When LINKIN PARK started writing the album that would become 2003's Meteora, they were touring behind their 2000 debut Hybrid Theory, a wildfire hit that took even the band by surprise. Their blend of guitar rock's pummeling riffs, hip-hop's swaggering grooves, and intricately emotional lyrics delivered by co-vocalists Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda turned them into one of the 21st century's biggest new artists. Meteora allowed LINKIN PARK to prove their versatility to the world, to show that they were more than just a run-of-the-mill rap-rock band. “One of the benefits of having a second album is to say, ‘Okay, cool—you understand this much about us, let us fill in a lot of gaps and add a whole bunch of other colors,’” Shinoda told Zane Lowe in 2023. Individually and as a collective, LINKIN PARK pushed their artistic limits on Meteora, which is apparent from the details on each song: The dueling vocals of “Somewhere I Belong” recall an internal monologue being annotated in real time; the urgent plea for reconciliation “Faint” is animated by high-drama strings and a relentless drumbeat; the seething “Nobody's Listening” pivots on a serpentine sample played on bamboo flute; and the glitchy instrumental “Session” hints at LINKIN PARK's CD wallets containing selections from electro masters like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. Then there was “Breaking the Habit”—a track that, according to guitarist Brad Delson, “never could have been on our first album.” A breakneck plea for the world to make sense that combines the knotty guitars of emo with flashes of Joe Hahn's turntablism and icily looming strings, it's also a spotlight for Bennington's emotion-wracked wail, with Shinoda, who wrote the track, taking a break from rapping. “We said, ‘We're going to do a song that's going to be dark, emotional. It's a single. It's going to be no heavy guitars. It's going to be no screaming. It's just going to be a powerful LINKIN PARK song,’” recalled Shinoda. “Breaking the Habit” wound up being the final single from Meteora, making the album's era a definitive statement about how LINKIN PARK would defy expectations over the course of their career, whether by working with JAY-Z on the world-swallowing remix of Meteora cut “Numb” or by further expanding their musical ideals with Rick Rubin on 2007's Minutes to Midnight. “Hybrid Theory was like us against the world,” said Delson. “What was both so liberating and terrifying about Meteora is, no one effed with us on Meteora. It was like, ‘Okay, you guys did it. Now, what do you really want to do?’ And this album was the total pure expression of ‘This is us delivering what we want to make.’”

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