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.
Las Vegas’s Imagine Dragons are known for making stadium pop-rock that’s part-Foo Fighters tribute, part Foster the People, occasionally embracing a Mumfords-style twang, a nu-metal riff, or some hip-hop bounce. Despite singles such as "Radioactive" (695m YouTube views and counting) and a No 1 album in the UK with 2015’s "Smoke + Mirrors," they remain faceless – something which is only likely to continue as they channel an on-trend, electronic sound for this third outing. Opener "I Don’t Know Why" are all stripped-back synths and awkward mid-tempo beats, while "Whatever It Takes" was written with a sports highlights package in mind (“I love the adrenaline in my veins”, wails frontman Dan Reynolds, before chart pop’s current obligatory chorus of “Woah-ohs” enters). Elsewhere, there are occasional hallmarks of old: Walking the Wire ventures into stadium lighter-swaying territory, while "Start Over" is essentially a club remix of Africa by Toto. "Evolve" sounds, almost impressively so, as though it’s been created with telly music coordinators in mind – and few others besides.
A big part of the distinction for this Imagine Dragons album ranking is defining which ones are less annoying than the others. By that criterion, and any other, "Origins" is the worst. There has always been something cynical in Imagine Dragons’ approach to music, slipshod incorporation of rock, hip-hop, and pop sounds and production to maximize the commercial appeal and get good brand deals. But at various points, that’s resulted in some earworms, loathe as I or others are to admit it. And lead singer Dan Reynolds doesn’t have a lousy voice if put to good use (which, let’s admit it, is rarely). But "Origins" commits the ultimate sin for these kinds of bands: it’s bland and nearly soulless but doesn’t deliver any hooks that I can even guiltily enjoy. The whole thing is so tame and boring, and by picking “Birds” as my “favorite” track, I’m mostly indicating what defines "Origins:" a tacky attempt at sounding “deep” and a cheap pass at the profound sentiment.