Imagine Dragons Album Preview and the Darkness Of “Shots”

Imagine Dragons surprised fans this week with the release of “Shots,” the second single and third digital track release off their upcoming sophomore album Smoke + Mirrors. A heavy guitar and keyboard-driven dance-rock anthem, “Shots” offers a deeply introspective trip into the world of a band that has received rapid critical acclaim and worldwide success in only two years’ time. With lyrics echoing regret, sorrow, love, loss and abandonment, “Shots” is the first truly dark song to come off Imagine Dragons’ new album, which is shaping up to be its darkest release to date.

The first two digital track releases off Smoke + Mirrors (to be released February 17 via KIDinaKORNER / Interscope Records) were lead single “I Bet My Life (released October 27) and “Gold” (released December 15). Each of Imagine Dragons’ three tracks alludes to a different side of the upcoming Smoke + Mirrors album: explosiveness, heaviness, and darkness.

I BET MY LIFE: EXPLOSIVENESS

Characterized by a perfectly juxtaposed balance of tame, muted verses and wild, revelrous choruses, “I Bet My Life” captures the quintessence of Imagine Dragons’ explosive musical aesthetic. The song’s exaggerated dynamic changes invoke a musically-fueled fusion of anticipation and reward in the listener. The effects of these musical changes are further highlighted by the verses’ mournful, regretful lyrical content and the choruses’ air of celebration. The song reaches the highest highs from the lowest lows with a smack-you-in-the-face gusto.

The Smoke + Mirrors lead single has already amassed over 21 million listens on Spotify and over 10 million views on YouTube. The single has also received significant radio play on alternative, rock and pop stations, and is currently sitting at #63 on its twelfth week on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart (peak position: 53).

songs to look for: “Hopeless Opus”, “Friction”, “Dream”

Watch: “I Bet My Life” – Imagine Dragons

GOLD: HEAVINESS

“Gold” brings Imagine Dragons’ inclination toward industrial and hip-hop music into the spotlight, with a heavy beat that combines traditional rock percussion with electronic experimental elements: The track is overlaid with sampling, the likes of which have never before been seen from the Las Vegas alt-rock band. “Gold” is a slow head-banger – a heavy genre crosser. Imagine Dragons’ experimentation is but a prelude to the exciting musical routes the band has been exploring over the past two years since Night Visions‘ release. If “Radioactive” was any hint, Imagine Dragons is not, and will never be a straightforward rock band – and “Gold” serves as proof of that statement.

songs to look for: “Smoke and Mirrors”, “Polaroid”, “I’m So Sorry”

Watch: “Gold” – Imagine Dragons

SHOTS: DARKNESS

With the opening lyrics, “I’m sorry for everything, oh everything I’ve done,” Imagine Dragons set the stage for a level of introspection on “Shots” last seen in songs like “Bleeding Out,” “Demons” and “My Fault”. The lyrics unveil the somber realities of rock stardom, and Imagine Dragons once again remind us that beneath the glamours of success, there will always be a mortal, vulnerable human:

Oh, I’m wishing you’re here, but I’m wishing you’re gone / I can’t have you and I’m only gonna do you wrong

One can always count on Imagine Dragons – who, after the initial success of their song “It’s Time,” found worldwide acclaim with the soul-wrenching “Demons” (“When you feel my heat, look into my eyes: It’s where my demons hide / Don’t get too close, it’s dark inside: It’s where my demons hide”) – to provide a rock anthem with deeper, hard-hitting symbolism. Musically, “Shots” is an 80s-inspired dance number, complete with high-frequency synthesizers and a driving kick drum pattern that is sure to bob a good number of heads. Lead singer Dan Reynolds has an urgent tone in his voice, but his impassioned singing is the only indicator of the song’s pensive melancholy. A quick scan of “Shots” without listening to the lyrics might have a listener dancing with glee, but it becomes harder to move one’s feet upon a closer listen.

Oh, I’m going to mess this up – oh, this is just my luck – over and over and over again…

The sobering darkness of “Shots” is perhaps the most powerful of these three things to expect on Smoke + Mirrors. The collection of songs comprising 2012’s Night Visions was a combination of tracks off the band’s previous EPs and the culmination of many years’ work. Smoke + Mirrors, like many sophomore follow-ups, was written on the road – in this case, a setting wherein glamour and loneliness, joy and despair, revelry and mortality mix together, often in odd and confusing ways. “Shots” finds Imagine Dragons trying to cope with these odd feelings, and by infusing vibrant melodies with darker, subtle undertones, Imagine Dragons have found a way to impart that same uncertain state of mind onto their listeners.

From the second that I was born it seems I had a loaded gun, and then I shot shot shot a hole through everything I love… Oh, I shot shot shot a hole through every single thing that I loved

Stay tuned for Atwood Magazine’s exclusive interview with Imagine Dragons, coming later this month!

Watch: “Shots” – Imagine Dragons

“Shots” – Imagine Dragons

I’m sorry for everything, oh everything I’ve done

I am out of touch
I am out of my place when I keep saying that I’m looking for an empty space
Oh I’m wishing you’re here but I’m wishing you’re gone
I can’t have you and I’m only gonna do you wrong

Oh I’m going to mess this up oh this is just my luck over and over and over again

I’m sorry for everything oh everything I’ve done
From the second that I was born it seems I had a loaded gun

And then I shot shot shot a hole through everything I love
Oh I shot shot shot a hole through every single thing that I loved

I am out of luck I am waiting to break
When I keep saying that I’m looking for a way to escape
Oh I’m wishing I had what I’d taken for granted
I can’t help you when I’m only gonna do you wrong

Oh I’m going to mess this up oh this is just my luck over and over and over again

I’m sorry for everything oh everything I’ve done
From the second that I was born it seems I had a loaded gun

And then I shot shot shot a hole through everything I love
Oh I shot shot shot a hole through every single thing that I loved

In the meantime can we let it go at the road side that we used to know
We can let this drift away
We let this drift away at the bayside where you used to show in the moon light
Where we let it go we can let this drift away
Oh we let this drift away and there’s always time to change your mind
Oh there’s always time to change your mind
Oh love can you hear me oh let it drift away

I’m sorry for everything oh everything I’ve done
From the second that I was born it seems I had a loaded gun

And then I shot shot shot a hole through everything I love
Oh I shot shot shot a hole through every single thing that I loved

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Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com