Imagine Dragons – Unpredictable and Unstoppable

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The only predictable thing about Imagine Dragons is their unpredictability. From dropping surprise singles to animating their fans with cryptic tweets, the band knows exactly how to keep their fans on their toes. “I don’t think they really know what’s coming”, lead singer Dan Reynolds reflects. “We get a fair amount of pleasure out of that”, lead guitarist Wayne Sermon adds with a laugh. And with the release of their fourth full-length studio album, “Origins”, the band is staying true to that unpredictable nature.

The album’s title may imply a back-to-the-roots approach to their creative process, but as the band themselves have expressed, it’s “a whole new world of music… it feels like a sister album to ‘Evolve’.” Where “Evolve” featured reflective, pure melodies built upon a foundation of rallying beats that have become a signature feature of the band’s music, “Origins” maintains a certain straight-to-the-point feel, interrupted by playful breaks in all the right places. Unlike previous albums, it is no longer a collection of ambitious anthems weighed down by heavy, driving percussion. Paradoxically, “Evolve” seems to have set the stage for the actual evolution to take place on “Origins”. “It’s fresh, and it feels green, and it feels healthy, and we’re all really proud of it”, Dan says, smiling.

Not even a year and a half have passed since the June 2017 release of “Evolve”. “We finished ‘Evolve’… and we just kept creating.” Soon enough, the band was sitting on another complete body of work, asking themselves how to go about its release. “We had these songs where we thought ‘we could wait a couple years, like bands are supposed to, and put it out’”, Dan recalls, “but then it’s going to be irrelevant to us, because in two years, we’re going to be in a different place, so… why don’t we put it out right now?”

The jury is out when it comes to the question of whether Imagine Dragons do “what bands are supposed to do”. They hit the ground running with their first studio album “Night Visions”, which reached #1 on the US Rock charts, and they haven’t stopped since, scoring award after award and consistently putting out wildly popular singles. Some critics, however, are wary of their success. A Rolling Stone album review of “Evolve” diagnosed a “can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em approach to mass market rock anthems”. This interpretation is hardly unique, and the voices accusing the band of selling out are not exactly whispers.

This year, Dan Reynolds took to Twitter to respond to such criticism head on: “I’m not looking to appease a hipster. I write lyrics that speak to my truth. Music I love. That speaks for me. If film and TV compliments that music in a way that feels good and brings it to more people then I’m always down to join forces. That isn’t selling out to me… creating music that isn’t your truth is.”

For followers of Imagine Dragons, Dan’s concept of “truth” is a recurring theme in the story of the band. The singer speaks openly about his personal life, including his crisis of faith and departure from the Mormon church. His vulnerability comes across loud and clear in his songwriting. His authenticity is the main ingredient in Imagine Dragons’ recipe for success, especially when combined with the band’s unstoppable work ethic. When the musicians complete an album, the consensus is nothing along the lines of “‘We’ve finished this, let’s take a break’, it’s ‘We’ve finished this, so let’s do the next thing’.” And by now, fans are certainly aware that the “next thing” could be right around the corner.

 
Written by Alexandra Norman

Alexandra is a writer and translator based in Berlin.

Photo by Eliot Lee Hazel

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