THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Helping change the definition of rock once again.
Imagine Dragons, after taking some time to regroup with their last album “Smoke and Mirrors,” are ready to blur the boundaries of rock and pop again.
“Evolve” (Interscope / Kidinakorner) blends big rock anthems with elements of hip-hop, R&B and EDM to create a catchier, more current sound, the sound that fueled smashes “Radioactive” and “It’s Time.” Rock purists may hate that sound, but it’s way more likely to grab listeners on pop radio than anything more traditional.
The first single, “Believer,” with its hip-hop-inflected verses and EDM drops in the chorus, shows just how flexible singer Dan Reynolds’ vocals can be. The opening of the follow-up, “Walking the Wire,” could be a country hit before it builds into a massive rock chorus. “Mouth of the River” welds grunge-era alternative verses and a chorus that could have come from Adele’s last album.
The Las Vegas band’s willingness to throw out rock conventions in the name of pursuing the best musical idea is refreshing, especially when the spare, Lorde-like verses give way to inventive percussion in “Thunder” or the ’80s-inspired soul of “Start Over” that would fit nicely with the new Paramore album. Unlike previous albums, Imagine Dragons didn’t just work with producer Alex da Kid, who discovered and signed the band to his label and is best known for his work with Rihanna and Eminem. They worked with him, as well as Mattman & Robin — best known for producing DNCE’s “Cake by the Ocean” — and Joel Little, who worked on Lorde’s debut. And those new collaborators seemingly sparked renewed risk-taking from the band.
“Dancing in the Dark,” for example, incorporates the electro-soul of James Blake so effectively that it could even hook whatever hipsters may stumble onto it.
With “Evolve,” Imagine Dragons seem ready to transcend genre labels — they just want to make good music that interests them.