Mike Shinoda has released the music from his 45-second NFT mixtape
The NFTs sold out immediately, but you can hear the Linkin Park man's new music anyway…
Let’s get one thing out of the way early on: there are no bad songs on Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory. Released two decades ago, it’s still the pinnacle of nu-metal and its influence can be heard on countless metalcore and post-hardcore bands today. Throughout its 12 tracks, Hybrid Theory deals with real, raw human emotion, realised through the unstoppable dynamic of Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington. But it’s more than vocal dexterity, Linkin Park’s debut synergised the worlds of EDM, hip-hop and metal into a sound that we take for granted today.
However, because we’re sadists and love starting arguments, we decided to put these dozen tracks into the definitive order of ‘worst’ to best. That said, anyone who skips a single track on this record is a fool with marshmallows for ears.
Let’s get to it…
‘Folks, we have a very special guest for you tonight. I’d like to introduce Mr Haaaaaaaaaaaahn.’ We’re sorry, Joe, but this list has to start somewhere. As mentioned above, Hybrid Theory melded electronic music with rock and metal with breathtaking ease, but to shine the spotlight so heavily on your DJ is a brave move, and one that paid off – providing a necessary pit stop before the finish line. Not only that, but it introduced the benefits of blissed-out strings and electronica to a generation of young rock fans who previously just wanted to scream a bit.
One of the oldest songs on the record and one of the shortest, we find Chester questioning what he has been told to be true over oceanic electronics, before swandiving into the riff-heavy chorus. It’s primarily a Chester Bennington joint until the chugging, pummelling rap/scream face-off, with Mike offering his ‘Gonna run away, gonna run away’ rebuttal. Not a standout by any means, but good solid Linkin Parkiness.
Kicking in instantly with Chester’s ‘From the top to the bottom’, against a crunching riff, Forgotten might be the perfect showcase of the vocal duo’s partnership, bouncing off each other like they’ve been doing it for decades, trading line for line, going harder and urging each other on every time. “With this song in particular, we were in the pursuit of matching the hip-hop side of what we were doing with this heavy build-up,” Joe Hahn told Kerrang!. “It worked perfectly with two vocalists, Chester and Mike, because it created a template for them to really play off each other.”
Also, if we were ranking these songs simply on joyous moments, the ‘Hoo-hah!’ at the nine second mark would put Forgotten near the top.
With its mechanical, factory-like intro, By Myself feels a much darker proposition than other tracks on Hybrid Theory. As Mike holds court for the opening verse, a sea of whirrs and warps build throughout, layer upon layer, as the song faces the cause and impact of isolation. The vocal effects on Mike almost separate himself from the in-your-face smash of Chester whose screams ricochet against the heavy machinery, drowning out his calls for help and that he ‘can’t hold on’. A poignant moment on a record already drenched in personal turmoil.
The climax of Hybrid Theory and one that sees Chester reckoning with the idea of just walking away from bad situations, like the ones we’ve heard him confront across the rest of the record. In that regard it’s the ideal finale, having our protagonist stand up for himself, celebrated with a bombastic chorus that shifts gear for the final minute, suddenly exploding into a more expansive beast. It lacks much of hip-hop sensibilities seen elsewhere on the record, and as Mike told K!, he and guitarist Brad Delson were taking cues from Depeche Mode, while also wanting to write a song similar to Crawling: “Melodic, no rapping, power chords, but still a lot of energy.” Mission accomplished.
Its punky opening guitar and pounding percussion – bouncing like a basketball down the stairs – transcends into a fiery Mike verse with one of Hybrid Theory’s most recognisable guitar lines. And then in comes Chester with full metallic backing, who continues to float through the rapper’s verses, dragging up so much angst to purge from his system with, ‘You try to take the best of me / Go away!’ When the cathartic climax finally arrives all you can do is brace for impact, and then go for a lie down. Phew!
‘Forfeit the game before somebody else takes you out of the frame / Puts your name to shame / Cover up your face / You can't run the race, the pace is too fast, you just won't last.’ Mike's smirking, motormouth delivery cements how integral hip-hop is to the Linkin Park formula, especially in a song with more hooks than a butcher’s fridge. Speaking to K! about the track, Brad said that it deconstructs live music by “taking organic ingredients [and] putting them in a digital blender”. And while this is neither Mike or Chester’s best outing on the record, it's an exhibition of all the elements that go into Linkin Park working at full tilt.
One Step Closer is the ultimate nu-metal banger, it’s as simple as that. That riff, the angst, the piercing screams – it makes us want to go dye our hair red and fight some floating ninjas. While it is structurally quite basic compared to the majority of Hybrid Theory, the crushing chorus and dual vocals have made it a rock club mainstay for 20 years, because who doesn’t enjoy bellowing ‘Shut up when I’m talking to you’ while being elevated by a cacophony of distorted riffs and scratching?
We’re really getting to the gold now. Of course there’s the huge exorcising intro and chorus, but Crawling is the album’s first real admission of vulnerability, running the gamut of young emotion as it follows on from tracks that lean towards the aggro. The juxtaposition between the minimal verses and monumental chorus just adds to the ambitious nature of the track, and while it might be primarily Chester in clear focus, Mike spitting his words adds another layer to one of the band’s greatest-ever songs.
This is where it all started. Track one, side one. The first time that millions of people heard Linkin Park they were met with a mesh of rapping and downtuned guitars that would define a generation, alongside an infectious, anthemic chorus. “The beat was influenced a lot by Timbaland, then the guitars kick in with a very cutting edge – what you call ‘nu-metal’ now – type of sound,” Mike told K!. “Underneath that, there was a drum’n’bass beat happening at the same time, so within the first 20 seconds you’re getting three major genre touch-points jammed together.” There’s a tenderness to Chester’s voice that counteracts the antagonistic flow of Mike too, building and building as every element of Linkin Park is given time to shine, eventually reaching the emotive crescendo of that classic ‘The suuuuun goes down’. Yes please.
By far the most underrated track on Hybrid Theory, With You is a stone-cold banger. From its scratching intro to the elongated guitars to the minimalism and electronica that permeates the verses, this track best highlights the duality of vocal styles, but it’s Chester’s guttural ‘With youuuuuuuuuuuu’ that makes your hairs stand on end. Seriously, stick it on now and tell us you don’t get goosebumps. And when the scratching veers in before the breakdown, the song transcends into something utterly euphoric, with Chester belting out, ‘No matter how far we've come / I can't wait to see tomorrow with you.’ Chills for days.
It had to be, didn’t it? Linkin Park’s biggest song and at the time their most ambitious – it’s hard to believe that Mike wrote it in their rehearsal space overnight. Opening on tinkling piano keys, Mike's signature verses are embellished with Chester’s ethereal, floating vocals, holding notes with pristine accuracy and length. Everything about it is in the right place – even the juttering on the word ‘property’. Of course it’s those huge open chords that graduate to the epic bridge (‘I put my trust in you…’) that has led to In The End becoming Linkin Park’s defining track. As uplifting as it is emotionally heavy, it was an integral part of growing up for millions of people, who can still sing it all off by heart. The centrepiece on an album with no duff tracks – what more could you want?
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