Artist – Linkin Park
Album – Meteora
Year – 2003
Genre – Alternative Metal/ Nu-Metal
Known as one of the main torchbearers of the rap-rock/nu-metal movement of the early 2000’s, Linkin Park has been a continuous voice in the realm of modern rock radio. But it’s time to stop casting this band off to the land of angsty teens and immaturity. The band consistently creates rock records that manage to make the rap-rock sound become fresh and new, and their lyrics are often very well written and cut to the core of our emotions. There’s so much more to this band that at first listen, and “Breaking the Habit” is one of their best to prove this.
First off, the musical production throughout the entire track is absolutely outstanding. From the opening chilling synth line to the electronic glitches and stutters that fill in the cracks between instruments, the song sounds great. The simple guitar picking underneath lead vocalist Chester Bennington’s anguished vocals add layers of drama and the tone makes the guitar slick and almost like a completely different instrument. That, mixed with the powerful sounds from the turntables, the sadness from the live strings, and all the extra effects the band applies: echoes, clicks, pops, and stutters make the sound one extremely well constructed and well layered piece.
This song in particular is so good because it breaks from a lot of the constraints that have defined Linkin Park over the years. There’s no rapping, and Bennington’s vocals, except for the bridge, are softer and actually much more emotionally potent. After seeing Mike Shinoda’s lyrics, it’s said that Bennington broke down and had a hard time performing this song live for years afterward because of how close to home these lyrics were for him. And you can absolutely feel that from beginning to end.
He sings in a sense of quiet desperation and most certainly a plea for help. The melodies written for both verse and chorus in this song are stunning, and Bennington’s voice twists and turns around every note. All you can hear is pain and sadness in his voice, which is exactly what the song is conveying. The vocals in this track could not be better, and by the time you get to the bridge, Bennington lets it all out in his trademark screams of rage. The song covers all the bases of mental suffering, but don’t call it teen angst. These are feelings and emotions we all feel throughout our lives. It’s a common human experience.
Tying right in with that experience are Mike Shinoda’s lyrics. The song itself deals with the struggle with drug addiction, and speaks of a life ultimately ending, but thanks to the beauty of personal interpretation, you can pull so much more out of the lyrics.
Like opening the wound
I’m picking me apart again
You all assume
I’m safe here in my room
Unless I try to start again
This first verse really touches to the heart of internal suffering that we don’t want others to see, but that we often silently need help overcoming. It’s a beautiful lyrical recreation of emotions we don’t often like to openly discuss.
And then there’s this chorus:
I don’t know what’s worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream.
I don’t know why I instigate
And say what I don’t mean.
I don’t know how I got this way
I know it’s not alright.
So I’m breaking the habit,
I’m breaking the habit
This could obviously be interpreted as having a pessimistic ending, but I rather choose to view it as finding a second chance to better yourself. The opening lines are another poignant look at our own internal struggles and questions about ourselves, and especially when we break down and lash out at loved ones, or even have a hard time finding things to live for. We have these moments, but “Breaking the Habit” to me is about rising again and gaining the strength for another shot at living life. Shinoda’s lyrics are a true success and really do hit close to that part of ourselves we bury deep down.
With incredible production, an out of this world catchy and cathartic melody, and outstanding lyrics and vocals, this is without a doubt Linkin Park’s greatest triumph. This is not a song for teen angst. This is a song about human pain and inner suffering. And who doesn’t go through that at some point in their lives? If you just take the time to put preconceived notions aside and really listen, you too will see the beauty in it.
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