ARTIST OF THE MONTH: IMAGINE DRAGONS
Imagine Dragons are a pop rock band from Las Vegas, Nevada, consisting of lead singer Dan Reynolds, guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, and drummer Daniel Platzman. The band first gained exposure with the release of their single "It's Time", followed by their award-winning debut studio album "Night Visions" (2012), which resulted in the chart-topping singles "Radioactive" and "Demons". Imagine Dragons has sold over 75 million records worldwide, making it one of the world's best-selling music artists. They were the most streamed group of 2018 on Spotify and are the first rock act to have four songs, "Radioactive", "Demons", "Believer", and "Thunder", to surpass one billion streams each.
Night Visions (2012)
The writing was on the wall with Imagine Dragons’ debut LP, "Night Visions." It came after a string of EPs produced by the band themselves, independent releases that steadily built their profile over the course of four years. But when it came time for Imagine Dragons to sell out (not that their original work was some kind of “raw” thing), man did they sell out. I should note, however, that I think “selling out” is kind of a silly concept. I would do it in a heartbeat if I was offered the kind of money that these guys surely were offered to make "Night Visions," and the increase in that money that came after the huge success of “Radioactive,” “It’s Time,” and “Demons.” The whole of "Night Visions" was big, as evidenced by its 7x platinum sales. As of late, as with Maroon 5, I’ve just wondered who regularly listens to these guys (besides me lately, for whatever reason made me want to write this). Imagine Dragons is huge, with more than 40 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone, and yet I know absolutely no one who has ever expressed admiration or even mild enjoyment of the band. Perhaps it’s all just stemmed from those hits I mentioned because, for all their crassness in just how overproduced they are, they are admittedly catchy. “Hear Me,” my favorite song on the record, does have a good drive to its chorus. But for all its relative merits, I would still not say "Night Visions" is a good album.
Smoke + Mirrors (2015)
I think what annoys me most about Imagine Dragons is that there’s some kind of vibe behind the very shallow facade that indicates a belief or attempt to be compelling lyrically or artistically. And I don’t think anything Imagine Dragons have released so far would, musically, support that intent. With their sophomore effort, SMOKE + MIRRORS, I think the band was going for something a little softer or more introspective, as exemplified by the title track. Oh, there was still plenty of upbeat pop, as could be heard in “I’m So Sorry” and “I Bet My Life.” The former is a cringe, Imagine Dragons version of “hard” (before it turns to a piano interlude, of course), and the latter is just a song custom-built for car and insurance commercials. But, within my criteria, SMOKE + MIRRORS isn’t the most annoying record from Imagine Dragons; I must admit, there’s a little bit more going on with the non-single tracks.