Review Summary: This album is a slog to go through.
Hearing that Mercury - Act 2
would be sonically different from their previous outputs and influenced by hip-hop, I was curious and even intrigued. Imagine Dragons was a band in desperate need of a shake-up in sound, as they have been chasing the most milquetoast and commercial pop-rock you could possibly imagine, for years
. A change in sound seemed good, it sounded like a step forward.
But it wasn't meant to be. Supposedly influenced by hip-hop, it doesn't take long for their usual rock concessions to seep into the tracklist.
Most of the songs here are the ones you would expect from Imagine Dragons by now — generic and overblown, with production that attempts and largely fails at adding the bite that is severely lacking from the lyrics and vocal performance. 'Blur', 'I'm Happy', 'Peace Of Mind', 'Higher Ground', 'Younger' — they all have epic-sounding choruses, but it all amounts to nothing
. It feels empty and hollow, like injecting an extra dose or two of artificial drama into the production, instead of coming up with a clever instrumentation or a thought-provoking line. That's why tracks like 'Ferris Wheel', 'I Don't Like Myself', 'Waves' and 'Symphony' are plain unmemorable. And how could they not? Mercury - Act 2
is 18 tracks and almost an hour long of the same, plain formula; all the songs just blend together, slip into one ear and out the other and by the point something even remotely arresting happens, your interest will have evaporated. This album is a slog to go through.
Most of the time, Imagine Dragons just don't seem interested in writing something heartfelt and genuine and that's why there are only glimpses
of brilliance or, at the very least, of something engaging in their discography as time goes on. 'Crushed' is not great, but with a tracklist like the one on this album, the gentle nature of the song lends it a memorability that I will gladly take. The production isn't as forced and Dan Reynolds actually sings with a conviction that is missing elsewhere. Same goes for 'Bones', which is a very safe-sounding pop-rock number, but it's bombastic enough to make you groove and Dan actually sounds like he's having fun in the studio.
'They Don't Know You Like I Do' starts off very promising and it had my complete attention for two whole minutes, before the muted, slow-paced backdrop is interrupted by dramatic sonics and uninteresting ad-libs. This could have genuinely been one of their best songs, as it features some of their most gut-wrenching writing ("For every single time I failed you / I'm feelin' like it's me that killed you"
), but as it stands, it's a perfect example of why this band has been on a streak of releasing very poor efforts. Even when the band has an interesting idea, it's poisoned by terrible musical decisions. They want to approach sensitive subject matters like death and depression. But just when they have a good grip on what
they want to say, they don't seem committed enough to figure out how
to say it, settling for boring, overproduced songwriting to do the trick and appeal to the widest possible audience. Amidst that fat, the more pleasant moments — the ones that are indicative of the band that Imagine Dragons could
have been — are getting lost and becoming more scarce.