Four-man band Imagine Dragons, prominently known for its hit songs “Radioactive” and “Believer,” released its fourth studio album, Origins, on Friday. The 15-track record has a few songs reminiscent of the inviting, aggressively-driven instrumentation of the band’s debut LP, Night Visions, but is ultimately influenced by the conventions of electropop – and not in a commendable fashion.
Origins marks the band’s fourth album release in six years, and fans are worried the band is continually pushing out content just to please them. Frontman Dan Reynolds with Apple Music that “we have the ability to continually feed the culture and fan base of Imagine Dragons, so why not do that?” The album also comes not too long after Reynolds in April that he and his wife, singer Aja Volkman, have decided to part ways after seven years. Reynolds later with Zane Lowe that the pair never actually signed the papers and are attempting to patch up the relationship. The album may be a cathartic release and coping mechanism for Reynolds during this difficult time, as seen conspicuously in tracks like “Boomerang” and “Cool Out.”
Origins differs heavily from the songs that made Imagine Dragons eminent in the music industry, and loyal fans seemingly dislike that. Experimentation within bands is inevitable and it isn’t always bad – but listeners have every right to be concerned here. Nothing about “Bullet In A Gun” works. The deeper meaning behind “Digital” is clever, but it’s all over the place instrumentally. The chorus of “Only” sounds like something straight out of a song by The Chainsmokers. Reynolds doesn’t sound genuine in “Love” until the breakdown in the last minute. Origins is not sonically cohesive and lacks intricacy, but there are some exceptions. Let’s focus on the few stimulating tracks that Imagine Dragons provide us here. Here’s a breakdown of the best five tracks – and frankly, the only ones worth listening to – from Origins:
5. “West Coast”
A feel-good track, “West Coast” dabbles in the genre of country-pop – something that is unheard of from the rock quad. The song is for a loved one in Reynolds’ life, probably referring to Volkman. He acknowledges he is flawed, but it doesn’t matter because “I’ll be your strong man / I’ll be your West Coast.” The sun sets in the west every night, and this may be Reynolds’ way of promising he will continue to be there at the end of every day for his loved ones despite the darkness that life inevitably yields. The simplistic nature of “West Coast” supplies the listener with feelings of benevolence and warmth.
4. “Cool Out”
Commanded by synths, a soft electric guitar and a muffled trap drum, “Cool Out” is straightforward: Reynolds is being let down easily in romantic terms, alluding to his recent split with Volkman. He doesn’t want to accept it, stating, “I’m standing on your front porch saying ‘Don’t go,’” but she refutes back, saying “Just go home / And cool out, ’cause baby I don’t think I’m the one for you.” The enchanting harmonies and brief guitar solo before the bridge allow for the lyrically melancholy song to be enjoyable.
“Boomerang” showcases how to create effectiveness out of simplistic musical style: by backing that up with emotionally driven lyrics. Dominated mostly by synths, Reynolds implements the metaphor of a boomerang to exhibit how he and his wife cannot seem to go through with the divorce – you can’t completely let go of something that is destined to come back. He ponders whether the broken couple should sign the divorce papers: “Should we go ahead? / Or should we turn around?” but he ultimately knows he doesn’t have the willpower to move on from the person he loves, saying, “I know I’ll see you tomorrow / ’Cause I’m bad at letting you go.” The aggressiveness of Reynolds’ vocals in the chorus creates a profoundly emotional chorus that makes the entirety of “Boomerang” irresistible.
2. “Bad Liar”
Written by Reynolds and Volkman, “Bad Liar” conveys the complications of their marriage. The raw emotion revealed in the track is comparable to the potent hit “Demons” from the band’s Night Visions album. Reynolds asks his counterpart to envision their future; and when he suggests it’s bound to be similar to a “perfect paradise,” he reveals, “Now you know, now you know / I’m a bad liar, bad liar,” because he wholly knows how difficult their relationship has been to manage. Reynolds showcases his most controlled, formidable vocal performance on “Bad Liar.” Combining that with the moving story surrounding the state of Reynolds’ relationship with Volkman, “Bad Liar” is a masterfully produced track.
1. “Burn Out”
Released only on the deluxe edition, “Burn Out” encapsulates the album’s most heartfelt lyricism. Accompanied by an enticing guitar line, Reynolds manifests the painful thoughts he encounters daily. He wonders if anyone would be willing to save him from his agony, saying “Pain will only make your heart harder / Tossed in fury’s weather / Innocence is beautiful to see / Won’t you box it up for me?” He reminds himself in the chorus the suffering will pass as it always does: “It’s just another downpour / Don’t let it get the best of you / It’s only up from the floor / Light everything inside of you / Don’t burn out, don’t burn out on me.” The relatability and wholeheartedness disclosed on “Burn Out” epitomizes catharsis as an art form. It is a must-listen for lovers of all music genres, making it without a doubt the most effective track on the album.