Let there be Origins! This past Friday, Imagine Dragons dropped a brand new album filled with lyrical gems- a mere 16 months after the indie rock band released the super successful Evolve.
When the guys came to perform in Amsterdam at the start of this year, we were already looking into the lyrics of their biggest hits [check out: What are the biggest hit songs of Imagine Dragons actually about?]. We discovered earlier, unreleased tracks in which frontman and songwriter, Dan Reynolds, is incredibly open about his struggle with the Mormon faith, depression, and Bechterev’s disease.
Their lyrics are confident, honest, and raw, but usually with a positive twist. The blaring drums turn many of the songs into energetic anthems. Do we get to hear that again on their new album, Origins? And what statement are the guys making with their singles Natural and Machine?
Origins was written over the past year and a half, which has been a very intense period for the band. Evolve went double platinum in the United States alone: it received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album and spawned global hits such as Believer, Thunder, and Whatever It Takes.
Today, Imagine Dragons are the 9th most listened to artists on Spotify with 40 million monthly listeners. Furthermore, more than a million fans have had the opportunity to see them perform live: they have toured for around 400 days, visiting 33 countries in 6 continents.
A lot has happened in Dan’s personal life as well. He tweeted this past April that he and Aya Volkman-the love of his life, with whom he has three daughters- were separating after 7 years of marriage. But perhaps there will be a happy ending after all. In a recent interview with the Evening Standard he said that they never officially signed the divorce papers. They are now in couple’s therapy and are carefully dating again.
Dan has also been working for a noble cause which is close to his heart. At the start of this year, the documentary Believer (would recommend!) came out, in which Dan looks into how the Mormon church treats LGBTQ people, be they members of the church or not. He founded the Love Loud Foundation to work towards the acceptance of homosexual love.
One of the ways he is trying to make LGBTQ emancipation a reality is by organising LOVELOUD Festival. This festival is held in Salt Lake City, the epicentre of Mormonism. His goal is to be able to have an open dialogue about unconditional love with the largely conservative Mormon community. It’s patently obvious in the documentary how rocky the road is towards that reality.
However, this past summer, the second edition of LOVELOUD festival attracted 35,000 fans– twice as many as the previous year. Dan won a documentary award at the Hollywood Film Awards with Believer.
Dan spoke in the aforementioned interview about the past year:
“It’s been an incredible year. But I prefer a wild ride to where I was eight years ago, which was a place of indifference and fear and loathing and depression. I thought I got divorced and now I’m dating my wife! Some days I feel like I want to be a Mormon and some days I don’t believe in God at all. I’m on a crazy-ass rollercoaster and I enjoy the chaos.”
Since Dan is always open and honest in his lyrics, it’s to be expected that this exciting past year is audible on Origins. In the album trailer he describes the album as a sister album of Origins, an album which completes the cycle. According to guitarist Wayne Sermon:
“Evolve was very minimalist, black, just a ray of light. And I think out of that sort of deadness, out of the nothingness can grow something beautiful”.
Dan added: “Evolve is like where am I going? I know there is colour, I just need something new. And Origins is ‘This is where you’re going, and it’s a great future’.”
Let’s take a look at how this meshes with the lyrics of the single Natural, which can be heard right now across many streaming service playlists and all over the radio. I’m not entirely certain what the inspiration was behind this song. With the LOVELOUD mission at the back of your mind, you could interpret it as a description of how it is to be gay in a community in which homosexuality is not accepted.
It’s also possible that it has more to do with personal experience- that Dan is describing his own crisis of faith. In that case, he would be describing his doubts about faith, which long formed the foundations of his spirituality and emotions. What do you do if you lose faith in your most basic principles?
Will you hold the line
When every one of them has given up and given in? Tell me
In this house of mine
Nothing ever comes without a consequence or cost, tell me
Will the stars align?
Will Heaven step in? Will it save us from our sin? Will it?
‘Cause this house of mine stands strong
He stands at a crossroads: does he remain a member of the Mormon Church (his safe haven), sacrificing his personal values and principles?
That’s the price you pay
Leave behind your heart and cast away
Just another product of today
Then it seems as though he takes the reins:
Rather be the hunter than the prey
And you’re standing on the edge, face up ‘cause you’re a
In the chorus we hear how difficult this situation can be and how determined you have to be to go your own way when facing intense pressure.
A beating heart of stone
You gotta be so cold
To make it in this world
Yeah, you’re a natural
Living your life cutthroat
You gotta be so cold
Yeah, you’re a natural
Natural – Imagine Dragons
We may not know the exact reason behind Dan writing this song, but he did share this in a press release:
‘Natural’ is about finding yourself and being willing and able to stand up to whatever adversity comes your way.”
“I am the Machine”
On the next single, Machine, it seems as if he goes a step further. He is going to fight for what he believes in:
All my life been sittin’ at the table
Watchin’ them kids, they’re living in a fable
Looks, luck, money and never left a’wishin’
But now it’s ‘bout time to raise up and petition
Bring that pressure on!
I’m not scared of what you’re gonna tell me
No, I’m not scared of the beast in the belly
Fill my cup with endless ambition
And paint this town with my very own vision
In the chorus he lets us know that he’s not only independent…:
‘Cause I’ve been wondering
When you gonna see I’m not for sale
I’ve been questioning
But that he makes a big difference:
When you gonna see I’m not a part of your machine
Not a part of your machine
I am the machine
Machine – Imagine Dragons
Yesss! Power to the people!
In this Tweet, he seems to add to this:
your genres are precious to you. I understand.
they are meaningless to me. in fact. my life has been genred (real word I made up). so I have a phobia of genre. it pigeon holes my mind. that’s what religion did to me.
I don’t want to be part of a culture. I am my culture.
— Dan Reynolds (@DanReynolds) August 3, 2018
It’s not entirely certain whether he’s referring here to genres within music, culture, religions, or sexuality, but his background and the events of the past year seem to point towards this being a large, all-encompassing statement. Go Dan!
What do you think of Imagine Dragons’ new album Origins? Let us know in the comments!
Want to read more about Imagine Dragons?
Wondering what Thunder, Believer, I Bet My Life, Demons, and Radioactive are about? We talked about it in our earlier article What are the biggest hit songs of Imagine Dragons actually about?
Apparently Whatever It Takes is also a life hack for game changers. Curious? Click the links!