If you were ever bullied, mocked or misunderstood as a kid, at some point you might have thought, You just wait. I’ll show you!
“Thunder,” the second single from Imagine Dragons’ forthcoming third album, ID3, voices exactly that sentiment. It’s the (sparse) story of a determined dreamer who didn’t fit in, a nonconformist who never lost sight of making his dreams come true—and one who now takes great delight in telling his former tormentors that he’s reached the top … and they haven’t.
“Thunder” begins with a flashback. Frontman Dan Reynolds looks back (it would seem) from his now mega-successful perspective on those formative years when his dreams began to grow. And it’s pretty clear he had to cultivate those dreams alone, as he wasn’t getting much help from anyone else.
“Just a young gun with a quick fuse,” he begins. “I was uptight, wanna let loose/I was dreaming of bigger things/I wanna leave my own [or perhaps old] life behind.”
Those dreams, however, run smack into the confines of more conventional thinking. Reynolds sings, “Not a ‘Yes, sir’/Not a follower.” But the next two lines describe a world in which small-minded conformity is expected: “Fit the box, fit the mold/Have a seat in the foyer, take a number.”
Reynolds, by his own admission, was never much of a take-a-number-and-sit-in-the-foyer kind of guy. And so the end of the first verse hints at the creative energies surging inside him: “I was lightning before the thunder.”
The second verse recalls his mistreatment by his peers. “Kids were laughing in my classes/While I was scheming for the masses.” Those students mock, “‘Who do you think you are?/Dreaming ’bout being a big star.'” But Reynolds gets the last triumphantly vindictive laugh: “Now I’m smiling from the stage while/You were clapping in the nose bleeds.” It’s a satisfying lyrical burn that extends all the way to the cheap seats now occupied by Reynolds’ childhood oppressors.
Given such a victory, it’s no wonder that the balance of the song repeats its titular word, over and over again: “Thunder, feel the thunder/Lightning and thunder.”
As has been the case with some Imagine Dragons songs in the past, “Thunder” rolls in both positive and perhaps not-so-positive directions at the same time.
On the most basic level, this insanely catchy song (expect to hear it soon at sports stadiums everywhere) is an empowerment anthem. It’s a song that says to creative misfits and artistic underdogs everywhere: “Chase your dreams, because they might just come true.” That’s a message that Disney’s been peddling for decades, and in many ways, it’s a good one. And there’s always a chance that big dreams could in fact come true.
That said, being famous is sort of like winning the lottery: It does happen to a few folks, but the majority of us likely won’t ascend to a prominent public perch to taunt those who once taunted us. That’s a less romantic reality, of course. And it doesn’t make for empowering rock anthems. Still, the vast majority of us will have to make peace with that mundane reality eventually.
And as much fun as it might be to fantasize about getting “revenge” on our childhood nemeses by becoming a global superstar, the smug mockery that Reynolds and Co. indulge here ironically lowers Imagine Dragons to the same level as the bullies whose insults they once strove to overcome.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.