Best-selling alt-metal veterans Linkin Park are certainly no strangers to the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, having previously visited the region 10 times since their early-’00s breakout. But their No. 38 debut for new single “Lost” this week still feels particularly noteworthy, for a few reasons.
Linkin Park’s ‘Lost’ Is First Song to Debut at No. 1 on Rock & Alternative Airplay in Over…
First of all, it’s the band’s first top 40 hit since 2012 — and their first following the shocking death of lead singer Chester Bennington in 2017. And it comes with a song that, while seeing release for the first time this February, has existed since 2003, when it was recorded during the sessions for the band’s RIAA-certified 7x platinum sophomore album, Meteora.
Why has “Lost” done so well, so quickly? And can we expect more just-unearthed hits like it to soon follow? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.
1. The No. 38 debut for “Lost” marks Linkin Park’s first Hot 100 top 40 hit in over a decade, since “Burn It Down” hit No. 30 in 2012. On a scale from 1-10, how surprised are you that this song was able to make such an immediate chart impact?
Katie Atkinson: Living in L.A. and still hearing Linkin Park in hourly rotation on KROQ, it’s a 1 for me. There are a lot of stations across the country that never stopped playing them, so it’s no surprise that a song recorded during sessions for their first Billboard 200 No. 1 album would still fit right in on a lot of radio (and now streaming) playlists 20 years later. It feels like a perfect gift for anyone still mourning Chester’s premature death, or for younger fans who just discovered the band’s music.
Eric Renner Brown: 5. I find it unremarkable that alt-rock radio would jump on a prime-era Linkin Park cut, especially one that – more on this below – is similar in caliber and aesthetic to the band’s other ‘00s hits. It’s tempting to think there might be another peak Linkin Park single to slot in alongside workhorses like “in The End” and “Numb”! Considering how big a factor nostalgia plays in Linkin Park fandom (or so I thought), I’m somewhat surprised that so many streamers gravitated toward a new song, but ultimately it just speaks to the power of effective digital promotion, the enduring cachet of the band’s name, and the nostalgic appeal of this general aesthetic.
Josh Glicksman: Somewhere hovering around a 4. Given the band’s longstanding success at radio, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the single would find a quick home at the format. Sure enough, “Lost” became just the fourth song ever to debut atop Billboard’s Rock & Alternative Airplay chart, with notable entries on many other airplay rankings in the genre. Combined with its appearance on several curated streaming playlists and a reliable, eager fan base, No. 38 is probably a bit higher than I expected, but certainly not shocking.
Joe Lynch: I think a six on first blush, but then a three when I think about it in context. It’s perhaps worth an eyebrow raise that Linkin Park is back on the Hot 100’s top 40 for the first time since 2012, but when you account for it being a song recorded for a beloved album featuring late vocalist Chester Bennington released in this streaming era, it makes a lot more sense.
Andrew Unterberger: An 8. It’s easy to look at this at a glance and think, “Well, of course a recently uncovered peak-era song from one of the most popular bands of the last three decades would do well.” But this really doesn’t happen that often — you kinda have to go back to Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right” in 2002 to find another posthumously released rock song with this kind of immediate impact, and even that song was less than a decade old, not 20 whole years. Plus, in the streaming age, curiosity listens only take you so far if you’re not a core pop artist; the song has to really resonate to make a major impact. You can’t just walk into a top 40 debut as a legacy rock act, no matter how huge your legacy is.
2. “Lost” was discovered as part of the sessions for the band’s blockbuster 2003 album Meteora, and will be included on that set’s upcoming 20th anniversary reissue. In your opinion, had the group chosen to release it 20 years ago, would the song have been a worthy single on that set, an album track, a B-side or not really worthy at all?
Katie Atkinson: The thing that’s probably working for it in 2023 is likely also the thing that worked against it in 2003: It sounds too interchangeable with some of the other Meteora singles. In retrospect, I might find “Lost” to be slightly more interesting than lead single “Somewhere I Belong” and definitely more exciting than international single “From the Inside,” but putting that trio of songs together on one project might be too one-note. On the other hand, I don’t think “Lost” touches “Faint,” “Numb” or “Breaking the Habit” in explosiveness or catchiness. So I think it might have fit as a later single, or an album cut at the very least.
Eric Renner Brown: It’s hard to overstate just how massive Linkin Park was in the Meteora era, and just how important they were to so many fans, adolescents especially. As one of those fans, it’s fascinating to look back on how exactly the Meteora singles fared on the charts at the time – solidly, but not much more than that. I think “Lost” could’ve been a good single, but that elides a broader truth: That to Linkin Park fans, all Meteora’s songs were singles, they were all anthems. Like, “Faint” only hit No. 48 on the Hot 100 and No. 15 on Hot Rock & Alternative Songs? That song defined the adolescences of millions of kids!
Josh Glicksman: Album track. It’s hard to remove the nostalgia-wrapped bias factor, but swapping out any of Meteora’s current singles feels like an extremely difficult task — billion-plus Spotify streamer “Numb” was the third single on this powerhouse. In reality, it’s going to take a bit of time to separate the excitement of a new Linkin Park single from properly judging where it fits into the band’s catalog, but after nearly two weeks of listens, it’s more than a welcome sight on the upcoming 20th anniversary release.
Joe Lynch: I could definitely see an album track — but then again, Meteora really benefited from being a lean 12 songs clocking in at 36 minutes, so perhaps B-side would have made more sense. And while it’s obviously making waves now, proving it has some chops as a single, it’s hard to argue that the band was really hurting for radio songs to release from that project.
Andrew Unterberger: By my estimation it would’ve been the 6th or 7th best song on Meteora; still a tier below the five big U.S. singles (at least three of which are stone classics) but solidly preferable to a handful of the more anonymous deep cuts found in between them on the tracklist. For a song that’s been gathering dust in the vaults for two decades, that’s pretty close to a best-case scenario.
3. A bow like this — with strong metrics across the board — suggests that real-time affection for and interest in Linkin Park is still high, despite the group’s commercial heyday now being decades in the rearview. What is it about Linkin Park that make them still this accessible to streaming-era audiences, even with an obviously older-sounding song?
Katie Atkinson: The sound they helped pioneer – merging rap, electronic and hard rock – is now the norm more than the exception. So while it definitely sounds like a 2003 nu-metal song, it also isn’t too far from, say, Imagine Dragons’ massive hit “Enemy” with rapper J.I.D from last year. So it’s working the nostalgia angle, and still isn’t really too left-field from what would fit in on contemporary modern rock radio.
Eric Renner Brown: The success of “Lost,” and by extension the way it demonstrates Linkin Park’s enduring appeal, is a new, compelling piece of evidence in a broader thesis: ’90s and ‘00s rock bands are now firmly in their legacy phases. From the ‘90s onward, labels and promoters have cashed in on the biggest rock acts of the ’60s and ‘70s, harnessing aging audiences with nostalgia for their youth – and plenty of disposable income to relive it.
Today, we’re as far from Meteora as a 40-year-old fan in the early ‘90s would’ve been from Woodstock. Go to a concert by a legacy artist like Dead & Company or Billy Joel today, and chances are, they’re not busting out any new stuff – and if they are, it probably isn’t going to sound much different from the classic stuff the fans came for. On the recorded side, Boomers have reliably been wanted to go back to the well for every morsel of music recorded in the studios by their favorite legacy artists during their respective peaks, so it makes sense to me Millennials would behave similarly with their touchstones. (All this before even getting into the way that the early ‘00s nu-metal aesthetic has recently returned in a big way with Gen Z.)
Josh Glicksman: I don’t know that I would say decades, as in plural, for the band’s commercial heyday — Living Things and One More Light both debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2012 and 2017, respectively. That said, its biggest hits from closer to the turn of the century have never really faded away from public purview: “In the End” and “Numb” are still instantly recognizable crowd-pleasers. Plus, some of the more commercially viable rock artists today, including Machine Gun Kelly, citing late frontman Chester Bennington as a source of inspiration has helped to introduce the band’s discography to a new, streaming-heavy generation of listeners.
Joe Lynch: I think “decades in the rearview” is overstating it. Every album up until 2014’s The Hunting Party sold well over half a million in America, and on the Hot 100, “New Divide” from one of those idiotic Transformers movies was a top 10 hit in 2009. And honestly, that “Heavy” song hit No. 45 in 2017, which really isn’t a world of difference between this song reaching No. 38 in 2023.
Now that I’m done picking apart the question, I’ll answer it: In hindsight, Linkin Park’s guileless blend of rock, hip-hop and electronic music was clearly more influential than the more critically lauded work the White Stripes, the Strokes, et. al, were doing around the same time. So to me, it’s not shocking that in a genre-agnostic streaming era, a vintage track featuring the band’s late singer is able to become a hit.
Andrew Unterberger: I’ve always thought that Linkin Park were ahead of their time, as the first group to rise to Biggest Band in the World status while viewing rock music primarily through a digital prism — with electronic-based, studio-oriented and heavily adaptable songs that pointed towards an era when guitars would be just one layer of many in a typical rock production. (Not to mention that their frank lyrics about despair, alienation and suffering mental health, while viewed by many as over-the-top in their heyday, sound more at home in 2020s pop than ever before — and also were largely free of the kind of sexist, narcissistic mookishness of many of their ’00s rock peers.) It’s hardly surprising that their music continues to hit with audiences who wouldn’t give a f–k about most GWB-era bands.
4. With modern audiences evidently less concerned than ever about songs being “new” in embracing them as contemporary hits, is there a higher commercial ceiling for recently unearthed songs by familiar artists? Would you expect to see a number of such previously unreleased catalog songs following “Lost” onto the Hot 100 in the next few years?
Katie Atkinson: I don’t see why not. Fans seem much less beholden to artists’ “album cycles” and just want to hear their favorite sounds and their favorite voices on the radio and streaming. What’s interesting is that someone like The Weeknd will go to great lengths to create a theme around an album – like his Dawn FM radio theme or his bloody-faced character from After Hours – and then TikTok and radio programmers will go back and make a hit out of a Starboy album cut from seven years ago when he was in a whole different mind-set. Same thing for Lady Gaga’s many album-based personas, and then “Bloody Mary” just comes roaring out of nowhere 12 years later. Why can’t Linkin Park have a “new” hit in 2023 when the sound of 2023 has no real cohesive personality?
Eric Renner Brown: Audiences are definitely less concerned about songs being “new,” and I think “Lost” will be an instructive case study for anyone in the business who has been on the fence about releasing an archival single by similarly esteemed contemporaries of Linkin Park. Of course, Linkin Park’s case – frontman Chester Bennington no longer being with us – makes it unique. Many of the band’s peers continue to release new music that they might not want overshadowed by material from their respective “classic” eras.
Josh Glicksman: Absolutely there’s a higher commercial ceiling. You don’t need to look beyond this week’s Hot 100: “I’m Good” by David Guetta and Bebe Rexha was recorded years before its eventual release last summer, and in its 25th week on the chart, it’s holding in the top 10. Even songs like The Weeknd’s “Die For You” and Miguel’s “Sure Thing” — which, to be fair, are hardly unearthed — have taken on a second life and are indicative that recording dates don’t carry all that much weight at the moment. I’d expect loads of artists to try to replicate such success, even if only to serve as in-between-albums fodder for their fans.
Joe Lynch: Oh for sure. Without sounding morbid, I’m sure a number of classic millennial and/or Gen X bands are scouring their archives to find something from a long-gone frontperson that could give the remaining members a chart boost in the 2020s. But it isn’t going to work for everyone; it’s very telling to me that even as the Beatles and Prince have opened the flood gates on vault cuts, it’s a song that fits squarely within the 20-year nostalgia cycle that did the thing (not unlike Angela Bassett).
Andrew Unterberger: For sure, but… the songs still have to be good. “Lost” is not exactly a lost classic, but if you heard it on the radio before knowing about its backstory you’d have no problem assuming it was just a lesser-remembered minor hit single you’d forgotten about. Most major artists (and/or their labels) don’t sit on songs like that for 20 years, they’re exhumed long before and milked for all their worth at the first possible notice. It’s serendipitous (or just well-planned) that “Lost” was rediscovered in time for the Meteora 20th anniversary; the timing is perfect, and it’s been long enough now since Bennington’s passing that the release of a new-old single doesn’t feel too raw or potentially exploitative.
5. Of course, the success of “Lost” comes after the tragic death of Linkin Park’s celebrated frontman Chester Bennington in 2017. What’s the first song you think of when it comes to posthumous artist releases that really continued and expanded that artist’s legacy?
Katie Atkinson: There are so many options here, but I’m going to go with The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems.” It’s Biggie’s biggest Hot 100 hit and it was released as a single four months after his murder. It mostly goes to prove just how earth-shatteringly huge he was when he died and that the best was likely still yet to come if his life hadn’t been cut short.
Eric Renner Brown: For so many major artists, especially the ones who die young, a cottage industry pops up posthumously mining their archives. My introduction to this was as a Hendrix-obsessed teenager – but Hendrix’s posthumous releases, as is often the case, were hardly essential. The best and most influential posthumous releases, naturally, are usually the ones that were actively intended for imminent release by artists – and the gold standard is Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” You can’t really understand Otis’s legacy without this song, recorded in two sessions within the three weeks before his December 1967 death in a plane crash at age 26, and released just a month after he died. It’s the definitive Redding cut: his only Hot 100 No. 1, the perfect summation of his style and genius, and a profoundly influential song too, with a rich sampling history in hip-hop. It’s a tragedy he never saw what it became.
Josh Glicksman: Biggie’s first few singles from Life After Death. “Hypnotize” was released just before he died, but it became his first Hot 100 No. 1 less than two months after. Its follow-up single, “Mo Money Mo Problems” with Mase and Diddy repeated the accomplishment that summer.
Joe Lynch: Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right” is the first that comes to mind. It was released eight years after Cobain’s shocking death; this comes six years after Bennington’s shocking death. It brought the band to No. 45 on the Hot 100; so far, this one brought the band back to No. 38. Did that song expand or continue their legacy, though? Eh. For that, I’m going all the way back to 1968, when Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” – certainly a signature song from a soul GOAT for many – became the first posthumous single to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Andrew Unterberger: I still find “You Know You’re Right” to be staggering — a Nirvana song that not only ranks among their most visceral singles of their career, but somehow sounded far more at home amid the alt-rock of 2002 than it would’ve in their own lifetime.
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