Imagine Dragons: Origins review – A lacklustre mess. It will sell millions
Kidinakorner - Polydor - Interscope
Origins is the fourth album from the Las Vegas band Imagine Dragons, who somehow find it necessary to fuse rock, pop, EDM, R&B and country on one record. With so many genres at work and numerous themes – world peace, depression, break-ups and non-conformism – thrown into the pot, Origins is a muddled and incoherent mess with all of the best intentions.
On the opening track and lead single Natural, frontman and lead vocalist Dan Reynolds cynically barks through the chorus, which concludes that in order to make it in this world, we have to be “cold” and “cutthroat”. Not exactly a cheery way to begin but, over padded synths and thundering drums, we’re brought on a discontented journey where we discover that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be . . . but in a fairly unoriginal way.
In interviews, Reynolds has often referred to feeling like an outsider as a teenager, and the angst he experienced then carries into his music now, from the downbeat reflections on the deceptively upbeat Zero to faking a cheery disposition in life and in love on Bad Liar. “When you gonna see I’m not for sale, I’ve been questioning/ When you gonna see I’m not a part of your machine,” he sings on the military-sounding Machine, taking shots at the rich kids with no dreams or beliefs.
He then goes on to tear down his fellow artists, who shockingly might be in it for more than the music, on the glitchy Bullet in a Gun: “How many artists fear the light? Fear the pain, go insane? Lose their mind, lose their soul? You only care about fame and wealth!”
On the relationship front, he’s not so savvy either. Waving balmy vocal harmonies over tinkling keys, Cool Out is a key example of what not to do in a break up. Standing at his ex’s porch door, he delivers the bad news that their relationship isn’t working but then demands of them to “Cool out ’cause, baby, I don’t think I’m the one for you so just cool out”. The gall. Where Cool Out earns points for a catchy – and ultimately wasted – melody, it then loses them instantly with that dud of a line that’s deeply reflective of the throwaway nature embedded in online dating culture, where the next one – or the one after that – is just one swipe away.
However, love is deemed to be the cure for all of the world’s problems, from apathy to violence, on the listless Love. “It’s been a long time comin’, feel like we’ve all been runnin’, feel like the Wild West gunnin’, listen to our elders shunnin’, flippin’ on the news be talkin’, all about the problems shockin’, we put on our headphones walkin’,” he sings, calling out our modern-day sins over a rolling beat before rushing into the handwringing chorus of “Where did we all go wrong?” A very valid question.
Misery finds a home on Origins and, while societal problems are laid bare, the solutions – like simply turning off our phones on Real Life if the constant bad news gets you down – are as lacklustre as the songs.
For a band so concerned with losing their identity among the masses (or the charts), Origins fails to deliver anything distinctive; but, for a band that regularly sells out arenas and stadiums, the nothingness of their lyrics will be drowned out by the rest of their noise.