In the early ’00s, the critical consensus was that the “the bands” like The Strokes and The White Stripes represented the future of rock; meanwhile, genre-fusing outfits like Linkin Park were pegged as holdovers from the dying rap-rock craze.
How wrong the critics were.
The meticulous fusion of rock, hip-hop, electronica and pop pioneered on Linkin Park’s 2000 debut Hybrid Theory (and its follow-up remix effort Reanimation) would prove to be far more influential and predictive of music’s future than any of the retro-minded albums that came from the Strokes or Stripes. (
It would go on to sell 10.4 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music — one of only 22 albums to sell more than 10 million copies since Nielsen began electronically tracking sales in 1991.)
But while those bands enjoyed universal acclaim at the outset of the 21st century, Linkin Park got a far chillier reception from the critics, with Rolling Stone giving their debut 2.5 stars and one critic calling the band “derivative pretenders.”
It wasn’t all bad, of course – plenty of critics gave Hybrid Theory the thumbs up, and many writers singled out Bennington’s impressive vocal range and relatable angst.
“There’s some pretty pissed-off kids all over the world,” Bennington told The Guardian back in 2001. “I think that’s a good thing. Anger feeds change – more so than happiness, because I think when people become happy and comfortable they become lazy and melancholy. When there’s a little bit of rage behind, you get motivated.”
As we mourn Bennington’s death at 41, we’re looking back on what critics and reporters had to say about Linkin Park around the time of their debut LP’s release. Below are excerpts from numerous contemporary newspaper and magazine articles and reviews.
The Herald Sun (Melbourne), David Flaherty, Jan. 28 2001
Those who prefer their industrial-edged, hip-hop inspired rock uninspired and squeaky-clean need look no further than Linkin Park.
Doing to industrial rock what Vanilla Ice and New Kids On The Block did to R&B and hardcore hip-hop, the fresh-faced five-piece outfit performs a lightweight and soulless brand of music.
Compared to such groundbreaking artists as Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson and Tool, Linkin Park does not rate.
Industrial rock is supposed to be progressive, dark and heavy. How can one expect a band whose most aggressive lyric is “Shut up when I’m talking to you” (from the album’s first single release “One Step Closer”) to be taken seriously among such aggressive, risk-taking company?
Hybrid Theory is a futile attempt at imitating the industrial rock masters.
Its percussive guitar and digital fuzz and screeches, a la Trent Reznor, are light, clean and over-produced. Its attempts at in-your-face hip-hop vocal deliveries are strange, soft and crooning. Seething lead vocals and intense backing growls, the cornerstones of modern industrial rock, are missing.
Life is too short to listen to mediocre rock.
Calgary Herald, Nick Lewis, Jan. 11 2001
Hybrid Theory, 2.5 star review
Linkin Park has its fair share of fans who believe it has resuscitated the palpitating world of rap/rock, injecting heavy doses of guitar riffs with hooky rhymes. Hybrid Theory is a high octane record, yes, but there’s nothing on it that Fred Durst and Jonathan Davis haven’t done better. “One Step Closer” is the immediate grabber with its angst-fuelled lyrics (“Shut up when I’m talking to you”), although it lacks the genuine aggression guys like Cobain, de la Rocha and Reznor had during the 90s. Fortunately even the thickest guitar slabs come with melody, making tracks like “In The End” and “Runaway” worth coming back to. If you like the genre and don’t mind trodden ground, this could be your favourite disc of the year.
The Los Angeles Times, Lina Lecaro, Feb. 1 2001
They have a chemistry and ebullient vitality that’s downright infectious. A key weapon is the presence of both a rapper and a singer in the band. “We get to put in twice as much energy as a band with one vocalist,” says Shinoda, whose poetic shrieks are a perfect complement to Bennington’s smooth yet potent singing style.
The Boston Globe, Steve Morse, Jan. 25, 2001
Linkin Park has risen above the metal-rap pack with this solid debut album.
Bennington is a convincing character who at times sounds as eerily messed up as Jonathan Davis of Korn.
The Indianapolis Star, David Lindquist, Jan. 21 2001
Hybrid Theory, 2.5 star review
Linkin Park? Why not “Disturbed Roach”? Or ” Bizkits and Korn “? ” 311 P.O.D. “?
Before this California band recorded major-label debut Hybrid Theory , it changed its name to Linkin Park. The band’s previous name was Hybrid Theory — a reference to the musicians’ wild-eyed ideas about combining rock and hip-hop elements for their sound.
One problem: Everyone knows rap-metal is a crowded field in 2001, a style in need of more innovation and less replication.
Linkin Park does echo some of the better elements of modern rap-metal, namely the syncopated menace of Disturbed and the intense introspection of Papa Roach.
On this point, it wouldn’t really matter if the members of Linkin Park had mixed styles for years. Papa Roach and Disturbed — who owe debts to their own predecessors — made it to the table first.
Derivative pretenders often signal the end of a musical wave. Hair metal had its Warrant. Grunge had its Candlebox. Right about now, rap-metal seems to belch out a new Linkin Park every week.
On casual listen, Hybrid Theory is plenty catchy and professionally done. But we’ve already heard these themes — and quite recently.
Rolling Stone, Matt Diehl, Dec. 7 2000
Hybrid Theory, 2.5 star review
A rap-rock outfit with a jones for Depeche Mode? Is this a glitch in the matrix? Linkin Park’s debut album, Hybrid Theory, is a freaky-deaky fusion that works in spots — on “Crawling,” MC Mike Shinoda’s catchy rhymed refrains bounce off singer Chester Bennington’s New Wave croon, proving that synth-pop can get with the hip-hop. This Southern California five-piece knows its way around a hook: Crashing, loud-soft dynamics run through the album, and producer Don Gilmore (who has worked with Eve 6, Lit, Pearl Jam) gives the guitars and samples a raw-meat heft that will sound right at home on modern-rock radio. Maybe too at home — Bennington and Shinoda often slip into corny, boilerplate-aggro lyrics: Thanks to “voices in the back of my head” (“Papercut”), they’re “one step closer to the edge” (“One Step Closer”), suffering “wounds [that] will not heal” while the “walls are closing in” (“Crawling”).
As a result, Linkin Park too frequently come off like another Hybrid song, “Papercut”: They can slice and dice, but just not deep enough.