Life. Love. Existence.
It’s all gotta mean something. Right? According to Imagine Dragons' new album, Origins, it does.
The Las Vegas-based quartet just relseased its fourth, full-length studio album—and man is it full. Full of of angst and hope, peril and life, and jam packed with a fusion of genres all aimed at connecting with you, wherever you may be, along life’s wide emotional spectrum.
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Working through tough relationships is a central theme on Origins as a couple fights to save what's left of their frayed union. In “Boomerang,” two people address the difficulties in their relationship: “How many tears do we have to cry?/How many sleepless, lonely nights?/To work it out, is it worth it now?" We also hear, "Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean that it is wrong.”
In “Bad Liar,” a man realizes that his battle for a happy marriage begins on the inside (“I wage my war on the world inside”). And in “West Coast,” a guy admits his imperfections while fighting for the one he loves: “I ain’t no Superman, I ain’t no Holy Ghost/I’m just the one who keeps you up at night you love the most/I’ll be your strong man, I’ll be your West Coast.” Similar sentiments are heard on “Cool Out.”
And in “Stuck,” Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds (who announced his divorce from wife Aja Volkman in April) openly wrestles with deep sadness and personal purpose after his beloved leaves him: “I’m feeling like I’ve been locked in a grave/You were the laugh, you were the life, you were the party.”
“Natural” asks if there are people left who will hold their ground when everyone around them has conformed and caved in: “Will you hold the line/When every one of them has given up and given in?” And if people aren’t strong enough to hold their ground, the song also ponders divine intervention of sorts: “Will the stars align?/Will heaven step in?/Will it save us from our sin? Will it?”
"Natural" also rightly recognizes the high cost of chasing success, namely, hardening one's heart: “That’s the price you pay/Leave behind your heart and cast away/Just another product of today/…You gotta be so cold/To make it in this world.” We hear similar ideas in “Bullet in a Gun” as a man discovers what it may require to make it big: “To make a name, you pay the price/You give your life, no other way/The devil’s deal, it comes around."
Similarly, “Machine” declares independence from cultural groupthink: "'Cause I’ve been wondering/When you’re gonna see I’m not for sale/ … I’m not part of your machine.” Elsewhere, “Digital” distills the younger generations' ambitious desires for change: “We don’t wanna change, we just want to change everything.” Similar stuff can be heard on “Zero” and “Bullet in a Gun.”
“Love” reminds us that we should work toward unity, not division: “All I see is faces, color, color/All the other races, other, other/We got the same heartbeat/We’re living for the same dreams.” Meanwhile, “Real Life” asks someone to turn off heartbreaking news and to be present in the moment (“Hey, turn off your phone, won’t you/Look me in the eye?/Can we live that real life, real life?”). Likewise, “Love” recognizes the temptation of choosing to use media to ignore problems that are right in front of us (“Flipping on the news, be talking …/We put on our headphones walking”).
A woman helps change a man’s ways for the better in “Only.” He says, “Oh pretty baby, you’re my motivator/Got me changin’ my words and my behavior.” “Birds” recognizes that growth and change are natural parts of life. “Burn Out” encourages people to move forward, no matter what happens.
“Zero” is featured in the upcoming kids movie Ralph Breaks the Internet, but the tune offers a surprisingly grim outlook on life: “Let me tell you what it’s like to be a zero/ … Let me show you what it’s like to always feel/ … Like I’m empty, and there’s nothing real.”
In “Real Life,” a man admits that life’s tragedies have undermined his faith: “How could I ever believe in something/That would step aside and watch?’/And I got no words to say ‘cause I think I lost my faith.”
In “Boomerang,” a couple creates a façade to distract others from their broken relationship: “How many lies do we have to tell/To keep 'em saying that I wish you well.” Similarly, in “Bad Liar,” marital problems leave two people feeling pessimistic and defeated. In “Cool Out” a couple faces a fractured relationship. And in “Birds” and “Burn Out,” we hear a hopeless outlook on love that says all relationships eventually end and that your heart will, inevitably, become hardened.
“Only” perhaps suggestively references sex: “My disaster, you’re my only answer/You got me thinkin’ that I could be your master/Pretty baby, you’re my heavy ocean/Wear me down and give me your devotion.”
Imagine Dragons is an enigmatic paradox of sorts. Blending multiple sounds and multiple themes, the band works toward unifying listeners while making it clear that they do not wish to give in to mainstream culture. Then again, some of the band's lyrics suggest that, in some ways, they already have.
As mentioned, lead singer Dan Reynolds and his wife divorced this year. Many of these tracks, while reflecting a deep sadness, also suggest that some of their marital issues stemmed from the dark pull of fame. Other songs, though not directly connected to that loss, speak candidly (and sometimes hopelessly) about the price many pay to be famous. Self-awareness and angst fill Reynolds' melancholy and moody confessions.
But it’s not all hopeless. In fact, there’s a lot of positive stuff here, too, including songs that voice hopes about resurrecting something that feels dead. And though Imagine Dragons may feel the occasional pull to conform to what the world is telling them, they mostly encourage their listeners to run in the opposite direction, focusing instead on relationships and moments that matter most.