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Linkin Park aims for big follow-up

Linkin Park knows only the extremes of showbiz ups and downs. Snubbed by every major label, the Southern California band finally got a toehold at Warner Bros. in 1999 (after three rejections), then skyrocketed to glory with a blockbuster debut in 2000.

Hybrid Theory, the top-selling album of 2001 with sales to date of 7.7 million copies, restored luster to the slumping rock genre and placed Linkin Park in the vanguard of a burgeoning nu-metal movement.

The rap-metal sextet's highly anticipated follow-up, Meteora, arrives today amid unfeasible expectations and inevitable speculation about a sophomore jinx. Ignoring pressures to repeat its marketplace victory, the band instead aimed for a creative pinnacle.

"I stopped worrying when we walked out of the recording studio," singer Chester Bennington says. He predicts that Hybrid's feat "will linger over us every time we release a record. We tried not to think about it. We focus on making sure our legacy is the quality of the music."

String-laden Breaking the Habit, the first Meteora track the band completed, "is one of the best songs we've ever written, and it set the bar pretty high," Bennington says. "We decided every song had to be this good or better."
Meteora might never reach Hybrid's meteoric retail heights, but early reaction suggests Linkin's appeal hasn't waned.

In one week, first single Somewhere I Belong went to No. 2 at active- and modern-rock radio, formats that some predicted might resist welcoming back a band that prevailed at more mainstream Top 40 stations.

"Linkin Park did a pretty good job of protecting its rock credibility despite all the Top 40 airplay," says Sean Ross, editor of Airplay Monitor. "The irony is that Top 40 hasn't jumped on this record, even though it's practically a power ballad."

Though Bennington says he values artistry over commerce, the band's newfound financial stability "afforded us the opportunity to make music without having to find a job or worry about paying bills."

The band's ambitions were never fueled by the clichéd rock 'n' roll quest for sex, drugs and riches.

"You don't have to be a rock star to get that," Bennington says. "Any of us could have been successful at something else. We're all educated and driven. But we want to be remembered for music."

After wrapping up a club trek, Linkin Park will launch the Projekt Revolution arena tour April 8 and join Metallica on the Summer Sanitarium tour in July. The band, which was on tour in Germany during the 9/11 attacks, won't let war in Iraq alter its itinerary.

"Even though people say entertainment thrives in times of war, I don't like to think of using world chaos as a marketing tool," Bennington says. "You have to keep going. We're going to make music in good times and bad. The truth is, when everyone's happy, music is great. When everybody's sad, music's even better."

USA Today


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