Similar to early Linkin Park songs like "In The End
," the lead character in this song feels alienated and desperate. The song is punctuated by Chester Bennington's scream, which goes on for about 17 seconds.
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Guitarist Brad Delson in Kerrang! magazine: "We had a really bad song called 'Fire in the City' - the chorus actually had the words 'fire in the city' on it! I took the bassline and the drums and built weird sounds around it, which eventually became this song. Chester's screaming: 'What the f--k is wrong with me? Put me out of my f--king misery!' so, without explaining exactly what the song's about, it's pretty clear he's not happy."
The working title was "21 Stitches," inspired by Bennington's injuries from a drunken attempt to break into his dad's house after losing his key.
Bennington wrote this about his alcoholism after returning from rehab. He explained in a 2008 Loveline Radio interview: "I wasn't leaving my house. I would shack up in my closet in the dark and shake all day. I would wake up and have a pint of Jack Daniel's to calm down, then I'd pop a bunch of pills and go back in my closet and fucking freak out. I was a mess. I was falling through windows, having seizures and going to hospital the whole time. It was fucking ridiculous. I was a total wreck."
In 2020, Shinoda recalled Chester's famous bridge scream: "He was just on it. He was just pissed off or had all this crazy energy. He was doing the scream for that bridge part and he didn't know the structure of the song that well yet, so he did the scream... he did a couple of takes and we were like, 'oh that's too short, that doesn't fit in the spot it needs to fit in, it just needs to be longer.' And he did it again, and it was still kind of short, so I said 'oh it needs to be a lot longer than that.' So he just did THAT - he kept going and he knew he was just doing it over the chorus, then he finished it and I was just SCREAMING myself, like 'that was the most epic thing I've ever heard!' He was just laughing... sweating and laughing. That was for sure 'no shirt on, freaking out in the vocal booth day.' I was like, 'I'm just going to work around it, I'm going to work the song around the scream.'"
This was the fourth single from Linkin Park's third studio album, Minutes To Midnight. The band, who debuted to acclaim with Hybrid Theory in 2000, didn't want to replicate the nu-metal vibe of their previous records, so they put less emphasis on rap and more on alt rock and electronics. The first step was bringing Rick Rubin on board as producer. Joe Hahn, the band's DJ, explained in 2006: "We wanted to step it up as far as working with a producer and really try to create an atmosphere that will challenge us in different ways. We chose Rick Rubin because his credits alone speak a lot about his ability and his open-mindedness as a producer, working on everything from the old Def Jam, Beastie Boys and Run DMC, to Slayer, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I think the common denominator with all these groups is that they create great music through the years that has stood the test of time."
This was used in the movies Grave Encounters 2 (2012) and Red 2 (2013).
The video, directed by Mark Fiore, features footage from the band's January 2008 performances at the Manchester Evening News Arena and the O2 Arena in London. The clips were altered using special effects for coloring and distortion.
Aside from their 2004 collaborative EP with Jay-Z (Collision Course), Minutes To Midnight is the first Linkin Park album to include profanity, which resulted in their first Parental Advisory label.