As American rock band, Imagine Dragons creep closer to the announcement of their yet-to-be-named “Smoke and Mirrors” follow-up, I delve into the deeper meaning of the powerful new track “Believer,” which was released on the 31st January after the being teased on twitter a week beforehand.
The track opens to share a thunderous percussive back beat and the words “First things first,” these three words alone and the way they are vocalised tells me the track is going to progress more like spoken word through the verses and that it will be in a list form.
The “first” thing is “Imma say all the words inside my head / I’m fired up and tired of the way that things have been.” The band seems to be preparing us for what they want to say with the song.
They continue with “Second thing second / Don’t you tell me what you think that I can be / I’m the one at the sail, I’m the master of my sea.” This entire verse carries a strong message of empowerment. The band is going to say and do what they want, this is likely in relation with fans wanting them to keep their sound the same.
In the first pre-chorus stanza of “Believer” Dan Reynolds tells us “I was broken from a young age.” This could mean many different things but it may possibly be communicating a trauma from his youth or that he has been aware of his own weaknesses and limits since he was a child, and has fought with them with them. This battle has taken him “Sulking to the masses” in the form of his music or in the words of the man himself, “Write down my poems for the few / That looked at me, took to me, shook to me, feeling me.” People listened to what he had to say with his music and understood him singing “from heartache, from the pain,” which is likely something comforting to the songwriter.
Reynolds continues to tell us he’s “Taking [his] message from the veins / Speaking [his] lessons from the brain.” The “veins” could symbolise the heart while “the brain” is indicative of rationality and forethought, this demonstrates that all of him has written this message to us and that it is very personal. Overall the message seems to be about “Seeing the beauty through the… / Pain!” which is elaborated on throughout the chorus
The chorus of “Believer” is extremely powerful and soars above the verses, exploding on the third beat to create a staggered impact that strikes your core, further enforcing the message of strength and empowerment displayed through the entirety of the song. The chorus directly addresses “pain” making it a character in the story. “You made me a, you made me a believer, believer.” This could be a belief in a god or in himself and his power to overcome. Imagine Dragons doesn’t make it clear but Reynolds spoke to Radio.com, describing “Believer” as a “Transition from a darker place to a place of light.”
Further displaying the strength of the songs message the lyrics continue, “Pain! / You break me down, you build me up, believer, believer.” This says that while “pain” may have beaten him down it has also built him up to be who he is today.
The band goes on to sing, “Pain / I let the bullets fly, oh, let them rain / My life, my love, my drive, it came from… / Pain!” This continues to tell us he knows that “pain” made him who he is today, but he also tells the pain to keep coming. He believes pain is a normal part of life and he’s ready to keep being challenged by it and to learn and grow from it.
Moving into the second verse of the song it jumps straight back into the original backing, the Imagine Dragons’ front man tells us, “Third things third / Send a prayer to the ones up above,” I believe this is referencing religion. He’s a Mormon himself so this does seem to be a religious reference. When he sings “All the hate that you’ve heard has turned your spirit to a dove / your spirit up above,” it could be interpreted as his pain enforcing his faith, turning him back to peace when he may have been swaying.
In the second pre-chorus, Reynolds tells us “I was choking in the crowd,” perhaps referencing a reason for the bands self-induced hiatus. “Building my rain up in the cloud / Falling like ashes to the ground,” suggests that perhaps pressure was building up and becoming hard to deal with. Reynolds was “Hoping [his] feelings, they would drown / But they never did, ever lived, ebbing and flowing,” which tells us that there was a struggle with his feelings and emotions, his pain. He also goes on to say they were “Inhibited, limited / Till it broke open and rained down / It rained down like… / Pain!” This is suggestive to the fact that it was pain building up like rain in a cloud, as alluded to in previous lines, and that the clouds broke open and pain “rained down.” This set of lines also says that the pain and his feelings were contained within him until he couldn’t hold it in anymore or the intensity of the emotions became too much, this idea works in well with the explosive chorus that follows.
In a final bridge Reynolds adds, “Last things last / By the grace of the fire and the flames / You’re the face of the future, the blood in my veins.” There can be several interpretations of these lines, but it seems to be Reynolds telling the fans of how they have influenced and supported him through his pain, letting them know that they are important to him.
A final chorus ends the song with a bit of extra backing from a choir of layered vocal tracks in the background adding a stronger mood to the chorus over the others, making it more powerful before fading out quickly to leave you with the strength of the song at its highest.