Was Imagine Dragons’ Debut Album Night Visions Ahead Of Its Time, Or Just Directionless?

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 10 mins read

If I’m being completely honest, I’ve sadly spent a grossly unnecessary amount of my career both as a musician & as a writer trashing Las Vegas-born Pop Rock band Imagine Dragons, going to great lengths to discredit their fame out of jealousy, disinterest & a generally misguidedly elitist mindset that somehow saw them as inferior songwriters who preyed on mainstream formulas to produce exceptionally-generic tunes audiences absolutely adored, essentially putting a stain on my status as a credible source for musical opinions since I couldn’t feasibly separate my prejudices from the hard facts of their incredible successes. Perhaps I was angry that they’d broken through to the waning MTV generation through what I believed to be sellout-level techniques, or maybe their initial promotional material left a bad taste in my mouth that prevented me from exploring the rest of the unknown tracks on their albums, but a casual playthrough of their latest record Origins piqued my interest as I found genuinely compelling compositions amidst its track-list full of anachronisms & progressive techniques worthy of my attention, persuading me to go back & thumb through their earlier entries in case there was something I’d been missing all this time – Naturally, I figured the best place to start on this adventure would be the very first studio album Dragons ever released, the nondescriptly-titled Night Visions from 2012 which sealed their fate as the industry’s replacement for aging Pop Rockers Coldplay, displaying in full their methodical application of music theory techniques learned at prestigious schools like Brigham Young University & Berklee College Of Music scientifically-proved to satisfy the vast majority of modern listeners. Coincidentally, I’d actually been exposed to & already-spiteful of the band by the time this record released after having learned of their existence whilst living on the East Coast & witnessing their decidedly-spineless promotion of Sharpie products on a FuseTV commercial, clearly contributing to my harsh criticism of the group as the scene I was involved in back then was all about integrity & the pursuit of narrative expressionism through music rather than Pop-centric ideals. As such, I went into this analysis with an open mind, hoping my maturation as a listener would help me appreciate Night Visions for the double-platinum certified, 2,500,000+ record selling behemoth that it is – Unfortunately, or perhaps delightfully, my hard-headed opinions would soon be validated by the utter lack of cohesion Imagine Dragons enacted in this album, confirming the 53% Metacritic rating it has so-rightfully earned by others in the industry; Still, as reaffirming as it may be for my own sense of pride, no musician truly finds pleasure in pouring salt into old wounds that’ve already suffered enough pain in the past.

The Beginnings Of A New Pop Model

In regards to Imagine Dragons’ first promotional single off Night Visions, “It’s Time,” the most-common explanation for its critical acclaim usually comes down to the inspirational nature of its lyrics being universally-appealing & the seemingly-intimate backstory of the song’s creation, listeners often incorrectly-citing Dan Reynolds’ reunification with guitarist & best-friend Wayne Sermon as the driving factor in its message of hope, positivity & self-appreciation through meaningful bonds. While these elements are certainly a contributing factor in the track’s reception, they pale in comparison to the true impact it had on Pop songwriting for years to come, literally popularizing the sounds we’ve come to loathe in the last decade of Pop music that’ve made their way through almost every mainstream Genre since – I’m talking, of course, about the iconic ‘celebration aesthetic’ of “It’s Time,” refining the very essence of the then-burgeoning Indie Folk scene into its bare elements for easy consumption, assaulting audiences with twinkling ukulele riffs, unbearably-earnest group vocal chants, auxiliary-percussion beats based on human sounds like claps & snaps as well as a chord progression so simple & lifeless that any amateur musician could play along, spawning an entire movement of barebones Pop songwriting that has drained all sense of creativity from modern music; Sure, there were plenty of lesser-known Folk bands utilizing the same techniques in years prior, admittedly to much greater effect thanks to fully-realized narrative progressions & quirks of the culture that allowed these arrangements to prosper within their respective circles, but Imagine Dragons took things to a whole other level with this number, synonymizing ukuleles with Pop music & corporatizing the whole happy-go-lucky ding-dong melodic profile so much so that commercials for everything from baby-wipes to Honda CRV’s are still employing the annoying style to this day – On the one hand, they singlehandedly put their stamp on the music industry in one fell swoop, cementing themselves as a powerhouse of songwriting potential labels would continue to milk dry for nearly a decade after which is a respectable feat in itself, but on the other they unleashed an unstoppable force of evil upon us that quickly grew beyond its britches before getting usurped by the similarly-structured Reggae Fusion & Tropical Pop music of the mid-teens. I’m inclined to tip my hat just for the sheer magnitude of the band’s influence in their first mainstream venture, but I have to restrain myself because the song isn’t actually all that good when you get down to the nitty-gritty, lacking a satisfying layer of bottom-end instrumentation entirely & perpetuating some of the weakest storytelling practices in modern music, delivering a narrative so banal & unoriginal you’d have to be a simpleton to find any semblance of inspiration within Reynolds’ lyrics; This only serves to highlight how easy it is to slip a dud under the radar of mainstream listeners as they’re not actually paying attention in the first place, merely downloading whatever fresh hit producers throw at them as to have something of common interest to talk about with their coworkers – Thankfully, the forward-facing singles of Night Visions aren’t the only numbers of note.

Dispersed Among Genericism Lie Honest Attempts At Creativity

I could go on for days about how glaringly-unimaginative tracks like “Demons,” “Radioactive” & “On Top Of The World” are, but Imagine Dragons did genuinely try their hardest to think outside of the box from time to time, particularly in their efforts to bridge the gap between declining & developing genre trends with healthy handful of fusion numbers that stray incredibly far from their Pop-ified image – Around the same time Night Visions dropped, the once-thriving Screamo & Emo communities of Myspace had started making moves to sonically mature, giving rise to the second-wave Indie Rock scene in 2009 & 2010 that has somehow survived in one form or another ‘til today, borrowing elements of the early-noughties UK Dance Rock scenes & mixing them with their newfound Emo sensitivities to make the next hot genre in mainstream Rock music, causing audiences to travel en masse back to their host-city’s nightclubs for wild dancefloor escapades & copious amounts of cocaine. Having originally formed with more of a Dance Rock aesthetic before the release of Night Visions, Imagine Dragons unsurprisingly retained much of their songwriting muscle-memory when composing new arrangements, giving the B-sides of the record a distinctly underground sound that spat in the face of their more popular arrangements; Once again sounding the unfortunate-reality horn, though, each of these attempts fell into a completely different area of stylistic study, meaning the overall thematic cohesion of the album was thrown out-of-whack by too many combatting sonic identities, despite these songs being relatively engaging tunes showcasing far more talent than their singles – For instance, “Hear Me” was clearly influenced by the early Gothic & New Wave sensibilities of bands like Joy Division & Moving Units, adopting the whiny guitar tones & melancholy vocal timbre of Brit Pop along with rather minimalistic percussion sequencing, whilst others like “Underdog” dove head-first into the quirky peculiarities of the Electropop genre, flippantly assaulting you with abrasive Casiotone synth-leads & a bouncy Jazz Fusion vibe akin to Toto or Bryan Ferry that feel like relics of the late-eighties Soft Rock scene, yet somehow none are implemented in a manner that complements the rest of the album, turning the overall experience into a mish-mash of conflicting aesthetics that show how shamelessly the band was grasping at straws to attract any audience they could possibly get; Hell, even “Bleeding Out” endeavours to capitalize on the popularity of bands like Band Of Horses & Snow Patrol, delivering a sensitive half-ballad with introspective lyrics & contemplative Explosions In The Sky-like lead-guitar lines that sound as if an entirely different band snuck one of their own tracks into the album.

Just Take Notes & Keep Moving

If nothing else, the bevy of ill-advised decisions Imagine Dragons made whilst cultivating Night Visions at least served as a launching point for them to improve their methods in the future, salvaging what elements of the more-experimental songs they could & saving them for later evolutions as they focused more-readily on the successful Pop numbers. Dragons clearly dug their hole deeper & deeper as time went on, releasing what I consider to be some of the most undeniably soulless sellout material of all time when we get to albums like Smoke + Mirrors & Evolve, but their most recent release Origins shows that they never lost sight of who they really wanted to be all these years, returning to the more imaginative Dance Rock-based material of their youth & risking their reputation to try something new once more – While I essentially disapprove of virtually every tune on this album, “Working Man” in particular stands out as a highlight that would someday inform what the band would become in their ideal form later on down the road, presenting a joint that’s upbeat, fast-paced & much more analog than their usual slow-trudging, hyper-refined Pop fare, seemingly existing as a single spark of hope to guide them back home when the taste of fame & monetary-gain finally lost its appeal. You can hear touches of it all across Origins in tracks like “Cool Out” & “Zero,” the little Indie-darlings deep down within begging to be heard once again with resplendent melodies of forward-progression & shimmering New Wave-ish electronic instrumentation that breathes new life into their listeners, the rather-controversial side of their artistry even showing in Industrial Pop-based tunes such as “Machine” that try to make nineties-era Trip Hop accessible to today’s ravenous audiences – Of course, I can’t let the promise of one singular song sway my opinion on Imagine Dragons’ debut album, as that’d be giving them far more credit than they’ve actually earned, but at least now when I talk mad shit about their music I’ll be able to say I’ve genuinely given Night Visions the benefit of the doubt, winding up at the same conclusion I’ve held for nearly a decade now. Sorry, y’all, but this is one wound time definitely couldn’t heal.

My Night Visions Were Both Pitch Black And Full Of Twinkling Lights

ArtBarista
Written by ArtBarista
/ 1 mins read

While I adore all the songs on Night Visions, I have a special place in my heart for the folky tune “It’s Time.” For starters, I am a country meets city girl, and I’ve always been caught between those two worlds, and if all of you out there will indulge me in this, listen to this song and hear the beautiful balance between banjo playing and electronic hard rock n roll. This is the sound that probably most describes me. You see, I was raised in the sticks in Lost Valley CA and Antelope Valley, and contrary to what everyone thinks about the West Coast, it really can be very rural. Yet, as soon as I was old enough to drive, me and my girlfriends would take the Tacoma and head to Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and Santa Monica to party. It was only an hour and change away, but a world away from where I lived. The sound of LA at that time was Imagine Dragons all the way. Driving on the highway to “Amsterdam”, watching the lights come into view.

For Promotional Use Only – Not For Resale

Warlock
Written by Warlock
/ 1 mins read

Night Visions is the first album I got, on CD. 2012 and I was 16, and David, my Mom’s boyfriend at the time, gave it to me as a gesture of good will, a peace offering, because if I have to be honest, I was not really happy about the whole him and my mother thing. Plus I was 16, still going through puberty, acne all over my face, angry about everything, and basically conflicted about being loyal to my real Dad and my Mom’s happiness both at the same time. David was in the industry and it was not the last CD he would give me. The CDs always said on them ‘for promotional use only – not for resale.” I pretended to not like Night Visions, but the truth is, I would listen to it a lot, and whenever he would try to talk shop, it was like pulling teeth from me. To this day though, it is one of my favorite albums.

The Night Vision Formula Allowed Me To Be A Rockstar

Snickolas
Written by Snickolas
/ 1 mins read

I feel like the bands that enter the business like it’s a business are the ones who have the biggest careers. Maroon 5, The Killers, OneRepublic and Imagine Dragons all seem to have a grand design from the start, producing debut albums that can’t fail. They study each other’s success, and I in turn study theirs. I’ve been singing the same two karaoke songs for years, “Radioactive” and “Demons”, and guess what – wherever I am, some drunk girl wants to duet with me. For those few moments, I am indistinguishable from a rockstar. Night Visions has a sing along sound that is huge without being intimidating. We can all clap along with our Moms to this awesome non offensive sound. If you are a band making songs that can move a crowd of any age or soundtrack a commercial for any car, you are going to make millions of dollars, no question about it.

The Ultimate Motivation For Scaling Mountains

SimCard
Written by SimCard
/ 1 mins read

As hard as it looks, it’s about ten times that. When Night Visions came out, I was taking on a single pitch at 120 feet. The cliff wall was completely vertical. This was the music that got me to the belay point, after a lot of trial and error. “And you tell me to hold on” states the lyrics to “Bleeding Out”, which I adopted for my various endeavors. The song motivated me on several levels, from the swift claps that sharpened my focus, coupled with the soothing, almost meditative way the melody flows, perfect for those moments where I needed to rest and think before my next move. The track itself is one of martyrdom, and proved to be very effective in the end, because to climb higher and higher, you have to be willing to put it all on the line. Now I’m doing multi-pitch climbing, 4 albums later.

2. Track List (13)

3. Official (13)

4. Live (11)

5. Featuring Remixes (7)

7. Similar Albums (1)

8. Similar Artists (19)

9. Album Info

About

Night Visions is the debut studio album by American rock band Imagine Dragons. It was released on September 4, 2012, through KIDinaKORNER and Interscope Records. The extended track was released on February 12, 2013, adding three more songs and the UK release of the album was on March 26, 2013. Recorded between 2010 and 2012, the album was primarily produced by the band themselves, as well as English hip-hop producer Alex da Kid and Brandon Darner from the American indie rock group The Envy Corps. It was mastered by Joe LaPorta. According to frontman Dan Reynolds, the album took three years to finish, with six of the album's tracks being previously released on multiple EPs. Musically, Night Visions exhibits influences of folk, hip hop and pop.
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Songwriter

  • Imagine Dragons

Label

  • Interscope
  • KIDinaKORNER

Producer

  • Alex da Kid (exec.)
  • Brandon Darner

Studio

  • Studio at the Palms(Paradise, Nevada) Battle Born Studios(Winchester, Nevada) Westlake Recording Studios(Los Angeles, California)
  • Studio at the Palms(Paradise, Nevada)
  • Battle Born Studios(Winchester, Nevada)
  • Westlake Recording Studios(Los Angeles, California)