Things to Do in Miami: Imagine Dragons at FTX Arena February 6, 2022

On February 6, pop-rockers Imagine Dragons kick off their 51-city Mercury Tour at the FTX Arena in support of their fifth studio album, Mercury Act 1.

While there’s no denying the catchiness of some of Imagine Dragon’s songs, the thought that the arena could be filled with cheering fans unironically belting “Thunder, feel the thunder/Thunder, lighting then the thunder (thunder, thunder)” seems far-fetched.

The group — Dan Reynolds, Daniel Wayne Sermon, Ben McKee, and Daniel Platzman — has had no shortage of success. Imagine Dragons have won three American Music Awards, 11 Billboard Music Awards, and a Grammy. Their top charters include “Radioactive,” “Thunder,” and “Believer.”

But their music is just sort of…there. It’s the kind you hear over the closing credits of a PG movie or faintly playing from the speakers in a grocery store. It reminds me of an overzealous Christian rock group hired to perform at a church summer camp for teens. It’s intense yet nonspecific and inoffensive.

Credit is due to all musicians who perform with passion. But Imagine Dragons got me thinking: Why are they so popular? How is it that I’m utterly indifferent to their music, yet I still know almost all of the lyrics to “Demons” and even nod my head to the beat (a little) when I hear it?

I’m not alone, nor first, in my wondering.

“The only way to explain this music’s smothering omnipresence is that it performs a public function that we once expected rock-and-roll to perform,” Washington Post music critic Chris Richards wrote in a 2019 column. “It radiates an aura of loudness, and it feels vaguely aggrieved for its privileged place in the world, but it ultimately aspires to communal uplift — which means that Imagine Dragons wishes it were Queen, but only in concept. There is no sex, no humor and no chest hair to be found in any Imagine Dragons song.”
One devout fan took to Reddit to ask why people dislike his favorite group.

“I’m asking all you people that are either hating on them or don’t like them to respond with detailed and legit reasons,” user JollyCanadian wrote. “Not just ‘they suck’ or ‘imagine dragon deez nuts across your face.'”

There are almost 90 comments.

“I feel like, for some reason I’m not sure, they’re the new Nickelback,” one person replied. “All their songs sound like they should be in car commercials,” added another.

User walrusAssault likened their vibe to early-2000s marketing tactics: “Imagine Dragons are like the musical equivalent of X-TREME FLAVOR XXXPLOSION DORITOS! with a gaudy cartoon on the bag of some neon-mohawked teen doing a totally sick skateboard trick while Doritos explodes into thousands of tiny pieces behind him.”

But I think this comment summed it up best:

“None of their songs that I’ve heard are bad, but none (except Radioactive) are ones that I would seek out. Genuinely bad music is often interesting in some way, but average popular music is often boring to lots of people.”

Maybe that’s the very reason they continue to sell albums and tickets — the band’s genericness is a sort of safety blanket in such divisive times, easy enough for everyone to digest.

To be fair, Mercury Act 1 has gotten some (mildly) positive reviews.

USA Today‘s Melissa Ruggieri called it a “cohesive expression of celebration and mourning, of affirmations and struggles, all packaged with newfound candor.” And Billboard‘s Jason Lipshutz wrote that it “shakes up the band’s sonic approach while still sporting melodies that can appeal to sprawling crowds.”

While some of the track titles — “No Time for Toxic People,” “It’s Ok,” “One Day” — suggest the songs might have been penned for the next Kidz Bop album, the lyrics seem to reflect a more personal approach than ever for the band.

If this is a permanent shift in direction, I say more power to them.

Imagine Dragons. 7 pm Sunday, February 6, at FTX Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; ftxarena.com. Tickets cost $34.75 to $219.75 via ticketmaster.com.

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