Smoke + Mirrors

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Smoke + Mirrors
Two hands bound by tape release a hummingbird into the air. The dark green background is littered with various lines and geometric shapes with numbers and symbols written into the top of the artwork. The words "Imagine Dragons" and "Smoke + Mirrors" are printed in white at the center of the artwork.
Studio album by Imagine Dragons
Released February 17, 2015 (2015-02-17)
Recorded 2014
Studio Imagine Dragons Studio (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Genre
Length 50:55
Label
Producer
Imagine Dragons chronology
Night Visions Live
(2014)Night Visions Live2014
Smoke + Mirrors
(2015)
Evolve
(2017)Evolve2017
Singles from Smoke + Mirrors
  1. "I Bet My Life"
    Released: October 27, 2014
  2. "Gold"
    Released: December 16, 2014
  3. "Shots"
    Released: January 26, 2015

Smoke + Mirrors is the second studio album by American rock band Imagine Dragons. The album was recorded during 2014 at the band's home studio in Las Vegas, Nevada. Self-produced by members of the band along with English hip-hop producer Alexander Grant, known by his moniker Alex da Kid, the album was released by Interscope Records and Grant's KIDinaKORNER label on February 17, 2015, in the United States.[5]

The album received generally mixed reviews from music critics upon release.[6] However, it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in the United States, moving more than 172,000 units,[7] and also debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and the Canadian Albums Chart.[8] It has since been certified gold in the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, and Brazil. Three official singles have been released from the album: "I Bet My Life", "Gold" and "Shots". As of July 2017 the album has sold over 1,000,000 copies in the US.[9]

Background[edit]

The band embarked on the Night Visions Tour in 2013. The band's experiences on the tour served as an inspiration for their second album.

In 2012, Imagine Dragons released their debut studio album Night Visions. The album, produced by the band along with Alexander Grant and Brandon Darner, launched the band into international mainstream commercial success, charting within the top ten of 14 national record charts, in addition to charting on eight others. Certified Platinum by seven national music associations, including 2x Platinum in the United States by the RIAA[10] and 3x Platinum in Canada by Music Canada,[11] the album was initially met with first week sales in excess of 83,000 copies, the highest charting for a debut rock album since 2006.[12] The album was also nominated for the 2014 Juno Award for International Album of the Year.[13]

The band released six singles during the Night Visions album cycle in 2012 and 2013, five of which charted on the Billboard Hot 100. "Radioactive," a 2013 single, sold more than nine million singles in the United States, spending more than 1 year consecutively on the Billboard Hot 100. Peaking at no. 3 on the chart, it also broke the record for the longest run into the top five and is the best-selling rock single on the Nielsen SoundScan running list of best-selling rock tracks in digital history.[14] Billboard listed the band as one of "2012's Brightest New Stars"[15] and later "The Breakout Band of 2013."[16]

To further promote the already-successful Night Visions, the band set out on a year-long concert tour beginning in early 2013 and ending in mid-2014, dubbed the "Night Visions Tour." The tour spanned for over 170 dates, and visited North America, South America, Europe and Oceania. An additional tour of North America, dubbed the "Into the Night Tour," was also executed. The conclusion of the Into the Night Tour signaled the end of the Night Visions album cycle, with Night Visions Live, a live album, serving as the last release in the cycle. Lead singer Dan Reynolds joked about the end of the Night Visions cycle, saying that "We're always writing on the road, [so] that second album will come, unless we die at the age of 27 next year. Hopefully we don't die and there will be a second album. I don't know when it will be, but it may come."[17] The band were also inspired greatly by their experiences on the Night Visions Tour. Dan Reynolds told New Orleans-based newspaper The Times-Picayune that the world tour had "a lot of inspiration to be drawn," and further stating, "You kind of realize that you’re a lot smaller than you think."[18]

The idea behind the second studio album, dubbed as their "new year's resolution,"[19] was to create music and finish it when the band feels that their work is done. Reynolds told MTV in 2014 that the band wanted to "put out an album that [they're] really happy with". He further said that "we tend to be perfectionists, too hard on ourselves at times, and we don't want to rush anything because we know how we are with things. We don't want to put a record out until we really feel good about it, you know, and who knows how long that will take."[20]

Composition[edit]

Reynolds stated to music magazine Rolling Stone that the next album will be "different" from Night Visions, and that the band intends the album to be "stripped back quite a bit." He added that "we embraced a lot of hip-hop influences with Night Visions, but I think the next record will be more rock-driven. It’s too early to say, but there is some weird stuff going on in these songs."[21]

Recording[edit]

The creative process for the album began long before the conclusion of the Night Visions cycle. Since the beginning of the Night Visions Tour in 2012, the band had been writing new material for an upcoming album, and, even as early as the start of the tour, had been recording demos for the album, before entering the studio.[22] By the time that they entered the studio to work on the album, they had amassed 50 demos to work from.[21] The demos had been described by Reynolds as "definitely different," but added that "it’s still Imagine Dragons, but we’ve got a lot of growth and maturing to do as a band. I think [the new material] is going to hopefully be a step in the right direction. We’re just trying to create and do what comes out and what feels right." The band also were self-critical throughout the sessions, with Drummer Daniel Platzman stating that there was "no room for external pressure" during the recording of the album.[23]

The band announced a rest at the end of the Night Visions Tour at Lollapalooza in Sao Paulo, Brazil.[24]

Promotion[edit]

The Smoke and Mirrors album cycle featured three singles and two promotional singles. Regional releases from the album feature different track listings. Target has made available an exclusive deluxe version of the album featuring four bonus tracks, available online internationally.

Target teamed with the band to air the first ever live commercial performance during the Grammy Awards. On February 8, 2015 the band performed "Shots" from Las Vegas' Freemont Street under the direction of Jonas Åkerlund.[25] Billboard estimated the commercial cost $8 million in airtime.[26]

Hard Rock Cafe teamed with the band, granting them the first ever full access to take control of Hard Rock Cafe's internal video system (more than 20,000 screens at all 151 locations worldwide) on February 17, 2014.[27] Also, autographed T-shirts will be hidden throughout the Hard Rock Cafe shops supporting the Tyler Robinson Foundation, benefiting the families of children with cancer.[27]

Preceding the release of lead single "I Bet My Life," Imagine Dragons posted on social media segments of the single's artwork imposed by lyrics from the song and mirrored letters that spelled the song's title in reverse.

On December 12, 2014, Imagine Dragons posted on social media a request that fans look around Las Vegas Valley for hidden clues to upcoming songs. The band gave 13 fans puzzle pieces of the artwork for the album. When combined, the puzzle pieces revealed the cover art and album title. On December 15, 2014, "Gold" was released as a single with a video being released later. On the cover art for the album were a set of numbers that provided specific coordinates to prizes hidden in the Nevada desert, including an autographed guitar, drumsticks, Polaroid pictures, and a master pass for free concert tickets for the entire tour.[28][29]

On January 24, 2015, the band flew in 200 prize winning fans from around the world to attend a special listening event at the P3 Studio Art Gallery in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.[30] The event included an art exhibition of Tim Cantor's work for the album and attendees were allowed to listen to the full album through Beats headphones.[30] Then the band arrived for an interview and private performance.[30]

February 20 through February 26, 2015, the band, partnering with Southwest Airlines, flew over 30 winners from all over the U.S. from coast to coast on what they called the "Destination Dragons" Tour. The Destination Dragons tour consisted of all the winners being flown from their hometowns, to small clubs in Los Angeles, Provo, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. This tour was a promotion for Smoke and Mirrors, and a chance for the band to road test their new music live, in preparation for their Smoke and Mirrors World Tour. They paid homage to the clubs they got their start in by playing small, private shows for the Destination Dragons winners, as well as local winners in each city. They played The Troubadour in Los Angeles, Velour in Provo, Utah, Vinyl in Las Vegas, and wrapped up the tour at Terminal West in Atlanta, Georgia. During the Southwest flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta, fans were treated to an acoustic concert in what the airline calls "Live at 35" where artists play for airplane passengers after the airplane reaches 35,000 feet. All winners flew to all 4 cities, were given tickets to all 4 private shows, were able to attend the "Live at 35" event, and were given a meet and greet.

Singles[edit]

"I Bet My Life" was released as the lead single from Smoke and Mirrors and debuted at number 15 on the Canadian Hot 100, number 27 on the UK Singles Chart, and 28 on the Billboard Hot 100.[31] It also topped the Billboard Adult Alternative Songs, a first for the band.[32] The band performed the song live on American Music Awards (2014),[33] Good Morning America (2015), The Ellen DeGeneres Show (2015),[34] VH1's Big Morning Buzz Live (2015).[35]

"Gold" was released as the second single from Smoke and Mirrors on December 16, 2014 and peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart.[36]

"Shots" was released as the third single from Smoke and Mirrors and charted on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as reaching No. 3 on the Norway Singles chart. The band performed the song live during the Grammy Awards (2015), a first ever live commercial performance, directed by Jonas Åkerlund.[25][26] They also performed the song live on Good Morning America (2015), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2015),[37] The Howard Stern Show (2015), Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Ellen DeGeneres Show (2015), and Today (2015).[38]

Tour[edit]

On February 5, 2015, the band played a live streaming concert for Live Nation and Yahoo! during which they announced the North American leg of the arena tour.[39][40] The band embarked on a world tour, Smoke and Mirrors Tour, in promotion of the worldwide release of Smoke and Mirrors. The tour began on began April 12, 2015 and concluded on February 5, 2016.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic60/100[6]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[3]
Billboard3.5/5 stars[41]
Consequence of SoundD+[42]
The Daily Telegraph4/5 stars[43]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[44]
The Guardian4/5 stars[2]
New York Daily News2/5 stars[45]
Q4/5 stars[1]
Rolling Stone2/5 stars[46]
USA Today3/4 stars[47]

The album overall received mixed reviews from critics with a score of 60/100 on Metacritic. Q published a positive review of the album, calling it "[a] modern pop-rock gem" and also noting it as an improvement upon their debut album Night Visions."[1] Entertainment Weekly published a positive review stating, "the group's sophomore effort scales back on the electronic frippery, revealing the tightly focused rock juggernaut they are on stage."[48] Illinois Entertainer published an interview with Reynolds on February 2, 2015, saying the album is "an ambitious, rock-solid effort, with potential hits galore."[49] The Daily Telegraph published a highly positive review of the album, calling it "thunderous" and saying its "songs are peppered with bright ideas and odd collisions, world music sounds percolating through R&B grooves, stuttering digital breaks interrupting solid rhythms. Lyrics and delivery suggest Imagine Dragons adhere to old-fashioned rock band idealism, but nothing is allowed to get in the way of a sparkling hook."[50]

Allison Stewart of The Washington Post wrote that the band "is very good at what it does, even if what it does isn't very good," having "effortlessly achieved" the album's one purpose, "to cram as many popular styles as possible into a mainstream rock album to appeal to as many people as it can."[4] Dave DiMartino of Yahoo! Music wrote that "it is the band’s music, and not their faces, or personalities, that resonates with the mass audiences. And this is good. . . This is a pretty solid, surprisingly diverse sounding rock album—not a tuneless screech-fest by any means—and a record the band should be proud of. . . This could have been a shambles, and it's anything but."[51] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic described the album as "overblown" arena rock, with more style than substance, and an overemphasis on reverberation effects such that "the reverb nearly functions as a fifth instrument in the band".[3]

The album's lyrics were nominated for an AML Award.[52]

Commercial performance[edit]

Smoke + Mirrors debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart with 195,000 album-equivalent units (172,000 of which were pure album sales).[53] It more than doubled its the group's previous best sales week.[54] The album remained in the chart's top twenty for the next several weeks, as of July 2017, the album has sold over 1,000,000 copies in the United States.[9] In the United Kingdom, it became the final album to reach number one on sales alone as streaming became incorporated into the UK Albums Chart the following week.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and produced by Imagine Dragons (Ben McKee, Daniel Platzman, Dan Reynolds and Wayne Sermon), except where noted.

Smoke and Mirrors
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Shots"  3:52
2."Gold"
  • Alex da Kid
  • Imagine Dragons
3:36
3."Smoke and Mirrors"  4:20
4."I'm So Sorry"  3:50
5."I Bet My Life"  3:14
6."Polaroid"  3:51
7."Friction"  3:21
8."It Comes Back to You"  3:37
9."Dream"
  • Grant
  • Imagine Dragons
  • Alex da Kid
  • Imagine Dragons
4:18
10."Trouble"  3:12
11."Summer"  3:38
12."Hopeless Opus"  4:01
13."The Fall"  6:05
Total length:50:55

All bonus tracks on a separate disc on physical versions.

Personnel[edit]

Imagine Dragons

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Austria (IFPI Austria)[94] Gold 7,500*
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[95] Gold 20,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[96] Platinum 80,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[97] Gold 10,000^
Italy (FIMI)[98] Gold 25,000*
Mexico (AMPROFON)[99] Gold 30,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[100] Gold 15,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[101] Gold 180,460[102]
United States (RIAA)[103] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Edition Label
Argentina[104][105] February 11, 2015
  • Standard
  • Deluxe
Universal Music
Brazil[106] February 13, 2015 CD Deluxe
Norway[107]
  • CD
  • digital download
  • Standard
  • Deluxe
  • Super Deluxe
Interscope
United States February 17, 2015
  • Standard
  • Deluxe

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]