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20 Years Later, Linkin Park’s ‘Meteora’ Is Still A Masterpiece

5 Stars

Meteora 20th Anniversary Edition Cover Art.
Meteora 20th Anniversary Edition Cover Art. By Courtesy of Linkin Park / Machine Shop Records / Warner Records
By Alisa S. Regassa, Crimson Staff Writer

You put on your headphones, walking home after another long day at school. You’re angry at the world, feeling full of self-doubt and more than afraid of what’s to come. You put on your headphones to escape. Suddenly, Chester Bennington’s vocals blare, Mike Shinoda’s rap verses punch, and the band’s instrumentals attack. Tired and confused by the clusterfuck that’s called life, you can finally let go and relax, letting the music do the fighting for you. That’s the kind of comfort “Meteora” — Linkin Park’s 2003 sophomore album — offers us in the darkest of times.

Following four weeks of lead single “Lost” charting on alternative & rock radio, rock-rap legends Linkin Park unveiled a 20th Anniversary Edition of “Meteora” on April 7. “Lost” was first officially released on Feb. 10 as the first pre-release from the album. The colorful anime images portraying the band members in the music video stunned fans, propelling the single to Linkin Park’s first #1 on Billboard’s Rock & Alternative Airplay Chart in more than a decade. The single isn’t the only unreleased gem the 20th Anniversary album brings; “Fighting Myself,” and “More The Victim” are just two of the songs from the “Meteora” sessions that Linkin Park worked on but never fully finished. Today, more than 20 years later, these new releases — along with live performance tracks from Texas, Nottingham, and more — force us to reconsider the album as a whole.

“Meteora” liberates.

The album itself cultivates a medium for rebellion. Songs like “Don’t Stay” and “Breaking The Habit” offer ways of breaking from the norm — from a toxic relationship, from a toxic label, from any dependence to an addictive setting. In answer to “Figure.09”’s lyrics “Giving up a part of me, I've let myself become you,” “Let me take back my life, I'd rather be all alone,” from “Lying From You” is exactly the kind of answer we all need to get us through a hard breakup. On tracks like “Hit The Floor” the lyrical themes are reinforced by the screaming verses Bennington executes with just the right amount of rage, while Shinoda spits bars to support the beat. Throughout it all, the reassuring feeling of “you are not alone” fosters a safe space for the audience to rage against the machine.

“Meteora” meditates.

The introspective — and at times excruciatingly raw — lyrics are doused in anguish. “Easier To Run”’s lyrical prowess shines in moments like “It's so much easier to go / Than face all this pain here all alone.” “Somewhere I Belong” is a masterclass in healing, despite the problems one faces along the way to self-acceptance. Even the wildly popular “Numb” offers contemplation; “And I know I may end up failing, too / But I know you were just like me / With someone disappointed in you” in the bridge is the epitome of loving thy enemy. Even though it is the most well known song Linkin Park has ever made, the intentionality of the lyrics don’t get overshadowed by the song’s success. With the addition of the Texas live performance version of this classic, we are able to reacquaint ourselves with its familiar melodies — almost as if hearing them for the first time.

“Meteora” astounds.

The complexity of innovative sounds is not lost on the listener. The complicated beats mashed up with pop-drops come together in a symphony of dissonance — creating a sound that’s somehow so harmonic yet distinct at the same time. With the samples of Japanese bamboo flute on “Nobody’s Listening,” each of the unique layers in the melody become even more distinctive and recognizable as they are lifted to the forefront by the woodwind. Lyrically, Linkin Park astounds with the backwards lyrics on “Fighting Myself,” ​​​(ti stnaw eno on ,siht ot neppah reven ll'ti ,ti stnaw eno oN). “Faint” is a prime example of the driving tempo of Bennington’s vocals competing with the gritty guitar, strings, and pulsing cymbals — creating a song so busy that the listener is hanging off every word to grasp the meaning. “From The Inside,” on the other hand, leaves instrumentation taking over — as the waltzing tempo of the guitar riff sways the listener to the compound meter, bringing the music to the forefront for a change: The climax becomes almost alarmingly loud when it brings the guitar into the background, building off from that effect. The lyrical themes also compete; doubt, complacency, and fear clash with acceptance, refusal, and triumph. In a way, they resolve themselves, canceling out in a cathartic manner.

My generation grew up alongside Linkin Park. We witnessed the growth and flourishing of arguably one of the most influential artists of the 21st century. Albums like “Meteora” were a staple of our childhood — helping us through our teenage years and influencing us to this day. Following Bennington’s suicide in 2017, we were lost, mourning, in denial — unable to see a future for the band without the lead vocalist. With the release of the 20th Anniversary album, it’s clear Linkin Park will continue to be with us for many years to come.

—Staff writer Alisa S. Regassa can be reached at alisa.regassa@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @alisaregassa.

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