poignant following the death of Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington in 2017, Leave Out All The Rest was, Bennington explained to Kerrang!, “supposed to feel like an apology letter, as though I’m moving on but I want people to remember the good things and not the bad things”. As the last single to be lifted from the group’s third album, Minutes To Midnight, Leave Out All the Rest remains one of the best Linkin Park songs for how close its lyrics cut to the bone, and it continues to resonate as Bennington’s heartbreaking epitaph.

17: From The Inside (from ‘Meteora’, 2003)

Carried along by its unusual 6/8 time signature, the fourth single from Meteora, From The Inside, is a searing showcase of Linkin Park’s slow-burn nu-metal ambition. Starting life as a guitar idea cooked up at the back of a tour bus by bassist Dave “Phoenix” Farrell, it proved to be one of the most difficult songs the band ever recorded, after Chester Bennington fell ill during recording. Upon finishing his vocals during a mixing session in New York City, Bennington’s blend of tender melodicism and expurgatory screams elevated From The Inside to one of the best Linkin Park songs, and today its music video has racked up over 123 million views on YouTube.

16: Shadow Of The Day (from ‘Minutes To Midnight’, 2007)

Vaguely reminiscent of U2’s power ballad With Or Without You, the melancholic Shadow Of The Day explores Chester Bennington’s battles with depression and peaked at No.46 in the UK courtesy of its nakedly honest lyrics (“The shadow of the day will embrace the world in grey and the sun will set for you”). Already impeccably produced, the song was later remastered for iTunes with new string arrangements, with acoustic guitar, electric banjo and marimba reportedly buried in the mix. “This was probably the most difficult arrangement to nail,” guitarist Brad Nelson told Kerrang! “It’s definitely one of the best songs we’ve written.”

15: Waiting For The End (from ‘A Thousand Suns’, 2010)

As one of Chester Bennington’s favourite songs from Linkin Park’s third album, A Thousand Suns, Waiting For The End rolls along to a clattering beat and a truly bracing chorus. “I like the summertime vibe of Waiting,” Bennington said, adding that it was “uplifting right off the bat”. Released as a single in October 2010, the song peaked at No.42 in the US and remains one of the best Linkin Park songs for talking about summoning the self-resolution to overcome mental-health struggles. “The song doesn’t get into ‘poor me’,” Bennington said to Reuters. “It just says, ‘This happened. I’m not gonna focus on [what] got me here. I know what I want. That’s what I’m holding on to.”

14: Given Up (from ‘Minutes To Midnight’, 2007)

Originally going by the working title 21 Stitches, Linkin Park’s raucous post-rehab rocker Given Up sees Chester Bennington address alcoholism with typically self-recriminating honesty. The fourth single to be released from Minutes To Midnight, Given Up’s bridge alone earns the track its place among the best Linkin Park songs for containing one of the most cathartic screams Bennington cut on record. “That was the most epic thing I’ve ever heard,” Mike Shinoda said, recalling that he essentially structured the song around Bennington’s scream. Truly gut-busting and packing a powerful punch, Given Up screamed its way into the lower reaches of the US Hot 100 and proved to be a live favourite during Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution tour.

13: The Catalyst (from ‘A Thousand Suns’, 2010)

Receiving its first premiere in a trailer for the video game Medal Of Honor, The Catalyst was the lead single from A Thousand Suns, and pioneered a more heavily electronic-influenced direction for rock music that toyed with industrial-sounding synths and militaristic imagery (“God bless us every one/We’re a broken people living under loaded gun”). Peaking at No.27 in the US, the song was a perfect fit for the first-person shooter game. “The song itself has got some dark undertones and it’s got a lot of energy in it,” bassist Dave Farrell said. “It kind of just fits with the subject matter.”

12: Burn It Down (from ‘Living Things’, 2012)

Enjoying breaking down their nu-metal essence and giving it a new, electronica-inspired underpinning, Linkin Park fashioned Burn It Down as a catchy, Shiva-like manifesto of destruction as a means of creation. A turning point in the band’s sonic evolution, the song peaked at No.27 in the UK following its release as the lead single from Living Things, and it deserves its place among the best Linkin Park songs for performing an act of musical self-immolation by mixing electro-pop with hard rock. “We’ve incorporated a lot of guitar work with big choruses and the heavier electronic stuff to give it that really big wall-of-sound feeling without getting too metal,” Chester Bennington told Kerrang!

11: Bleed It Out (from ‘Minutes To Midnight’, 2007)

The 2007 single Bleed It Out saw the band wrestle with a rap-rock party anthem that flirted with Motown-esque drum beats and a punk-inspired chorus. Described by Mike Shinoda as “a tough one”, the song’s rapped lyrics were painstakingly agonised over, reportedly being written more than 100 times before he was satisfied with them. “It felt like I was bringing in the lyrics, getting punched in the face and then going back to the drawing board,” Shinoda told Kerrang! With its chiming guitar riffs and Chester Bennington’s singalong refrain, Burn It Down became a Top 40 hit in the UK, peaking at No.27 and immediately asserting itself as one of the best Linkin Park songs. “It’s a bizarre death-party-rap-hoedown!” Shinoda jokingly exclaimed.

10: New Divide (from ‘Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen – The Album’, 2009)

Displaying the band’s love of robots and sci-fi imagery, Linkin Park’s 2009 single, New Divide, was released as the main theme song to the blockbuster film Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. Mike Shinoda relished the challenge of creating what became a valiantly epic anthem and a cybernetic electronic rocker, expressing his pride over how New Divide captured “the spirit of the movie and the characters and also obviously stayed true to the spirit of the band”.

As one of one of Linkin Park’s biggest hits, New Divide peaked at No.6 in the US. Its ear-grabbing melody was so striking, composer Hans Zimmer adapted it to feature prominently in the film’s score.

9: Breaking The Habit (from ‘Meteora’, 2003)

A true labour of love, the final single to be released from the Meteora album had a lengthy gestation period. Reportedly taking Mike Shinoda around six years to finish, Breaking The Habit was instantly embraced by fans as a song about overcoming personal struggles, and was regarded by Shinoda as “one of the best songs we’ve ever written”. Guitarist Brad Delson concurred, acknowledging its long-protracted origins. “Some of the best songs, you know, happen so fast,” he said, “and then there’s songs we love [which] we take two or three years to write, so this is definitely one that was just meant to be.” Reaching No.20 in the US, Breaking The Habit was a regular feature in the band’s live set lists, and is proof that greatness is worth waiting for.

8: Papercut (from ‘Hybrid Theory’, 2000)

A quintessential nu-metal cut from Hybrid Theory, Papercut, the band’s third single and album opener, sliced its way into the UK singles chart at No.14. A dizzy-headed transfusion of Mike Shinoda’s rap-rock delirium and Chester Bennington’s emotionally irate vocals, the song’s siren-like intro went down like a fresh tonic for metalheads upon its release in September 2001. “I was influenced by everyone from Jay-Z to Timbaland,” Shinoda told Vulture of the song’s inspiration, praising its hip-hop bounce before it kicks in with “what you would now call a nu-metal beat”. Still unremittingly powerful today, Papercut served early notice that the best Linkin Park songs would made them one of the greatest rock bands of the 2000s.

7: Faint (from ‘Meteora’, 2003)

In speeding up its whirling strings to 135bpm, guitarist Brad Delson and Mike Shinoda’s decision to ramp up the tempo instantly transformed Faint into one of the very best Linkin Park songs. Released as the third single from Meteora, in June 2003, the song perfected Linkin Park’s nu-metal style with giddying panache, even though its lyrics had little bearing on the song’s name. “Faint was just a working title that we wanted to keep,” Mike Shinoda said. “That word doesn’t even appear in the song.” Nevertheless, it scored yet another hit for the band, peaking at No.15 in the UK and becoming one of their most recognisable songs.

6: What I’ve Done (from ‘Minutes To Midnight’, 2007)

After a three-year break, Minutes To Midnight’s lead single, What I’ve Done, exploded like a nuclear bomb as Linkin Park mounted their alt-rock comeback. With no rapping and bearing little comparison to what had gone before, the song’s Halloween-esque piano intro is suitably ominous, kicking in with a gargantuan hard-rock riff tailor-made for stadium shows. Once again addressing mental-health issues, Chester Bennington described the song’s lyrics as being about “admitting to your faults of the past and kind of accepting it and moving on and trying to become something better”. Easily one of the best Linkin Park songs, What I’ve Done was the perfect comeback single, and it reached No.6 in the UK and No.7 in the US.

5: One Step Closer (from ‘Hybrid Theory’, 2000)

Linkin Park’s debut single, One Step Closer, was a mind-blowing metal classic that kicked down the doors to the band’s subsequent career. With Chester Bennington’s rage-filled vocal quickly reaching boiling point, Mike Shinoda felt the song’s obnoxious lyrics (“Shut up when I’m talking to you!”) would serve as the band’s “calling card”. After producer Don Gilmore repeatedly questioned Bennington about the lyrics, forcing him to re-record his vocals over and over again, the exasperation in the singer’s voice was 100 per cent genuine. “It all came from that frustration,” Bennington told Kerrang! “So I guess in the end he inspired me the way he wanted to.” As their breakthrough single and one of the best Linkin Park songs, One Step Closer went into heavy rotation on MTV and reached No.24 in the UK, paving the way for the band’s ascendancy to nu-metal glory.

4: Somewhere I Belong (from ‘Meteora’, 2003)

Another Linkin Park song that took an exceptionally long time to create – approximately a year, by all accounts – Somewhere I Belong was released as Meteora’s lead single, in February 2003, after the group had toyed with 30 possible choruses before settling on the perfect one. “It’s really the first time you hear some optimistic views, some optimistic lyrics from us,” Mike Shinoda later reflected. A compelling nu-metal rocker about turning one’s back on distress, Somewhere I Belong soared to No.10 in the UK, and sees Chester Bennington expel his inner rage to find faith in belonging (“I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long”). Turning its back on teen angst, the song ranks among the best Linkin Park songs by pivoting into emotional maturity.

3: Crawling (from ‘Hybrid Theory’, 2000)

Winning a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, Linkin Park’s second single, Crawling, is a hallucinatory rap-metal revelation, evoking all the unsettling side-effects of methamphetamine withdrawal. A UK No.14 hit following its release as a single, in March 2001, not only is Crawling one of the best Linkin Park songs, but Mike Shinoda regards Chester Bennington’s performance as his very finest, like capturing lightning in a bottle. “His vocal in that song, it was even hard for him to do some nights on tour, and it’s impossible for anybody else to sing it that well,” Shinoda said. With slaloming synth lines that left it covered in hives of angst, Crawling was a much-needed dose of emotional insecticide that fumigated the early 2000s metal scene.

2: Numb (from ‘Meteora’, 2003)

Exhausted after touring their hugely successful debut album, Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park worked up the world-weary and fatigue-laden Numb. The third single to be released from Meteora, it was, without a doubt, a nu-metal tour de force. “It’s very recognisable as our sound,” Mike Shinoda told Shoutweb. “It’s kind of about those times when you’ve got no feeling left or you just don’t care.” Initially going Top 20 in the UK, Numb became a hit for a second time following a mash-up by US rapper Jay-Z which demonstrated the band’s crossover appeal with rap audiences as well with fans of alternative metal. It proved Linkin Park had staying power, and that they were in it for the long haul.

1: In The End (from ‘Hybrid Theory’, 2000)

Arguably saving the best for last, the final single to be released from Hybrid Theory was Linkin Park’s epic signature song, In The End. Described by Mike Shinoda as being about “a weird battle with hopelessness and the ephemeral nature of time”, In the End was the ultimate sleeper hit, selling four million copies in the US and becoming the first nu-metal song to surpass a billion streams on Spotify. A potent mix of Shinoda’s maundering rapping skills and Chester Bennington’s anguished screams, the song reached No.2 on the US Hot 100 and remains Linkin Park’s biggest hit. Incendiary and cathartic, it deservedly tops our list of the best Linkin Park songs of all time.

You’ve heard the best Linkin Park songs, now find out the best rock songs of all time.

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