‘Natural’ was released in early 2018 as the second single in the build-up to Imagine Dragons’ new album. Coming after their collaboration with the Norwegian music producer and songwriter Kygoin on ‘Born to be Yours’, ‘Natural’ is an aggressively inspirational song with a dark twist to its lyrics, and its infectious energy meant it was chosen as the anthem for the 2018 ESPN College football season in America.
The lyrics are dripping in meaning. Whilst on first glance, the backing and the repeated line of “You’re a natural” gives the song elements of inspiration, and the ‘you can do this’ elements certainly gained it its spot as ESPN’s anthem, but the lyrics also present something darker and angrier.
I fell in love with this song during its opening and nothing let me down after that. True to its name, ‘Natural’ starts with a rich organic opening. A deep harmonic humming gives an ominous atmosphere to this piece. Rhythmic lyrics are built on top for the first verse and then joined by a single line melody in the beginning half of the chorus. Then the drums arrive. They explode into life within the first line that Ryan sings in a way that can only be described as a mix of passion and aggression.
It’s common knowledge that the music industry is tough but this song highlights it in such a manner that it can’t be ignored. “Just another product of today” is particularly outstanding as a lyric for the multitude of ways it could be interpreted . For example, it could be a comment on the sheer amount of work the industry is producing at the moment to the point where artists themselves are the products. Or, it could be in reference to the “heartbreak” referenced in previous lines being another product of the work.
While the second verse keeps the drums, it loses the dystopian descending slide between the beats that raises the energy and creates the gritty tone within the chorus. The third verse goes back to basics, losing the drums completely and drawing back onto the single line melody, forcing you to pay attention. Ryan’s vocals lift the tension within the last line to bring us back to the excitement of the final chorus as all the instruments come roaring back to life for a grand finale.
The lyrics work in harmony with the gritty tone the backing provides. The way Ryan’s vocals change from an almost rock vibe within the choruses to a rhythmic talk in the verses just goes to prove his vocal ability as a singer. They build upon the backing and help as this whole song shifts in and out of atmospheres – ominous, resigned, determined and gritty. These highlight the themes and ideas present in the lyrics.
The overall message of the lyrics might not even be about the industry but the world as a whole, which is facing quite a few difficulties at the moment. “We are the youth, cut until it bleeds, inside a world without the peace” certainly suggests this.
In the end, Imagine Dragons have done it again and they’ve released an outstanding song with layers upon layers of meaning for everyone. From its energy to its lyrics, this is a song that will blow you away.