Released in 2003, Meteora was the second studio album by the California-based rock band Linkin Park. It would go on to sell over 27 million copies worldwide, become seven times platinum certified, and have one song nominated for a Grammy.
I caught on to the Linkin Park craze a few years after Meteora, but remember being hooked from the moment that I heard the single “Somewhere I Belong”. As a young teenager (I think I was about 13 or 14 at the time), the nu-metal mix of Mike Shinoda’s hip-hop flow over heavy guitar and rock ‘n roll drums interspersed with DJ Mr. Hahn’s record scratches and electronic sweeps blew my mind.
But the lyrics were what really got me. The big payoff in “Somewhere I Belong” (and the twelve words that form the basis of what the song is all about) comes at the end of the chorus, when lead singer Chester Bennington wails to the world:
I want to find something I’ve wanted all along-
Somewhere I belong.
To an angsty young teenager, this was insanely relatable stuff. As I was growing and changing, losing innocence and finding vices, I was trying to learn how I fit into the world. I was trying to find somewhere I belonged, and as I listened to the words that Chester was singing, I felt like where I belonged was right there in the reverb and resonance.
So I bought the album. The first album that I ever purchased.
At its core, Meteora is an album about being angry at people that have hurt you (starting with “Don’t Stay” and clearly evident in “Faint”), but angrier at yourself for letting it happen (“Hit the Floor”, “Easier to Run”, “Figure.09”). The culmination of these emotions is the ninth track, “Breaking the Habit”, which Mike Shinoda wrote about a close family friend and which clearly alludes to stopping a painful, angry cycle of suicide. The album comes to a glorious finale in “Numb”, which ties up the overall theme by leaving the listener with the powerful chorus:
I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there
Become so tired, So much more aware
By becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me, and be less like you
Listening to these words, and the album in general, is a much more emotional experience after Chester Bennington’s tragic 2017 suicide. Every scream, wail and desperate plea becomes so much deeper and more real—we’re not just listening to a singer play a character, we’re listening to an artist crying for help. It’s raw, it’s beautiful, and it’s the reason why Meteora was not only the first album I ever purchased, but still one of my absolute favorites.