Since hearing the song Believer in the final episode of Riverdale, I have been impatiently waiting for the release of Imagine Dragons’ third studio album: Evolve. This gem of a song incorporated in one of the season’s hit show, released two months before the album’s second and memorable single Thunder, certainly did build up the hype for the full LP. Unfortunately, Imagine Dragons did not deliver the quality that we were expecting.
The album opens with I Don’t Know Why, a very odd choice for an opening song. It goes straight to the heart of the track without the build that one could wish for an introduction. The song has a lot of pop elements, which sometimes makes it sound more like a song by The Weeknd than Imagine Dragons. This track is then followed by Whatever It Takes, one of the more noteworthy songs in this album. This is a proper Imagine Dragons song, a good mixture of their earlier hits, like if Radioactive were sampled into On Top of the World.
We are now only three songs in and the peak is already reached with Believer. Believer is certainly the highlight of the album, the one take-away song. A captivating beat coupled with an intense and passionate chorus that will make your heart race. It is severe enough, but yet still keeps a rapid pace that prevents it from becoming a gloomy, moody ballad, and makes it a great anthem that will make you bop along. Believer sincerely feels like a bomb going off within the LP.
Believer is followed by another gem, Walking the Wire, which is a masterful throwback to their earlier music. It makes for a great summer hit, although it could be said that its place within the LP is unfortunate, as the pace and tone of the song the precedes it is drastically different. This contributes to the overall feeling that Imagine Dragons did not make an album to explore a mood, a theme or tell a story, but rather offered us a collection of individual songs.
These few sublime tracks do not make up, however, the majority of the record. It is riddled with generic, electro-pop repetitive beats with pseudo-philosophical lyrics. For example, I’ll Make it up to You and Mouth of the River sound like the band just bought a Mac and discovered the loop function on Garage Band. There is a clear lack of innovation, which is quite disappointing knowing that their previous album was Smoke + Mirrors, which remains their magnum opus so far. A lot of the music is forgettable and rarely redeemed by the lyrics. While they are technically not bad, you wouldn’t picture yourself shouting them from the top of your lungs on the way back from a party. Rise Up on the other hand, while lacking depth in its text (a very commercial and clichéd search for meaning and perhaps God, without the sincerity) is formidable as it is the song that really demonstrates the strength of the vocals of the lead singer Dan Reynolds.
Thankfully, the album ends with a number of good tracks. Particularly Yesterday, which is an eccentric and delightful track. When listening to this song, you’d almost believe that My Chemical Romance took some anti-depressants and wrote a musical (It somehow kind of remind you of the hidden track Blood from The Black Parade). The aforementioned Thunder is also unforgettable, and of great significance, as it brings action and power back to the album. Here we go back to what Imagine Dragons does best: anthems you’d sing at the back of a bus with your friends.
As a whole, Evolve is not a very coherent album. It does not flow and is really a collection of unrelated tracks. It could really be seen more like a series of filler songs for your summer playlist than an album to be enjoyed as an art piece. Having said that, there are a number of golden tracks that will certainly please Imagine Dragons fans and end up being real hits. The main reason why it may satisfy the people who admire the band is the fact that most of the record is very faithful to their style (although not as well executed as the other albums) and ironically does not evolve much from what makes them who they are. Evolve does not have the sing-able hits that Night Visions had (with the likes of It’s Time, Demons, On Top of the World or Radioactive), nor is it a nonstop parade of rock wonders and masterpieces that constituted Smoke + Mirrors.