Imagine Dragons Songs: "Radioactive" Meaning and Lyrics
The meaning behind the music
Confusion is everywhere, especially about Imagine Dragon's "Radioactive." The meaning of "Radioactive" has become a heated debate ever since the song hit the shelves. This confusion definitely comes from the subjectivity of the lyrics to "Radioactive," as the Imagine Dragons certainly left their fans to imagine what the meaning of this song could truly be.
Imagine Dragons "Radioacitve" featured on Night Visions album
Despite heated debates, only one interpretation of the song truly fits. The song depicts a person who was behind bars for such a long duration that they were release from prison in an unfamiliar "new age." A more poetic interpretation of the song could be that the song was mean to describe a futurist world, and a person experiencing this mystifying world for the very first time. This interpretation could certainly apply with "Radioactive's" use in the hit movie "The Host," which was based on the hit novel series about human assimilation by extraterrestrials. When you think about "Radioactive" from this perspective, it's easy to understand how trapping a person in an entirely morphed form controlled by parasites could be considered as living life in prison. However, then the lyric "I'm radioactive" doesn't really apply because the host does not involve radiation, it involves a parasitic infestation.
Hence, the realistic interpretation of the song would only make sense: being sentenced to living nearly life in prison, only to be released into a new world, where all one's loved one's are long gone and nothing has remained the same.
Analyzing the song for the sake of the music itself
The first stanza of "Radioactive" describes a persons struggle or daily life in prison. With lyrics like "I wipe my brow, and I sweat my rust," it's easy to envision the hard, physical labor associated with being in prison. The lyric "I'm breathing in the chemicals" most likely refers to the prisoner taking a smoke break to deal with the stress of being in prison. When Imagine dragons mentions "I'm breaking in" they are probably trying to describe how prison will break a person in like a person breaks in a horse. "Shaping up" describes the process of probation; this would make sense, seeing how the lyric to follow is "then checking out on the prison bus," inferring that the person passed testing during a probation session. "This is it, the apocalypse" helps a listener to understand that the prisoner known the world is going to be very different after wasting away so many years of their life in captivity.
The remainder of "Radioactive," beyond the first and second stanza, describes the prisoners acceptance of the new world around them. Hence, "I'm waking up" and "Welcome to the new age" displays the prisoner coming to grips with the reality that the world will never be the same as it once was before prison.
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Considering that Imagine Dragons loves to reflect their song lyrics around their own troublesome life experiences, something as concrete as experiencing life in and out of prison would make the most sense as the meaning of "Radioactive." No one can really say if any of the band member of Imagine Dragons have ever been in that situation, but it's possible that Imagine Dragons's "Radioactive" was written about a friend whose life was forever changed by prison. Needless to say, Imagine Dragons lyrics are almost always focused around their own personal misfortunes. Correspondingly, most people would agree that living life in prison is enough to make anyone "Radioactive" or experience insanity.
Some of the most interesting lyrics out of the entire song, in my opinion, are "All systems go, the sun hasn't died. Deep in my bones, straight from inside." These lyrics would leave fans to believe that the "hope" or the "happiness" of the prison hasn't died with prison, that life does go on after an extremely difficult experience. Whether life is able to continue, is based solely on a person's perspective, and strength to continue; perhaps, this is the moral of the song, see that Imagine Dragons also aims to use the descriptions of their personal misfortunes for the benefit of their listeners. Imagine Dragons aims to help their fans learn from OPE (Other People's Example, pertaining to their mistakes/misfortunes) with their music, instead of having fans gain their own first-hand experience the hard way.