Not a yes sir, not a follower? If the Beatles were the spokesmen of their generation, then Imagine Dragons are fast becoming the voice of a new one. The former battled against old conventions, experimented with psychedelics and practiced transcendental meditation. They were not just trend setters, they were representing a revolution of the post-war era. The latter are the front men to a new sound and style that hits you with its rhythm-driven edge, but their appeal goes deeper than that.
A New Generation of Rebels
Dan Reynolds lends his voice and songwriting skills to tunes that reflect the disharmonies, attitudes, and lessons behind what it really takes to stand up and stand out. We had classic rebels like James Dean, we witnessed Robert Downey Jr’s downfall and resurgence, and Johnny Depp likes to dress like a rebel with his tattoo, kabbalah-bracelet wearing facade. So what are the rebels of today fighting against? There’s so much happening in the news that we can’t keep up with, media trains us more than our teachers, and kindness and compassion seem to be weaknesses these days. The 1999 film, Fight Club, had offered its own social commentary:
“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
Is this the rebellion of the 21st Century? Something of an anti-system, system-slave dichotomy where the act of fighting against those that control us only plays us deeper into their hands? As Imagine Dragons sings in “Whatever it Takes”:
“I’m just a symbol to remind you that there’s more to see I’m just a product of the system, a catastrophe And yet a masterpiece”
An awareness tendrils its way into the music that, while they’re successful, there’s more to it. The words play on two meanings. There’s the factory music and cathartic high of reaching the top. Yet there’s also a symbol that all that is merely a way post onto greater things. As Paul McCartney said that at the height of Beatlemania, when they got to the top, they found there ‘wasn’t much there.’ That insight finds its way into many of Imagine Dragon’s songs too. The message is to go deeper. What are you creating that is meaningful to you? Dan Reynold’s might ask.
Like the demise of The Architect’s plans in The Matrix, society is experiencing a ‘system failure.’ We see people fighting over nothing, like what to wear or what to watch, while all over the world countries are tearing themselves apart. Thinking back to the bit from Fight Club, is that the new anti-establishment agenda of the privileged: to fall, to fail, to become miserable because then we earn our right to speak out, strike back and complain? Or are we on the verge of a social and emotional awakening?
Evolving Through Music
A friend of mine said that looking a bit left field when it comes to music is always good. And Imagine Dragons is just the ticket. Yet what resonates in the group’s lighter concept album, Evolve, is that it reaches into the zeitgeist of our age. Now’s a world of many changes, filled with social, spiritual and cultural revolution. An ‘evolution’ of thought and consciousness. Bill Bailey highlighted one of the greatest difficulties of our time in Dandelion Mind:
“We’re in a strange time at the moment. More connected, less connected than ever before.”
The epic hip-hop ‘n’ rock-indie pop fusion has a way of reaching inside of you. It reminds you to spend the time cultivating your self-image based on your own expectations rather than that of others. Every verse feels written straight from the core. Evolve is a personal journey showcasing the band member’s extremes, struggles, and eventual evolution. John Lennon and George Harrison also did this in their solo studio albums back in the day.
The meaning behind some of the music is revelatory in showing the truths that go with success. “Thunder” gets us to take a look at ourselves and question what we stand for. “Yesterday” is a slow-rolling, Queen-styled rock that encourages us to have the courage to look to the past and future with no regrets. “Start Over’s” lyrical, Toto-era rock nostalgic beat reveals the reality of life on the road. Gone are the days when artists were given music to sing. Along with the Beat Generation and the emergence of social commentators like Zimmerman, more and more singers began writing their own material. The conscious and image evolution of Imagine Dragons just goes to show that there’s more out there if you’re willing to see.