Nevada, alternative rock collective Imagine Dragons returns with its third studio album, ‘Evolve.’ The question is, did they indeed evolve? No, not really.
Imagine Dragons are “kind of a big deal,” dropping a hit debut album (Night Visions) featuring a Grammy-winning, megahit, (“Radioactive”). Their 2015 follow-up, Smoke + Mirrors, lacked a megahit, but still performed well. Now, they’re back with their third studio album, Evolve. The ideas are good, while the results are mixed.
“I Don’t Know Why”
“I Don’t Know Why” kicks things off energetically. It’s more pop-oriented than some of their previous work. It’s no crowning achievement, but respectable. “Whatever It Takes,” finds frontman Dan Reynolds’ singing approach is quite rhythmic, near pop-rap. It’s successful enough, but lacks elite tunefulness. The Dragons shine on the chorus, expectedly. A contrast to other songs by the band, “Whatever It Takes” still features the signature cues associated with the Nevada collective.
“Believer” plays true to the identity established by the band. The drums are gargantuan and Reynolds delivers overt vocals, with a bite. A mean falsetto is key, particularly on the chorus. Rhythmically, the melody of the pre-chorus is quick-paced – another instance of hip-hop sensibility. The chorus – the crème de la crème –is anthemic, with a strong urban influence. We’re believers! Follow-up “Walking the Wire” is slightly tenderer than what precedes it, tackling love. It explores the turbulence of the four-letter word. Even with more care and restraint exhibited on the verse, the refrain remains as grandiose as ever.
“Rise Up” finds Imagine Dragons offering empowerment, again. Mostly predictable, the bridge comes out of left field, musically. It’s arguable how successful the change of pace is, but give them credit for going against the grain. “I’ll Make It Up to You” takes the evolution further than most records. Reynolds is cooler on the verses. Given Imagine Dragons’ reputation for robustness, hearing more poised, chill vibes is refreshing. Furthermore, the production has a different sound, possessing its fair share of 80s influence. Fine change of pace.
“Yesterday” is intriguing, in concept. It’s easy to hear what the band was trying to do and, the record shows much more evolution than most. Unfortunately, the execution is questionable. “Mouth of the River” is a ‘no harm, no foul’ moment. It’s enjoyable and well-produced, but not necessarily memorable or transcendent.
Thankfully, the “Thunder” arrives in the nick of time. Reynolds reflects back on his early life. One of the best examples occurs on the second verse, where he devises a plan for superstardom. “Thunder” is the perfect example that come-up songs aren’t just for rappers after all. Alternative rock/pop stars can experience the thunder as well.
“Start Over” marks another ambitious moment by the band. It’s odd, but give them credit for trying to get out of their comfort zone. Closer “Dancing in the Dark” is a more restrained ballad which continues to utilize a nice palette of sounds. There are plenty of vocal effects – it’s gimmicky.
All in all, Imagine Dragons deliver a respectable album with Evolve. The evolution and execution are flawed, but there are some good ideas. To get next-level means the band must execute this ideas more effectively.
NOTE: Need more slightly more analysis? Check out Imagine Dragons, Evolve | Album Review on The Musical Hype, published June 26, 2017.
Gems: “I Don’t Know Why,” “Believer,” “I’ll Make It Up to You” & “Thunder”
Imagine Dragons • Evolve • Interscope • Release: 6.23.17
Photo Credit: Interscope