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Worst Thing Ever: Imagine Dragons

Allie Tollaksen | Sunday, December 8, 2013

As 2013 comes to a close and we look back on the year, the top-10 lists start rolling in. We collectively need to know the best albums, shows and movies that took us by storm in the past 12 months. As I began to read the critics’ choices, best sellers and highest-grossers, I found myself in agreement with most lists. But when I turned to scroll through this year’s chart toppers in music, one band made an appearance over and over again, and I couldn’t help but cringe. It’s the band that undeniably took 2013 by storm – Imagine Dragons. 

I know I am voicing an extremely unpopular opinion here. I realize that I am putting my head on the chopping block with this statement. Many of my close friends and beloved family members are huge fans of the four-piece pop-rock group, but I can’t stay quiet any longer: I cannot stand Imagine Dragons. 

The first time I heard Imagine Dragons was last year when the group’s breakout hit “It’s Time” came onto everyone’s radar. It was catchy, kind of inspirational and though I wasn’t a huge fan of front man Dan Reynolds’ scream-singing, I was okay with hearing the song around every now and then. Sure, the chorus is repeated five times and makes up over half the song, but I went with it.  

Then came “Radioactive,” and everything changed. 

No matter how many times I hear the song “Radioactive,” it still completely baffles me as to how it is so popular. No part of me can find the pulsing, low-register synth and heavy, industrial crash of the percussion enjoyable. It sounds like the theme song of some sort of dystopian theme park you would never, ever want to visit. In fact, it’s like the band knew this when the created the music video for the song, which featured the group’s members dramatically locked in prison paired with some puppet cage-fighting. 

When Reynolds finally comes in on the track, we are confronted with his harsh vocals and heavy breathing in the first verse. Just when you think it can’t get any more dramatic, the chorus begins, and the song becomes a whole new kind of bad. This may be a controversial statement, but nothing about a group of people screaming the word “radioactive” paired with superfluous bass-drumming is pleasant or interesting. 

I’m pretty sure that the song is supposed to be about change and revolution and the apocalypse or something, but the lyrics are far too ambiguous and repetitive to inspire. Nevertheless, the song was called the most popular rock song of 2013, so somehow I am apparently the only person who feels like someone is yelling incoherently at me every time I heard “Radioactive.” 

After “Radioactive,” the group released two more singles that became unavoidable this year, “Demons” and “On Top of the World,” both of which are essentially just iterations of their first two singles. When I first heard “Demons,” it sounded enough like “Radioactive” for me to immediately loathe it. Again, the song is not subtle about its theme of addressing personal issues, but the lyrics are pretty much just a vapid series of couplets sung emotionally over a heavy beat. Hard pass. 

Finally, “On Top of the World” is the band’s latest single. The song is a happy-go-lucky single in the same vein as “It’s Time.” Chock-full of clichéd lyrics and a lot of clap-stomping, it’s basically a hybrid of all of the kitschy songs we love so dearly in artists like fun., The Lumineers and Train. At least no one is screaming in it. 

I know that the love of Imagine Dragons runs deep, especially at Notre Dame. I know I’m going to catch a lot of flack for my stance on the band. That’s okay. I will continue to be a “hater” and fight the anti-“Radioactive” fight every day just as Imagine Dragons will continue to make more music and rack up millions and millions of dollars. We all know the joke’s on me, because while I spew my Imagine Dragons hate, they’re the ones “on top of the world.” Ugh. 

Contact Allie Tollaksen at atollaks@nd.edu

  • Vanessa Burnette

    not a fan of ID

    • CaptainChocolatePig

      Good for you. Now go away, because everyone else loves them.

  • PalermoAnthony

    I thought I was the only one.

  • Hello

    Do your reserch

  • Imagine Dragons

    Thank God someone else knows how bad Imagine Dragons suck. Plus, the fact that they are Mormons make them worse.

    • CaptainChocolatePig

      Wow. I’m not a Mormon myself, but that’s harsh. I’ve got plenty of Mormon friends and they are just about the nicest people on the planet. Plus, Imagine Dragons sucking is just YOUR opinion. There’s no scientific study to prove that. Have you listened to any of their other songs? And your freaking username is Imagine Dragons! What a dipweed

      • Platrelefs

        Oh my . . . What the, no science? So music theory is void now? Rhythmic complexity and dissonance harmonics and tectonics don’t apply?

        Their music is unimpressive to me, as I’m sure anyone who has played or studied musical instrumentation would agree.

        Still, I would love to be convinced of their merit, so please tell me, what they have contributed to the musical scene?

        • Capcocoapig

          This is that guy but I’m too lazy to sign in. It doesn’t matter how complex their music is. Millions of people love heir music, that’s what they’ve contirbuted. The guitarist studied at a music college, he just chooses to use simple stuff. And yes, I too play guitar. You know why I like their music? BECAUSE ITS SIMPLE everything doesn’t always need to be over the top

          • Platrelefs

            Millions of people love meth, and we all know how great that stuff is. Millions of people also loved Hitler, and slavery…

            Look, you could have given me anything of substance. The meaning of their lyrics, how their music inspires people to dance, or describe any musical pioneering that makes them unique, makes them artful. Instead, you chose to focus on how popular they are, and you could give any band the same popularity and it would fill the same role for you.

            You are entitled to your opinion, and go ahead and like them as much as the other million, I’m not trying to stop you. But do yourself a favor and prove to yourself that they are worth your time before you try to use popularity as an argument. I already knew they were riding on popularity; I was hoping you’d prove otherwise.

          • Capcocoapig

            I’m not running off of the fact that they’re popular- I’m running off of the fact that they’re popular for a reason. Their music has deeper meanings than every other freaking love song on the radio, and some of their music does make me want to dance. You’re entitled to your opinion, but crapping on other people’s opinions is just plain rude

          • Platrelefs

            I don’t think I’m being rude, I specifically stated that I would like you to explain this to me, and I’ll respect whatever real anwer you give me.

            “Their music has deeper meanings than every other freaking love song on the radio”

            What is the meaning? I clearly don’t understand what they’re singing about so please, for the love of music, tell me what it is

          • Capcocoapig

            You know they multiple songs right? Just for example, Dream is about depression and suicide, and the god awful I Bet My Life (I do admit that song is bad) is about forgiveness from his parents, Radioactive was about self empowerment, I Need A Minute was about corporations, America was about how amazin America is because America, etc. I never said YOU were being rude, I said that in general was rude. Again, how complicated music is doesn’t matter- it matters if the music is good. They don’t disregard theory, their stuff is just simple. I understand their stuff is super easy, and I admit as a guitarist that it’s dissapointingly easy, but then again so is most of Muse’s stuff. And if I’m correct, this article talked ONLY about their singles, which are nowhere near as good as tracks like Amsterdam, Clouds, Uptight, etc. They make a lot more rock songs than they’re given credit for by the way, but my question about this article is- so this person doesn’t like their music, so nobody else should because they’re horrible people?

          • Platrelefs

            Thank you for the descriptive response, I seriously appreciate it.

            This is all I was getting at really, “as a guitarist that it’s dissapointingly easy”.

            Muse should not have been brought up in this conversation, that was a mistake. There is nothing simple about Muse, and they are in no way comparable to Imagine Dragons. The range and clarity he presents in the vocals, the award winning guitar riffs and solos, the unique style and stage presence, that is why Muse is popular. Matthew Bellamy is a well respected singer, guitarist, pianist, and composer.

            See this for more info:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Bellamy#Critical_and_public_acclaim

            And comopare it to this:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagine_Dragons#Awards

            See how one is about music, and the other is about sales? Weird.

            Back to the topic, it’s the simplicity of their music that makes it a passing fad, and they have the stage presence of Coldplay and lack the composition skills that will lead to bigger and better things. They have put more effort into marketing and crowd pleasing than into composing meaningful music.

            I appreciate your replies, but I’m still unconvinced based on the information provided, and leaving popular opinion unrecognized.

          • Capcocoapig

            The guitar parts are easy for Muse, that’s what I said. And have you been to an Imagine Dragons live show? Because they do a ton of crap that does not make their shows boring. And the simplicity of Imagine Dragons’ music is what makes it likable, and a lot of it is beautiful to me. Songs like Dream, Drive, Emma, All For You, Nothing Left To Say, Amsterdam, and especially the River all have a kind of calming feel to them. And trust me, they aren’t trying to appease people. Their second album would have taken a lot different turn if that was the case… Not to say they won’t do it in the future though.

          • SpaghettiMonster

            “The guitar parts are easy for Muse”. That might be the case for Starlight and Uprising but listen to the care and precision in the guitar in Hoodoo or Citizen Erased. Even the tremolo picking in Knights of Cydonia is difficult to sustain at a moderate to fast tempo. Not to mention I have never seen anyone make the guitar in Hysteria sing like Bellamy. It’s like one of those things like Paranoid Android (if you don’t know that song your argument is invalid), anyone can play it but it’s almost impossible to do it any respect.

          • Capcocoapig

            Um… Knights of Cydonia is not a good example… If you want to give specific examples I can give you some examples trom Imagine Dragons too… There’s this one lick in the Uptight solo, the main guitar line of Amstersdam has this one section thats pretty rough, especially with the rhythm there. The live solo for Raduoactive has a pretty nasty lick at the end of it, and for a simple guitar thing that is filled with passion from them- listen to Clouds. There’s this 3 minute guitar solo that slowly fills with more passion and emotion until this absolutely huge ending.

          • SpaghettiMonster

            How did you just jump to Knights of Cydonia? I said Hoodoo and Citizen Erased foremost. The unique rhythms of Dead Star. The innovation of everything on Origin of Symmetry (I mean they used bones as an instrument). Plug in Baby has been voted one the best Guitar riffs of all time and Hysteria the same for bass. Watch Matt live and tell me that what he does is easy. You should never have brought up one of the most innovative and influential bands of all time when talking about a modern pop “rock” group that exists to fit a quota.

          • Capcocoapig

            Because you mentioned Knights of Cydonia. I can’t argue with you about Muse, because I like them too. I won’t tell you that they’re bad. And it may seem like it to you, but ID doesn’t exist to fit a quota. In fact, their second album pissed a lot of people off because it was so different. I Bet My Life and Shots were the exceptions.

          • SpaghettiMonster

            Ok, the most I can give you is maybe Radioactive and Demons were just aimed for the radio so they could get success then do other things. Thats the most I can say.

          • Capcocoapig

            I guess I can see that

          • Robyn

            Omfg, that first paragraph was a thing of beauty.

  • Student

    I stumbled across this article whilst researching for a school project of which I’m doing on this band, quite obviously I didn’t find what I was looking for. Either way, yes you’re entitled to your opinion. Should you bash a band because they don’t appeal to your personal music taste? Probably not. I instantly connected your opinion on this with those who insult the music genre of screamo. No, it does not appeal to everyone’s ears. But you don’t need to bash on a band who probably takes their music seriously and feels passionate about what they do. Hopefully you do not take this offensively, I feel everyone has the right to their opinion, but I also feelno one should be put down because you don’t happen to like them.

  • Miku

    Are you okay? I think you need to sit down and call a doctor haha. If you don’t like Imagine Dragons, just because like that other person right under me said, they don’t appeal to your music taste, don’t say anything. No one wants to hear someones opinion if they don’t even have a real reason why they hate on something. Jeez. So please shut the fuck up and go listen to OneDirection if you think they got better lyrics. Thank you.

    • Ryan

      Ah, the classic “nobody wants to hear your opinion that I don’t like” hypocrisy, followed up by the “go listen to [insert random popular act of an opposing style]” strawman. The favorite 1-2 punch of insecure people who can’t form coherent arguments

  • Your Doom

    GO DIE

  • Judah D.

    You are so right…. Imagine dragons are just over hyped pop garbage for the pop culture group to think they’re being indie…. Vocals are autotuned and don’t match the music…And songs are repetative. Thanks for helping me cause all my friends are like, “your into music you must like imagine dragons. They have so many good songs not on the radio” And I just shake my head and say why…. -_- over rated drizzle. They have one album of songs that all sound similar. Kudos bro for making the stand. Just cause it’s pop doesn’t make it good. And most of the time it isn’t….

    • I am better Than you

      Why dont you hear their songs such as I need a minute, uptight or any other of their ep songs. Listen to some other songs besides demons radioactive its time or on top of the world before you say something about them. If you listen to these and still think they are bad you have now formed a valid opinion.

    • CaptainChocolatePig

      Yeah, it’s not actually that autotuned. And having been to one of their concerts they are NOT pop music man. And listen to the dude beneath me look at Uptight and other stuff, much better.

      • Pariah_Xavier

        But it’s still autotuned, isn’t it? Real bands don’t autotune stuff because they actually have talent.

        • CaptainChocolatePig

          No it isn’t auto tuned. He always sounds different from the studio version, usually better, but he also can’t hit his metal scream in Friction or the scream in I’m So Sorry for that matter either. They used a backing track for I Bet My Life (terrible song btw, their worst one) twice but I’m pretty sure they stopped doing so.

        • Jam Jelly

          At least they actually write their own music. Go find any pop celebrity that isn’t backed up by a band, and find 50 people behind them. They don’t write the music, they’re run through by a machine to make money. They even lip-sync at concerts. Imagine dragons doesn’t. You’ll find they actually write their own music, having someone help once in a while. Listen to a song like 30 lives. It’s actual music. And for the auto-tune part, Listen to an imagine dragons concert and you’ll find they’re just as good.

        • Rigel Stewart

          Technically there’s no such thing as a “real band”. Everything in art is subjective; Marcel Deschamps was an artist, one of his most famous works being literally a urinal on its side with a signature on it.

          And if an artist were to use auto tuning technology in a way that highlighted the effects of it, like an instrument, even auto tuning could be used artistically and creatively.

          What you really mean is that vocalists who use autotune as a crutch for poor singing abilities are untalented vocalists.

          • Robyn

            That urinal is not art. I refuse to hear anything otherwise from my art professors or yourself. ^_^

          • Rigel Stewart

            I refuse your refusal, and submit a query; if someone painted a picture of the urinal, would that be art? What makes the two things different? Things only posses the meaning we decide they do. A landscape which is the subject of a painting did not arrange itself to be aesthetically valuable to some individual humans perception. The painter sees the beauty in the mundane. Can this not be applied to Deschamps ‘Fountain’?

          • Robyn

            The fact that someone took the time to draw it (or photograph it, or smash it and make a mosaic, or collage pictures of it, or turn it into a puppet, or film it, etc.) makes it art. I don’t “get” concept art or art that involves little to no effort on behalf of the artist. You can call it whatever you want but to me it’s not anything like artwork.

        • MarredAndReborn

          Everything is authorized nowadays. Literally everything… Imagine Dragons is actually very sparin with it. If you listen to some of their stuff you can actually hear his voice waiver very slightly off key. I love them because they are original and have that gritty, heavy feel but masterfully mix it with excellent melodies of different styles.

        • Imagine Dragons VIP

          Most bands autotune they dont

    • MarredAndReborn

      Imagine Dragons is FAR from pop lol… And they barely use auto tune. I’ve been to a concert and it was excellent.

    • Imagine Dragons VIP

      Get a life and Grow up They have had two and they are both very popular

  • I am better Than you

    I actually find their music quite enjoyable. I feel they are one of the few bands that put meaning behind their lyrics. This is merely my opinion. Now may I ask you, what do you like?

    • PalermoAnthony

      Not you and your lack of ability to know the difference between ‘than’ and ‘then’.

      • I am better Than you

        Thank you for correcting me.

      • I am better Than you

        Also where did I right then instead or then? Please tell me?

        • PalermoAnthony

          You’re a moron.

  • Guest =)

    I like Imagine Dragons but can’t stand Radioactive. I completely agree with your opinion on here, and I respect it a lot. :)

    • Guest =)

      *Sorry if it sounded confusing. I meant I agree with your opinion about Radioactive and most stuff you listed (as I think some of their more popular things is a by overated). I’m really sorry if my earlier comment I posted was a bit weird and confusing

  • Owl fire breather pan head

    Ok ?f first of all u are just like everyone else that is hating on them . You only listened to their 4 popular songs . Have you heard bleeding out , Amsterdam , tiptoe, hear me , every night , under dog , nothing left to say , curse , round and round , America , my fault , lost cause , all eyes etc . Plus they are not ” pop rock ” they are alt rick with dub step mixed in . Now if I get a bunch of ppl that go wild just because I spoke my opinion that’s okay I probably won’t be on here in a long time anyway . 😉

    • Owl fire breather pan head

      Rock not rick XD

  • D. Morgan

    I give them a little credit – not much – for trying to do something a little different with the pop-rock genre (even if the dub step influence is entirely cynical). I just happen to find what they do extremely tedious and reliant on faux-epicness. Radioactive masquerades as a song about social upheaval and non-conformity but is far too generic and tame to ever inspire either.

  • Night visions Sir

    hahahaha best band ever but okay

    • Luke Cherchenko

      Really amazing how a band can be declared the best ever after releasing only one album

  • GotUrgoats

    ID is absolutely horrible music. They are part of the reason there is no good new music. Them, Katey Perry, Izzie, T Swift, etc, the list of s u x keeps going.

    • Capcocoapig

      Please don’t compare ID with those people, they’re nothing alike. ID has a lot more rock songs than they’re credited for- Uptight, Curse, Clouds, Battle Cry, I Need A Minute, Friction, I’m So Sorry, and especially at their live shows.

  • Matthew McGuire

    Thank you!!!!!! I absolutely despise this band, musically. It feels good To know I am not alone.

  • Pariah_Xavier

    How these guys beat out QOTSA at the Grammys is beyond me. Imagine Dragons is a new kind of bad.

  • J_Robit

    I like “Radioactive”. But, after giving a listen to the two albums via youtube, I must say this band sucks. I mean, they are absolutely crap.

  • souheib

    Maybe it is just you they do what they do move on! You don’t even have to listen to it!

  • RyanF1

    All I know is I bet my life sounded so awful on my small bluetooth speaker that I had to change the internet radio station. It was so annoying I couldn’t concentrate on my work. It was like something from Hootie & the Blowfish on Meth or something. No, sorry, I don’t like Hootie either.

  • Rigel Stewart

    You are not the only person who feels like someone is yelling incoherently at you.

    What Imagine Dragons fails to understand is that the quality of a song or artist is not determined by which record company has signed them or even how popular they are.

    The mainstream music industry is probably the worst thing that could have happened to creativity. Capitalist business practices making profit off pandering to the widest audience is not conducive to true creativity, as the record company has done demographic studies and knows which other popular artist you need to sound like in order to be successful.

    In fact the notion of success is nonsense in terms of musical expression. You can’t succeed at something in which there is no goal.

    Imagine Dragons is the most polished example of the products produced by the music industry. Though they are only that, a product which can and will be replaced when a slightly shinier version comes out.

    PS, don’t be so sure Imagine Dragons are truly better off. As many arguments as there might be to the contrary, I will defend that money is definitely not the most important thing.

  • AgentSmith

    I honestly don’t know how the state of music has degraded so far that bands like Imagine Dragons and 21 Pilots are what is played on the radio with seemingly no end in sight.

  • andres

    you may not like it but to be honest you cant do better then they can do so do the world a favor just stop talking bad behind them and say it to their multi-million fans and hope you wont get killed
    .

  • Imagine Dragons VIP

    You have just had to much junk stuffed in your head if you are smart demons sounds nothing like Radioactive and Demons is their most popular song HAter

  • Savannah Greene

    Although I disagree with your opinion entirely (and I’m two years late XD), if you don’t like Night Visions, some of their earlier songs and EPs are different. Maybe dig a little deeper next time. Because there’s definitely more to Imagine Dragons than just “scream-talking”.