As an awkward teen desperately trying to figure out who I was in a scary and confusing world, Linkin Park made being weird cool.
When Linkin Park’s first full length album Hybrid Theory dropped in October of 2000, I just entered the seventh grade in a new junior high school. I was 13-years-old, and desperately trying to distance myself from the jocks and preps, while simultaneously trying to gain the approval of the skaters and weirdos.
Entering this new school, it became clear that things were different. Everyone hung out in segregated groups. There were clicks, and kids called each other preppy as a diss. Lines were drawn in the sand, and a full-blown social war was ignited, fueled by raging hormones and awkward social interactions.
If there was one thing that I wanted to be at that age, it was different. I wanted to be cool, but I definitely didn’t want to be associated with the kids who’s parents dropped $60 on an Abercrombie and Fitch shirt. As everyone struggled to find what was cool and what wasn’t, the nu metal and alternative rock trend was thriving in the music industry.
The mainstream rise of alternative rock and nu metal showed 13-year-old me it was OK to dress in all black, shop at Hot Topic, and dye my hair. Linkin Park and its wildly successful album Hybrid Theory was my introduction to this new world.
It’s easy to look back at the era and want to hide under a rock from the overwhelming amount of cringe. The music is as awkward as most teens at the turn of the century. It’s a mixture of heavy alternative rock and rap, the lyrics are cheesy, and the guitar distortion was pushed to a laughable level. But it was angry, it was “edgy,” and it was the perfect music for confused kids who felt like no one understood them.
My awkward nu metal phase was extremely short-lived. By eighth grade, my musical tastes toned down a bit, and I started listening to more punk and pop punk. But that weird phase when I was into bands like Linkin Park, Korn, and Deftones helped me figure out who I was and who I wanted to be.
News broke on Thursday that Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington died by suicide. I was unexpectedly overwhelmed with sadness and nostalgia. I haven’t thought about the band in many years, aside from the occasional karaoke performance of “In The End.”
But upon hearing the news of Bennington’s death, it reminded me that he and Linkin Park helped countless weirdos, freaks, and geeks like me come out of their shell by bringing a new form of rock into the mainstream. Linkin Park showed me that being weird was its own kind of cool, and it was OK to not fit in with everyone at school.