Emotions aren’t fun. At their commercial peak, Linkin Park was a band associated with unfiltered teenage feelings and endlessly mocked for it. The band dug into the woes of adolescence that for many are best left behind. Yet, for them, that is where they dug deeper. Maybe their lyrics were too forward, too raw, and just too direct, but that is what makes Linkin Park such an amazing band from the outset.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the band’s debut album Hybrid Theory, which spawned a number of hits that they’re still known for today: “One Step Closer” (#68 on Billboard’s Hot 100), “Crawling” (#79), and what remains their biggest hit of their career “In the End” that reached #2 on the popular chart. The album’s initial reception was a slow burn when it was first released in 2000, and none of the singles were an immediate hit. It wasn’t until late 2001 with the release of “In The End” that the attention around the band began to swell and the sales of Hybrid Theory continued even a year after release.
All of that success brought them more fans, as well as onlookers that disliked everything about the band. Even if the word wasn’t codified — what were memes before the word “meme” — there were plenty of internet jokes devoted to mocking the band and their fans. Yet these jokes completely whiffed on what people enjoyed about the band — of course the band was emotional, and that is exactly what their music intended to express. “Crawling” would be mocked for lines like “Crawling in my skin these wounds will never heal”, yet that agony for many isn’t a put on. It’s exaggerated, but it isn’t unreasonable.
Questions of self-doubt and searching for a place in the world of course don’t end at a certain age. That might also be why Linkin Park as a band remains immensely popular far beyond many of their contemporaries — anyone remember Crazy Town, Papa Roach, or Limp Bizkit? — from the early 2000s contemporary rock days. Where those other bands were burning out of style by 2003, Linkin Park were onto their next album, Meteora, and ready to make the next leap.
Hybrid Theory is an album that asks a lot of the listener. That might be why it was able to sell millions of records and launch the band into being one of the biggest bands of the decade. It asks them to be vulnerable and be okay with that openness, which might’ve felt like a risk, but it turns out millions of people were ready to make the jump.