Origins album review
Imagine Dragons surprised many with the release of their fourth album, Origins, while finishing up the final leg of their Evolve World Tour. Only a little over a year after the release of their previous album, Origins also came as a surprise because most artists, Imagine Dragons included, do not typically release new albums every year (their first album Night Visions came out in 2012 and Smoke and Mirrors released in 2015). As a huge fan of Imagine Dragons since my brother introduced me to Night Visions, I was thrilled when I found out I wouldn’t have to wait much longer for new music after Evolve's release in 2017.
In "Boomerang," lead singer Dan Reynolds offers up honest lyrics about the difficulty of letting go of past relationships. Comparing this lost love to a boomerang, he wonders, “Should we go ahead or should we turn around?” then follows up with “I know I’ll see you tomorrow,” showing the struggle to move past this relationship, since he constantly comes back.
“Cool Out” continues with this theme of love and failed relationships, and how the two stand with different perspectives; it shows how one wants to hold on, while the other feels as though there are too many differences between them to work out. The music perfectly matches the lyrics, with a slower, rhythmic beat as Reynolds muses about the relationship, and more intense and repetitive as the ex has to tell him to “go home” and “cool out” because their relationship isn’t working.
With a softer and more natural, acoustic feel to it, “West Coast” is a refreshing change from what a lot of Imagine Dragons’ music tends to be. It feels more open and real as he pleads to make his love stay, willing to do and be anything. Although he can’t be “Superman,” he will “be your West Coast … the sun … the waves … the one you love the most.”
“Only” and “Birds” seem to complement each other, with “Only” exploring a relationship that revolves around “you and me / only,” but it’s just a dream, and waking up from that dream in “Birds” and wishing that they were still together.
An upbeat individualist anthem, “Machine” expresses the idea of being one’s own entity, rather than just a part of a “machine” that others can control and manipulate. “Zero,” which was produced for Disney’s upcoming Ralph Breaks the Internet, surprisingly meshes well with the rest of the album. Despite being a fun and upbeat song, there are definitely deeper messages in it. Similar to “Machine,” it discusses being different from the crowds in another sense: feeling like nothing and trying to break out of that to become someone more. In that sense, both of these songs remind me of the song “Thunder” from Evolve, where Reynolds discusses wanting more from his life, and how he was able to make a name for himself while remaining true to his identity.
“Bullet in a Gun” acts almost as a counterpoint to “Zero” and “Machine,” tackling the struggle in the rise to fame, and how it can be a destructive industry. It talks about the ones who are unable to make the climb to the top, and how they can lose their minds or identities in the process of trying to be successful. Reynolds sings, “How many voices go unheard? / How many lessons never learned? / How many artists fear the light / Fear the pain, go insane? / Lose the mind, lose the self / (You only care about fame and wealth) / Sellout, sellout, sellout”
“Real Life” takes a darker tone, discussing the horrors of the world, and how we often watch in shock through the internet and news, struggling to cope with these atrocities we cannot control. In a desperate attempt to calm a struggling loved one, Reynolds sings, “Oh, hey, Turn your phone off, only look me in my eyes / Can we live, yeah, real life, real life? // I wish I had the answers / Something you could hold too / Only thing that's real to me is / You.” In a similar vein, “Love” broadens the theme of love with greater social implications. It discusses the state of the world we live in and seeks to know “where did we all go wrong?”, emphasizing how perceived differences in race should not divide us and cause us to hurt one another since “We got the same heartbeat / We’re living for the same dreams / We got the same bloodstream.”
The other songs on the album include “Stuck,” “Bad Liar,” “Digital,” “Natural,” and “Burn Out,” and although I don’t have much to say about these five in greater detail, I do appreciate them as much as the rest of the album.
Origins is unique, but possesses many qualities as a whole that are reminiscent of previous albums, making it easier to ease into the album upon its release. This seems to be a trend with Imagine Dragons, as each album adds a bit more nuance to their sound while ultimately maintaining their identity as a band. Unlike the last two albums, which took some time for me to adjust to and love (particularly with Smoke and Mirrors, which took me a few years to ease into), Origins was effortless and is probably my favorite album so far, stylistically and lyrically. Imagine Dragons has consistently produced a wealth of beautiful lines and verses, but Origins went above and beyond for me. The whole album was emotionally potent, not just in realistically portraying heartbreak in romance, but heartbreak with regards to the greater world.