The 8 Ball 6.14.14: Top 8 Linkin Park Tracks
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 06.14.2014
From "In The End" and "Faint" to "Breaking the Habit," "A Place For My Head" and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 Linkin Park tracks of all-time!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Music Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, I will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Happy Saturday ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the 411 Music Zone 8 Ball! Jeremy Thomas here as always, and this week we'll be delving into a band that many have opinions about, both good and bad. Linkin Park release their latest album The Hunting Party on Tuesday, their seventh studio LP and the first since 2012's Living Things. The group has been at the forefront of the rapcore movement, finding incredible success and many fans and detractors both. This week we're going to look at the greatest songs in their discography.
Caveat: As usual with my single-act top songs list, I was looking specifically at original songs performed by the band/artist as opposed to covers. Linkin Park doesn't have a lot of covers, but I also left out remixes and collaborations. This means that the whole of Reanimation and their Collision Course mash-up album with Jay Z were left off the list. In terms of quality, I should note that I am not at all a fan of the band's electro-rock album A Thousand Suns, although "The Catalyst" is a solid song and that's why you don't see any entries from that album on this list. It's good to experiment, but it some experiments are doomed before they begin.
Just Missing The Cut
"Burn It Down" (2012)
"Shadow of the Day" (2007)
"What I've Done" (2007)
"Bleed It Out" (2007)
#8: "A Place For My Head" (2000)
First up on our list is one of a few songs from Hybrid Theory to make the top eight. "A Place For My Head" isn't perhaps the most well-known track off of the band's first album; it was never released as a single and certainly takes a backseat to many of the band's more well-known songs in terms of mainstream recognition. But it's a great representation of this album and features all of the aggression, angst and hard riffs that the band excels at. Right from the stripped-down opening you can feel the anger in the song, which really kicks in when Rob Bourdon comes pounding in with the drums. Shinoda's rapid-fire rapping is very much on point here and the chorus features some heavy riffs that inspire thoughts of headbanging. Rapcore is a derided genre, but when it works it really works. You see that in songs like this and Chester Bennington's screamed breakdown toward the end of the song provides an emotional high point to the song, then slides right in underneath Shinoda's shouted closing part. "A Place For My Head" is often overlooked and deserves more credit than it gets.
#7: "Hands Held High" (2007)
"Hands Held High" is going to be a controversial choice, for several reasons. For many people Minutes to Midnight was the point when Linkin Park started spiraling downward, and to some "Hands Held High" is a good example of that. Linkin Park had hit a commercial high in the mid 2000s, and it was a perfect time for a group that was clearly getting increasingly frustrated with the state of the world. "Hands Held High" is considered to be overly preachy and you know what? Maybe it is. The song basically consists of Shinoda proselytizing over a stripped-down sound which eschews a lot of the band's more praised aggression, which eventually shifts to a chant of "Amen." It doesn't take a genius to see that the band's core fanbase, who grew up on the likes of "Crawling" and "Numb," wasn't going to react well to that and it's not exactly the kind of song that that is built to be a big hit. That being said, this is one of the points where the band's new direction really clicked. Linkin Park loves to experiment and it hasn't always worked (see: almost all of A Thousand Suns) but this one worked because it feels personal and that helps the song have an inspired quality. If you don't like the sudden change in sound from what Linkin Park had done before that's fine, but you at least have to appreciate that the band went out and did a song that supports a cause they strongly believed in. And in my estimation they did a fine job with it.
#6: "Figure.09" (2003)
Meteora is generally assumed to be the band's high point from both a commercial and creative standpoint, and it's difficult to argue with the sentiment. There are a lot of great tracks on the 2003 album, although I think that its strength is more that it's a cohesive album than it is a collection of great individual songs. That's not to say there aren't some impressive individual numbers though and "Figure.09" is another example of a song that exemplifies the group's signature sound. With rousing guitars and both Shinoda and Bennington in top form, this song is put over the top by displaying the group's ability to evoke a certain mood. Not every song is about telling a conclusive, liner story and the lyrics capture that essence of frustration and anger. Is it about a failed relationship, a toxic friend or an enemy? Whichever the case, it effectively evokes the idea of how a passionate hatred of someone can turn you into that very thing you despise. Despite not being released as a single or getting any real airplay, "Figure.09" has become a fan favorite for good reason.
#5: "In the End" (2001)
"In the End" is one of the first songs that most people think of when Linkin Park comes to mind. The group broke into the mainstream with "One Step Closer," but "In The End" was the one that shot them into the stratosphere. The combination of Shinoda's melancholy lyrics and the guitar-driven aggression became the band's identity and this song was everywhere you turned in the early Oughts. The production work on this one by Don Gilmore was an early example of the band's best work; they've become more lush and experimental since this but it's been difficult for them to surpass this song's sound. The idea of losing faith in a relationship until hopelessness reigns supreme is a core thematic focus of the group and it was rarely done better than it was here. Few songs had combined rap and rock quite this seamlessly before it came around and it turned Linkin Park into a household name to the point that its prevalence became part of the early backlash against the band. But being overplayed doesn't make a song bad and thirteen years later it stands strongly as one hell of a song.
#4: "Faint" (2003)
If there's one thing that exemplifies most of Linkin Park's best work, it would be the frenetic energy contained within them. "Faint" is very nearly my favorite song of the band's off of Meteora; listening to it just sends that electric jolt down your spine that makes you want to be in motion. It's another one where the group's frustration boils over from Shinoda's flow into Bennington's chorus. It isn't just the lyrics that get the point across here though; in fact I would suggest that they are almost secondary to the production work from Gilmore. The producer inserts a synthed melody that really shouldn't work but does, along with a beat that resonates in your chest throughout the song. It's a song of urgency and power, conveying that point that you reach when someone just isn't giving you the time of day right when you need it most. "Faint" became the band's third #1 hit on the modern rocks track and charted high around the world as well, providing one of the high points to what many feel is their best album.
#3: "Breaking the Habit" (2004)
And here we come to the best track off of Meteora. "Breaking the Habit" is the strongest effort by virtue of its haunting nature and the band's progression as a group. Chester Bennington is good when he's screaming, but this song helped prove that he's good even when he's toning it down. There's far more of a creative direction to this song than the group had displayed before and aided by a fantastic anime-style music video, this song introduced fans to a Linkin Park that was capable of more than just pure rock-rap. The lyrical content is also a change for the group, moving away from the adolescent aggression of Hybrid Theory and taking a more mature, personal and introspective look. It may not be rock and roll to try and make changes for the better but it made for a more interesting bad. As the lyrics say, "I don't know how I got this way/I know it's not alright/So I'm breaking the habit tonight." This was the latest step in the band's evolution into a more melodic and complex sound and while it didn't lead them down roads everyone appreciated, this song is just about bulletproof.
#2: "My December" (2000)
Much like "Hands Held High," this isn't "real Linkin Park" in some people's eyes. To many Linkin Park is all about aggression and hitting it hard. "My December" is the exact opposite of that, a quiet, thoughtful and contemplative song. And yet, it has everything that makes Linkin Park what it is. Shinoda pops up for his little moments, Bennington gets the emotion across nicely. That it is regret and sorrow instead of anger and frustration merely helps it stand out from the rest of the pack. "My December" wasn't even supposed to be a big song for the band; it was a B-side off Hybrid Theory. But it hit radio and caught on there, leading to it becoming an important part of the group's discography. The song twists the band's sound into a gentle ballad-style number and while there are worlds of sonic difference between this and the likes of "One Step Closer," it contains all of the elements that truly make the band what it was. Every rock band has a requisite ballad and when I first heard Linkin Park, I couldn't begin to imagine what theirs might sound like. As it turned out, that became one of my absolute favorite songs of theirs to date.
#1: "Papercut" (2001)
Hybrid Theory was a monster of an album, an LP that launched the group into superstardom to the tune of a staggering ten million copies sold. While I would be the first to argue that sales success doesn't equal quality, you have to remember that this was in the era where bubblegum pop ruled the charts and hip-hop was a quickly-rising second, while rock music was on its way down. Linkin Park's first album caught on in a musical climate that was hostile to its sound. "Papercut" is the first cut off that album and it's not only the album's finest track, it's the band's best work to date. If someone came to me and asked "What was Linkin Park all about back in the day?" this is the song I would put on for them. It has Shinoda at the top of his game, Bennington delivering some serious aggression on the chorus and the band playing their damnedest. The theme of the song is quite good as well; when Bennington says "the face inside is right beneath my skin" you know clearly what he's trying to convey in a way that doesn't need to awkwardly spell it out. This song is paranoia put directly into musical form and it encapsulates the best of the group's efforts in every way.
MUSIC VIDEO A-GO-GO
For this week's Music Video A-Go-Go, we're going to take a look at the music video for the second single off The Hunting Party. Check out the video for "Until It's Gone" below:
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.