Imagine Dragons’ latest album is a mixed bag

Rami Chaudhry, A&E Editor

Imagine Dragons has, to the dismay of many, revitalized arena rock. Despite hardcore rock fans’ disapproval of this, the band’s success has solidified them as the face of the genre: a misleading statement since the genre really isn’t rock, but rather pop music disguised as modern rock.

The Las Vegas band combined alternative rock with elements of electronic, dance, and hip-hop in their debut album Night Visions (2012) with critical and commercial success. Since then, Imagine Dragons set themselves on a path few bands have journeyed through as of late.

Touring from 2012 to 2014, having three hit songs, not to mention their entire album, hold high spots on the Billboard 200, receiving a Grammy, and being helmed as the most downloaded rock band in history thanks to their sleeper hit “Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons has been on top of the world.

In early 2015, their patient fans were rewarded with another album, Smoke+Mirrors. It has undoubtly pleased converted Dragons fans since its release in late February. However, from an unconverted listener’s point of view, all signs point to a sophomore slump.

The album tackles similar themes present in Night Visions, which means the songs do not have anything controversial or profound to say. Their topics hover around depressing and angst-driven emotions, all while staying ironically upbeat and catchy. The opening track “Shots” is the best example of this.

The pop-infused tune is about the relationships lead singer Dan Reynolds has ruined over the years. Because of the memorable beat and chorus, you can’t help but enjoy his pain.

“Gold,” the second track of the album, starts out with frenetic sounds one would expect of a Kanye album, but finds itself with a welcoming Latin influence and infectious sound. If only it didn’t contain computerized clapping noises, which are shamelessly spread throughout Smoke+Mirrors’ thirteen tracks.

Other than the two opening songs, the 2014 released single “I Bet My Life,” and  the hidden gem “Trouble,” Smoke+Mirrors is a forgettable album. The guitar heavy “I’m So Sorry” has elements of alternative rock, but seems like a cheap rip off of a Black Keys song. “Friction” delivers some diversity through the use of middle-eastern strings, but ultimately has an irritating effect.

Imagine Dragons have a successful album on their hands, in that it is one that will provide radio stations digestible songs to shove down listeners’ ears. Sadly, middling originality does not result in better quality. Hopefully, their third outing delivers an entire album worth listening to outside of a car.