Imagine Dragons, a Las-Vegas based rock band, released their fourth album earlier this month, and it has produced a lot of conflicting listener reviews. The band is no stranger to the spotlight. When they first broke out in the genre in 2013, their first hit, “Radioactive” broke records by staying on the Billboard Top 100 for a shocking 87 weeks. The pop rock sound of the band proved to resonate well with a younger audience of teens and preteens, a group which has followed them and their music well past its heyday. This album, while good, is simply that, just good. It is a good example of an album that a band past it’s five seconds of fame produces. Imagine Dragons became so huge in the country because they followed the same recipe of every other mainstream band in the industry today: three parts synth pad, one part guitar, a heavy dose of the downbeat, and a dash of collaboration with another popular artist. This recipe is often a recipe for success, as seen in the success of second album Smoke + Mirrors (topped charts in its first week), or third album Evolve (sold 147,000 copies in its first week). However, just as we get tired of eating the same recipe, we can also tire of hearing the same sound on each new release.
The song has a few key tracks, many of which are pretty similar to their usual sound, but with a few new tricks. With a graciously lengthy album of sixteen tracks, it is not hard for listeners to find at least one or two songs they enjoy and relate to. Or so one would think. However, on this album, Imagine Dragons has been criticized for having songs with lyrics so “broad and hollow” that listeners may find it difficult to relate to at all. This is the album’s achilles’ heel, as relatability is, arguably, key to a popular release for artists.
Some of the tracks do rely on the usual tricks characteristic of the group’s past successes, such as Natural,” “Bad Liar,” and “Machine”. These are upbeat and rock, and the songs have a Coldplay with more percussion vibe to them. Other tracks, such as “West Coast” and “Real Life” take a slightly different approach than usual, using more acoustic guitar as a prominent melodic line in the music bed combined with mellow vocals and less of the repeated-banging-on-trash-cans percussion feel of many of the other tracks. These songs, while instrumentally more experimental for the band, are still combined with broad lyrics, which are detrimental to the album. The lyrics cast a very wide net into a sea of listeners, as though the band is grasping to hold on to old listeners while simultaneously luring new ones in with vaguely relatable lines.
Although it seems we have spent the last three paragraphs picking apart everything the band has done wrong in their fourth album, the album truly is another great release for Imagine Dragons, and it has many redeeming qualities. One of the tracks on the album “Zero”, is featured in the Original Motion Picture “Ralph Breaks the Internet”, which premiered a week after the album’s debut. While this album is a bit tired and laden with overly broad lyrics, it definitely could have been worse. This album is worth the listen for sure, you might be like me and find a few of your new favorite songs on it!
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