Sophomore albums are famously tricky affairs. Musicians have their entire lives to pen their debut album, the theory goes, and a relatively short time to follow it up. But what if the debut in question is the biggest selling album in recent memory? And what if the music industry has Hollywood-like expectations for another instant blockbuster? That was the scenario Linkin Park faced when they entered the studio to record Meteora, the follow-up to their multi-platinum debut Hybrid Theory.
That album--which Rolling Stone called "twelve songs of compact fire indivisibly blending alternative metal, hip-hop, and turntable art"--has shipped 14 million units worldwide to date. It was the Number One selling album of 2001. It launched three chart-topping singles including "In The End." And in 2002 it received a Grammy¬ for Best Hard Rock Performance for "Crawling," as well as nominations for Best Rock Album and Best New Artist. After diligently pursuing their craft since the band's humble origins in Southern California circa the mid-'90s, Linkin Park now had the world's ear.
To those outside the band, the pressure to follow up that success might have seemed insurmountable. But within Linkin Park, vocalists Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda, guitarist Brad Delson, turntablist Joseph Hahn, drummer Rob Bourdon, and bassist Phoenix weren't sweating it in ways you might expect. Instead of dwelling on outside expectations, they set to work, meticulously crafting each moment of each song to their own exacting standards. The bigger picture developed accordingly. "We don't ever want to have the mindset where we need to sell 10 million albums each time out. That's ridiculous," says Bennington. "It's a blessing to sell that many albums; it doesn't happen very often in this business--even once in your career is an achievement. Our obligation is to our fans. We're not going to get too comfortable and say it's a given that people will run out and buy our albums." "And if you know us, you know the biggest pressure came from within the band," says Shinoda.
"We just wanted to make another great album that we're proud of," says Bourdon. "We focused on that, and worked hard to create songs we love. We're our own harshest critics." If you doubt that, consider this: Shinoda and Bennington wrote 40 unique choruses for MeteoraÍs poignant first single, "Somewhere I Belong," before arriving at the best possible version.