Thursday, December 31, 2015

Music Love: "Polaroid" by Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons is one of those bands that the teenager inside of me feels like I shouldn’t like. “They’re popular, so they can’t be good!” 15-year-old me insists. Well, it turns out that 15-year-old me was wrong about a lot of things (40-year-old me probably is too), and one of the things that she was particularly wrong about was that it’s bad to like popular music. As I’m fond of saying now, “It’s popular for a reason,” i.e. it has mass appeal, and that’s not a bad thing.

So I like Imagine Dragons, and I like them without reservation. I was skeptical that their sophomore effort would be as good as their debut, but it may actually be better. The jury’s still out on that. I like both albums a lot. I would say that Night Visions has more songs that resonate with me, but it also has more songs that I don’t really like, whereas Smoke+Mirrors is basically flawless to me; I don’t think it has a single song I don’t like.

By far, however, my favorite song on Smoke+Mirrors is “Polaroid.” I’m not particularly inclined to playing songs on repeat, but if I were, this would be one of them. It has all the standard elements I love in a song: great vocals (by lead singer Dan Reynolds) and a catchy beat. That it happens to be an uptempo song with not-so-happy lyrics is a bonus. And of course, the best part: the lyrics themselves, which basically give voice to every doubt in my head.

The first thing that really drew me into it was the line, “I am the color of boom.” On the surface, it’s nonsensical, and yet, in a strange way it makes perfect sense. What is the color of boom? It’s the color of failure, and while I couldn’t tell you what that color is, I can see it in my head. A few months ago, my husband, who is not an Imagine Dragons fan, heard me listening to this song and asked, “Why is love a polaroid?” So I looked up the lyrics to make sure I explained it right and when I read them aloud, “Better in picture, but never can fill the void,” it was such an “OMG, yes!” moment for me.

As I read all of the lyrics to him (“I’m a reckless mistake, I’m a cold night’s intake. I’m a one night too long, I’m a come on too strong.”), I related to them so strongly. Who hasn’t, at least once, felt like this much of a colossal screw up? Why, my husband, of course. He’s a man who has seemingly never had a moment’s self-doubt in his life. When I finished reading the lyrics aloud, he opined, “He sounds like a whiner.”


So here’s to us, my fellow whiners, those who often feel socially awkward, who are never sure if we’ve said or done the right thing, who secretly worry that everyone else sees us as we see ourselves. This song is our anthem. Let’s all thank Imagine Dragons for showing us that we’re not alone.


Patricia said...

Oh my god, this song is awesome! I love it for all the reasons you just said.

Thanks for the intro.

ps. That thing with happy beat/sad lyrics I always attribute to 80s pop lyrics, because there are ton of songs like that. But perhaps it's just when I happend to grow up.

balyien said...

I figured you would like this one! It seems up your alley. I do think happy beat/sad lyrics was very popular in the 80s, but not exclusive to them. That would probably make a good research project.