You can hardly switch on the radio without hearing hits like Radioactive, Thunder or Whatever It Takes. The resonating drums of Imagine Dragons, instantly give you an energy boost. The indie rock band will perform in a sold out Ziggo Dome tomorrow where they will blow away 17,000 people with their well-known music. But did you know that their biggest hits are just as powerful in terms of lyrics as in terms of sound?
The band Imagine Dragons was founded in Las Vegas in 2008. It took a while before Dan Reynolds (vocalist), Wayne Sermon (guitarist), Daniel Platzman (drummer) and Ben McKee (bass player) really broke through, but in 2012 the band took over the international charts with Radioactive, for which they later also received a Grammy.
Three albums and many hit songs later, their music was used in various games (including FIFA 13) and they even wrote music for films such as The Hunger Games and Suicide Squad. The band is often praised for their energetic live performances. Will you be at their concert in The Ziggo Dome tomorrow? Then you’re in for a treat!
Imagine Dragons originates from Utah, the epicenter of the Mormon faith. Front man Dan also grew up in a conservative family. While religion is important to him, he cannot follow the reasoning in all areas of the Mormon faith. In a recent interview, he said that he was kicked out of university, sent on a mission to Nebraska and had to repent for a year after confessing to having premarital sex with his girlfriend to his bishop. Dan ended up with depression which fanned the flames to fight for change.
“That was a trigger point in my life, I felt like a whole community was judging me and that God saw me as a dirty, sinful kid. That was the first time I thought ‘something’s wrong about this’. You’re telling a child that something that is natural and beautiful, is sinful. And that’s only a very small part of what LGBT Mormons go through, when it comes to feeling shame or guilt about their sexuality.”
He now stands behind promoting more sexual freedom and acceptance of LGBTQs within the Mormon Church. Dan has set up the Love Loud Foundation, with which he organizes a yearly festival and later this year, the documentary Believer, that he made to generate attention for this subject appears. At the bottom of this article you will find an inspiring speech in which he raises high the proverbial battlements.
We have not been able to find songs in which you can read Dan’s struggle with his faith very explicitly, but if you read the following lyrics, it is almost impossible that this would not have had a lot of influence on him.
5. Thunder (Evolve, 2017)
Sit back and let front man Dan take you back to his youth. In Thunder he describes his views on life as a child:
Just a young gun with a quick fuse
I was uptight, wanna let loose
I was dreaming of bigger things
And wanna leave my own life behind
Not a yes-sir, not a follower
Fit the box, fit the mold
In the run-up to the chorus it becomes clear how he saw himself:
I was lightning before the thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning then the thunder
A pre-warning that something bigger is coming.
Kids were laughing in my classes
While I was scheming for the masses
Who do you think you are?
Dreaming ‘bout being a big star
They say you’re basic, they say you’re easy
You’re always riding in the backseat
Now I’m smiling from the stage
While you were clapping in the nose bleeds
Thunder – Imagine Dragons
At school, his fellow classmates ridiculed him because he was ‘different’. But now he is smiling on stage while the former bullies buy ‘nose bleed tickets’ for his shows. ‘Nose bleed tickets’ are seats on the highest row, where it is said that you might get a nosebleed from the height.
4. Believer (Evolve, 2017)
Dan suffers from Bechterew’s disease. This is an inflammation of the spine that can cause curvature; a heavy burden which cannot be cured. This led him to write Believer. As the title of this song suggests, it is not a lament about the suffering that the disease is causing him. On the contrary, he has embraced it, the disease has inspired him towards personal growth.
In the first verse, he wants to share a few things about the feelings he has kept to himself long enough:
First things first
I’ma say all the words inside my head
I’m fired up and tired of the way that things have been
In an interview he says that this song is not only about the pain caused by his illness, but also about other painful situations: his fear of crowds, the feeling that overwhelmed him when the band suddenly became successful and a depression that he eventually has overcome. He will not be fooled anymore, he himself has total control:
Second things second
Don’t you tell me what you think that I could be
I’m the one at the sail, I’m the master of my sea
You’ll read where it all comes from in the chorus:
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
You break me down and build me up, believer, believer
Oh let the bullets fly, oh let them rain
My life, my love, my drive, it came from…
Believer – Imagine Dragons
Heavy! But in the interview, he says he is still grateful for his faith:
“A lot of my greatest strengths are due to my greatest weaknesses or flaws or physical ailments. It brought me discipline, gratitude and compassion. The song is about how pain made me a believer.”
3. I Bet My Life (Smoke + Mirrors, 2015)
I Bet My Life is on the second album Smoke + Mirrors. In an interview, Dan says that his relationship with his parents is the main subject of this song:
I know I took the path
That you would never want for me
I know I let you down, didn’t I?
So many sleepless nights
Where you were waiting up on me
Well I’m just a slave unto the night
Like many other teenagers, he was regularly at odds with his parents. As mentioned earlier, he grew up in a very conservative family and when he told his parents that he wanted to become a musician instead of a lawyer or doctor, it did not receive a positive response. He had the idea that he was the black sheep of the family and got into trouble over and over because he did not do what was expected of him.
So I, I bet my life
I bet my life, I bet my life on you
I Bet My Life – Imagine Dragons
In the chorus it becomes clear that after all these years he values his parents and has always done so. “We try to see past our differences and celebrate the relationship that we have and that we still share today.”
2. Demons (Night Visions, 2012)
And then we have: Demons. This song is about recognizing and fighting against your uncertainties. He describes these uncertainties as the ‘demons’.
When the days are cold and the cards all fold
And the saints we see are all made of gold
When your dreams all fail and the ones we hail
Are the worst of all and the blood’s run stale
The dark and depressed days are central to the beginning of this song. The ‘saints’ would refer to the idols of today. These idols are often idealized by fans and thus we tend to forget that they too are not perfect and have their ‘demons’.
Dan himself struggled with depression for years; perhaps his depression inspired him to write the next passage.
I want to hide the truth, I want to shelter you
But with the beast inside, there’s nowhere we can hide
No matter what we breed, we still are made of greed
This is my kingdom come, this is my kingdom come
Demons – Imagine Dragons
He wants to suppress the truth (a.k.a. his demons) to protect others. But at the same time, he realizes that he can no longer deny his demons.
Kingdom come is a term from a prayer which means ‘the end of time’, but also ‘the next world’. Online, these texts are interpreted in different ways. Either it would be a revelation for Dan, and he decides to change course and accept his demons. Or would it mean the end of time because he stays headed in the same direction. What do you think?
1. Radioactive (Night Visions, 2012)
Is this single about a nuclear war, about Wall Street or about the end of the world? Due to the terrifying word ‘apocalypse’ in the lyrics, the opinions on Radioactive are divided.
That is what the Imagine Dragons realize as well. “A lot of people probably see a post-apocalyptic world when they hear ‘Radioactive’, understandably, but we wanted to deliver something that was maybe a little different.”
In fact, the song is about a revelation; realizing that you can decide to take a new path in life. For the Dragons, this moment is an apocalypse.
I’m waking up to ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I’m breathing in the chemicals
I’m breaking in, shaping up
Checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse
Dan is very clear about the meaning of the song: “That’s basically a song about my struggle with anxiety and depression. It’s about becoming self-empowered and rising above that.”
A powerful anthem about overcoming human weakness:
I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Whoa, whoa – I’m radioactive, radioactive
Radioactive – Imagine Dragons
He feels so strong in overcoming his fear and depression that his mind might ‘explode’. The new age that follows is a new era for himself. By radioactive, he does not mean radioactive radiation released by a nuclear weapon, but that he practically radiates opportunities and possibilities. In that case, let that apocalypse come! 😉
Did you know that the lyrics of the Imagine Dragons contained these personal messages? Have a blast if you will attend the Ziggo Dome tomorrow!
More Imagine Dragons?
Earlier on, we also wrote about the latest single Whatever It Takes. These lyrics are more than worth it, especially if you are a Game Changer!
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Also, don’t forget to watch this telling speech!
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