Since 2009, Imagine Dragons have emerged as one of the biggest and most compelling genre-less bands in the world. Within a year of its June 2017 release, their third studio album EVOLVE went double-platinum, yielding three back-to-back #1 singles: “Believer,” “Thunder,” and “Whatever It Takes.” In the midst of their Evolve World Tour—a 116 date trek that sold over 1.7 million tickets worldwide—the multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning band began working on their follow-up, and ended up creating their most dynamic work to date.
Conceived as a sister album to Evolve, Origins continues its predecessor’s sonic explorations while honoring Imagine Dragons’ alt-rock heritage. “It’s about seeking new ground but also appreciating your roots,” says lead vocalist Dan Reynolds, whose bandmates include guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, and drummer Daniel Platzman. “When we create, we create with no boundaries, no rules. We find it thrilling to make music that feels different and new to us.”
The band teamed up with heavy hitting producers for the album including: Joel Little (Lorde, Khalid), Mattman & Robin (Selena Gomez, Carly Rae Jepsen), and John Hill (Florence + the Machine, Phantogram) to sculpt the kaleidoscopic and kinetically charged sound of Origins. With the band artfully blending rock, hip-hop, pop, and folk, the album is etched in inventive textures that never distract from an essential element of Imagine Dragons: lyrics that speak to a sometimes-painful self-awareness, but ultimately uplift and inspire.
On Origins’ powerhouse lead single “Natural”—a track that topped the Alternative Songs for five straight weeks, and broke the all-time spin record on the alternative radio chart with over 4K spins in a single week—Imagine Dragons offer a meditation on self-discovery, sharing the message that “when you truly learn to love yourself, judging eyes and hateful words become meaningless,” as Reynolds puts it. With its title nodding to Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Imagine Dragons’ fascination with evolutionary biology, Origins also examines how technological advancement has altered the human experience. Featured as the end-credit song in the Walt Disney Animation Studios movie Ralph Breaks the Internet, the fantastically fast-paced “Zero” looks at isolation in the social media age but slyly unfolds as an anthem of self-acceptance. Meanwhile, the fuzzed-out and frenetic “Digital” captures a certain existential frustration, yet hints at Reynolds’s hope for greater open-heartedness in younger generations.
Elsewhere on Origins, the band reflects on the many dimensions of romantic love, embodying everything from the restless intensity of “Boomerang” to the dreamy melancholy of “Cool Out” to the epic balladry of “Bad Liar.” And on the soulful and stomping “West Coast,” Reynolds muses on a “fear of neglecting relationships due to the career path I chose,” gently transforming that fear into a glorious piece of folk-pop.
One of the most powerful moments on Origins, the slow-burning “Birds” echoes a bittersweet sense of closure, an element that’s especially meaningful to Reynolds. “When working with Joel Little on ‘Birds,’ I had to walk out of the room for a while to process the catharsis that came from writing a sad truth,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite songs on the record, because I reflect on that moment that was captured, and I’m able to relive it with each listen.”
Noting that the past year has brought its share of “high highs and low lows,” Reynolds partly perceives Origins as a document of those triumphs and troubles. “I don’t believe in regrets, but in accepting my path where I am each day,” he says. “I wrote in the moment, and this record captures a lot of visceral feelings for me—some of it lamenting loss, some celebrating life. I can’t help but write from an emotional and vulnerable place, as it’s the only place of inspiration for me that’s real.”