On Friday, Imagine Dragons released Origins, their fourth studio album and a quick follow-up to their 2017 release of Evolve. Stylistically, Origins is lighter than its predecessor, with producers Alex da Kid and Mattman & Robin making an effort to tone down the bass-thumping backdrop— a token of the typical Imagine Dragons song—in order to let a more organic sound shine through.
The formerly alternative-rock band Imagine Dragons rose from complete obscurity to a household name seemingly overnight. The revolutionist, EDM-heavy hit single “Radioactive” (2012) constitutes the band’s big break and is the current record-holder for the longest-running single on the Billboard Hot 100: 87 weeks.
Origins opens with the hit single “Natural,” an explosive, fist-pumping anthem that touches on survival in a world wrought with chaos through lyrics such as “You gotta be so cold / To make it in this world.” Frontman Dan Reynolds carries the adrenaline over to “Machine,” a grating, industrial track about nonconformity and “Cool Out,” a charming power ballad about a broken relationship and the residue it leaves behind. “Bad Liar” details a “loveless year” and is a moving track about Reynolds’ battle with his inner demons. “West Coast” offers a welcome break from the bass-heavy songs that constitute the majority of the album.
The lightness of the album’s songs serves as a distraction from the darker themes hidden within the lyrics. Deceptively upbeat “Zeroes” provides commentary on Reynolds’ battle with anxiety, an issue the lead singer has been open about in the past. “Bullet for a Gun” gives an in-depth look at the artist’s rise to fame, calling it “the devil’s deal.” It’s an interesting choice of topic for a band that rose out of relative obscurity to critical success within a manner of months—lyrics such as “How many artists fear the light? / Fear the pain, go insane? / Lose your mind, lose yourself / You only care about fame and wealth!” only serve to heighten the irony.
Reynolds’ progressive voice is evident throughout the album, notably in tracks such as “Love,” where lines such as “Where did we all go wrong?” and “All around the world, we are one” touch on the necessity of unity in an apathetic and violent world. “Real Life” similarly comments on the lack of genuine human connection in our generation, with lyrics such as “Hey, turn your phone off, won’t you look me in my eye? Can we live that real life, real life?”
“When we create, we create with no boundaries, no rules,” Reynolds said in an interview with The Guardian as an explanation of Origins contents. “We find it thrilling to make music that feels different and new to us.” But despite “Digital,” an unexpected, dubstep-infused song that initially explodes but falls on its face, Origins doesn’t tread into new territory. The album is teeming with cliches typical of Imagine Dragons’ niche within the pop-rock genre: gritty lyrics heightened by the pained intensity of Reynolds’ vocals, bass-thumping melodies that offer little besides a catchy chorus, and hook-laden, folk-inspired songs reminiscent of Mumford & Sons.
Origins is an album that at times seems confused with itself. A hodgepodge of different genres and themes, it sacrifices doing anything substantial for appealing to the masses and achieving commercial success. That being said, the album delivers in terms of explosiveness, something people have begun to expect as a definitive part of Imagine Dragons’ “classic” sound. While the album may sound bombastic and derivative to critics, Origins’ electric song list is sure to be an instant crowd-pleaser and will impress in the inevitable stadium tour.
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