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Imagine Dragons are inching closer and closer to getting new material from their upcoming third record out, but it has quite the discography to live up to. The band's second record Smoke & Mirrors was largely a success, combining heavier elements - as well as poppier ones - to the band's foundations. You can't move forward without keeping what's behind you in mind, though. Imagine Dragons' 2012 studio debut Night Visions set the pace for this band.
Regardless of how you look at it, Night Visions was, and still is a massive record. It's built upon very pure emotions and a pretty clear mission statement. It has a strong conviction and, on top of that, loads of pop appeal. The album is probably best known for some of its singles: the sweet, uplifting anthem 'It's Time' was played nearly nonstop in its prime, it's dinky intro leading into a powerful track with a strong drive. There's also the classic 'Demons,' perhaps one of the weaker of the singles. It's weird kick drum sound and less upfront sound doesn't live up to the hype of other singles on the record, but that didn't stop it from being a big single.
Of course, no one can forget 'Radioactive.' Even if you tried you couldn't forget it - chances are you heard it so many times in 2012 and 2013 that you got sick of it. The ad nauseam radioplay may have gotten to you, but while listening to it with purpose, you remember how massive of a song this is. 'Radioactive' earned its right as one of the biggest pop songs of the decade for good reason - the massive, glitching synths paired with the immense percussion really redefined and owned the anthemic vibe of music. What's even more massive than 'Radioactive' is the live version of the song - if you want a whole new beast to deal with, check that out.
Night Visions has a very strong grasp on how pop rock works. The rock n' roll vibes are part of the record - "cute" songs like 'On Top Of The World' are present, providing for a genuinely fun listen, while other songs like 'Tiptoe' have a darker sound to them but still maintain a big drive. Even the bonus track 'Rocks' has some fun vibes to it! There's a lot of great variation on this record, and it's all under the umbrella of rock and pop. Imagine Dragons weren't afraid to take a few risks, either - 'Bleeding Out' is a very different song on the record, featuring loops and a more retrospective melody. It's dark like 'Tiptoe' but also carries a different vibe to it that no other songs really have. The album's true closing track 'Nothing More To Say' is somewhat of a risk, too; the six-minute song builds it up to be a powerful and sweet ending - exactly what the record deserved.
As much praise as it deserves, Night Visions isn't perfect. Imagine Dragons created a bunch of very solid tracks, but they made one mistake: made some songs reach mental heights, while others just roll along without much flair to them. It's not like every song should be a new, towering epic, but track after track, you're waiting for that new high to be reached, and it's going to sometimes take awhile before that comes. There really aren't many bad tracks at all - 'Hear Me' is some solid pop rock, and ID channels Coldplay in 'Every Night' to give the middle of the record some nice ear candy. The only subpar song is 'Underdog,' it's over-the-top synths really dragging it down and making it stand out awkwardly.
Imagine Dragons have come a long way since Night Visions. Their third album is on the way, and when it drops, it'll really decide the fate of the band. We weren't too impressed with the new song 'Levitate,' and that's because it really just lacked what makes Imagine Dragons so great and memorable. They're defined by their anthemic vibe and their strong vibes. The best Imagine Dragons songs are the ones that truly mean something to the listener and the band. That's the core of Night Visions. They had everything they needed from the start - the question now is whether or not that is where they peaked.
Favorite Songs: Radioactive, It's Time, Bleeding Out
Least Favorite Song: Underdog
Rating: 84 / 100
Imagine Dragons seem to be progressing with their third album, and a new song is here to give us a little look into the next record's sound. 'Levitate' is Imagine Dragons' new single.
'Levitate' is written for the upcoming film Passengers, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. The movie is a sci-fi film: two humans cryogenically frozen for a century wake up and travel space together. 'Levitate' brings that spacial love come to life.
The song is a new direction for Imagine Dragons. 'Levitate' isn't the big rock tracks that 'Friction' and 'Battle Cry' are, nor is it a poppier track like 'I Bet My Life' or 'Demons.' It's not even the classic Imagine Dragons arena rock banger ('Radioactive' and 'Shots,' for example). It's a very poppy song, treading away from a focus on guitars and being built upon synths and electronics. It's led in by a sweet synth intro, twinkling synth arpeggios joining in as Dan Reynolds croons above the sparkling instrumental. The choruses are briefly immense, synths pounding and gang vocals chanting together. Guitar does make an appearance, though rather insignificant, at the end, where is dinky little lick repeats as the song comes to an end.
'Levitate' doesn't feel like an Imagine Dragons song, or a particularly great song either. It's good, but really lacking in energy and power. It doesn't feel very cohesive, either. I'm not looking for another 'Radioactive,' but Imagine Dragons' best songs are the songs they really bring a drive and chunk too. 'Levitate' has none of that. It's a synth rock song that doesn't go anywhere. It's not doing the movie justice, nor is it doing the band any.
Imagine Dragons took a swing and a miss with 'Levitate.' This sweet little song is largely forgettable and really doesn't feel like its and Imagine Dragons song. Change is necessary for any band, but showing your grasp on the elements that made you unique and memorable is also a key to success in that way. Let's hope 'Levitate' isn't indicative of what's to come, because if it is, album #3 isn't looking too hot.
Rating: 52 / 100
It’s not very often a new voice appears on the scene that demands such attention it can create a cult. Here we have Halsey, who’s debut LP has done exactly that. She seemingly appeared out of thin air, with her powerful voice garnering enough attention to already be demanding playtime on radios everywhere. After a powerful EP entitled Room 93 (containing ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Ghost’, found on the deluxe edition of the album) released late last year, Halsey has brought out her best for an eccentric and challenging debut: BADLANDS.
According to Halsey, the name of the album is derived from the state of her mind as she wrote the album; fair enough, considering the themes presented in the album. Containing everything from rebellion to love, this album covers a lot of ground thematically. Lyrically, this album is nothing short of fantastic. The chorus of the opening track, ‘Castle’ embodies rising up against the machine: “I'm headed straight for the castle / They wanna make me their queen / And there's an old man sitting on the throne that's saying that I probably shouldn't be so mean”. Lyrics should arrest your interest, making you delve into them, extracting meaning from them, keen on absorbing the next word. Halsey does great at this, with almost every track being able to capture your interest and hold it captive while it puts you in a trance you can’t escape. Her lyrics are also clever and relatable, especially the bridge of ‘Colors’, where she speaks of a mistaken love: ‘You were red and you liked me 'cause I was blue / You touched me and suddenly I was a lilac sky / And you decided purple just wasn't for you.” The songs are written with a lot of emotion and thought, and it does not go unappreciated.
Her sound in general is unique in its own right - think of it as The Naked & Famous meets Nirvana. Keeping the synths heavy and brooding while harkening back to rebellious styles like Nirvana is what Halsey does best. It’s undeniable that there’s just something about her voice that is so enchanting - is it the subtly raspiness to it? How introspective it is? Melody plays a big part in it too, each song having a memorable hook and backed up by having equally memorable lyrics. ‘Castle’ and ‘New Americana’ have particularly capturing lyrics and melodies that you just can’t get out of your mind. It isn’t all just power and catchy choruses, however. There’s a lot of little moments to be remembered, too. ‘Haunting’ begins with a little a cappella intro, almost in the style of CHVRCHES’ ‘The Mother We Share’. The instrumental of ‘Gasoline’ harkens back to ‘Hurricane’ when she sings the line, “Do you call yourself a fucking hurricane like me?” There, the little synth hook from ‘Hurricane’ plays - a small, but clever and cute moment. It’s these little inclusions that keep the album alive. No two songs sound the same, as well. You have a synth-rock track in ‘Roman Holiday’, but find yourself listening to the creepy, symphonic track ‘Control’ later on.
Halsey’s debut is one of the strongest first albums all year. It explores every nook and cranny it possibly could, while still holding together one progressive album that is relatable and fun all the same. I saw her live back in June when she opened for Metric and Imagine Dragons - even before she had a full length EP her shows were already massive. The attention she has garnered is very much deserved, and to be expected from such a massive debut.
Favorite Tracks: Castle, Colors, New Americana, Control
Least Favorite Tracks: Strange Love, Drive