Radioactive (Imagine Dragons song)

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"Radioactive"
Single by Imagine Dragons
from the album Night Visions
ReleasedApril 2, 2012
RecordedAugust 2011 - January 2012 at
Westlake Recording Studios
(West Hollywood, California)
GenreAlternative rock, electronic rock
Length
LabelKIDinaKORNER, Interscope
Producer(s)Alexander Grant
Imagine Dragons singles chronology
"On Top of the World"
(2013)
"Radioactive"
(2013)
"Monster"
(2013)
 
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"Radioactive"
Single by Imagine Dragons
from the album Night Visions
ReleasedApril 2, 2012
RecordedAugust 2011 - January 2012 at
Westlake Recording Studios
(West Hollywood, California)
GenreAlternative rock, electronic rock
Length
LabelKIDinaKORNER, Interscope
Producer(s)Alexander Grant
Imagine Dragons singles chronology
"On Top of the World"
(2013)
"Radioactive"
(2013)
"Monster"
(2013)

"Radioactive" is a song recorded by American rock band Imagine Dragons for their major-label debut EP Continued Silence and later on their debut studio album, Night Visions, as the opening track. "Radioactive" was first sent to radio on April 2, 2012[1] and again on October 29, 2012.[2] Musically, "Radioactive" is an alternative rock song with elements of electronic rock and dubstep, while containing cryptic lyrics of apocalyptic and revolutionist themes.

The song received acclaim from critics who praised the production, lyrics, and vocals, calling it a highlight on the album. Due to heavy rotation on commercials and trailers, the song became a sleeper hit, peaking at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and has so far spent nearly a year and a half on that chart. It became their first top 10 single, and also broke the record for slowest ascension to the Top 5 in chart history.[3] It currently holds the record for most weeks spent on the Billboard Hot 100 at 79 weeks.[4] It was the third best selling song of 2013,[5] and was also the No. 3 song on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013 year-ending behind "Thrift Shop" and "Blurred Lines".[6] The song has also reached No. 1 in Sweden and in the top 20 in several countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, becoming their most successful single to date.

"Radioactive" received two Grammy Awards nominations for Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance, winning the latter.[7] This was Imagine Dragons' first time being nominated. During the broadcast, they presented a remix of the song with their Interscope label-mate and American rapper Kendrick Lamar, which was later released for purchase on iTunes.[8]

Composition[edit]

"Radioactive", which was written by Imagine Dragons themselves and co-written with producer Alex da Kid, is one of the more electronically influenced tracks on Night Visions as well as one of the darkest, similar to fourth track "Demons". The song has intense and powerful vocals. It also employs a fusion of the genres pop, rock and dubstep.[9] The song's lyrics speak of apocalyptic and revolutionist themes: 'I'm waking up to ash and dust' and 'This is it, the apocalypse'. Though the band has publicly maintained its secularity, NPR music critic Ann Powers has opined that the song features strong "religious or spiritual imagery", the likes of which have been common throughout the history of rock music.[10]

Speaking on the song, front man Dan Reynolds said:

"Radioactive, to me, it's very masculine, powerful-sounding song, and the lyrics behind it, there's a lot of personal story behind it, but generally speaking, it's a song about having an awakening; kind of waking up one day and deciding to do something new, and see life in a fresh way,"

—Dan Reynolds[11]

Critical reception[edit]

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"Radioactive" is one of the more electronically influenced tracks on Night Visions.

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"Radioactive" was released to critical acclaim. Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio gave the song a rating of 4.5 out of 5, calling it "hook-y [and] emotional", and stated that the "drama" and "excitement" of the song would allow "Radioactive" to appeal to both alternative pop fans and hard rockers.[12] AbsolutePunk gave a positive review, calling the acoustic section of the song "haunting", and called the chorus "hypnotizing".[13] Dara Hickey of Unreality Shout also reacted positively, calling the song the "darkest moment" on the album, and stated that, like all the other songs on the album, "Radioactive" was successful in creating a sound that "never fails to take off and send fists skyward".[14] IGN lauded the song, calling it "strangely intense and abrasive", and stated that "Radioactive" was "perhaps the greatest calling card of Imagine Dragons".[15]

Crave Online called the song an "opening throb", saying that the song "sexes up the dub-flirtation with a verse hingeing on the line 'this is it, the apocalypse' and a triumphant chorus, with more than a few shades of Hip-Hop in the production", and that the song was as "radio-ready as they come".[16] Our Vinyl stated that the "power of this song is outstanding with heavy drums and more of an electronic feel than the rest of the album and strong, impressive vocals from front-man Dan Reynolds which are reciprocated throughout the LP."[17] Billboard magazine named it "the rock hit of the summer".[18] Rolling Stone magazine named it "the biggest rock hit of the year".[19]

However, listener feedback on the production quality has been mixed, with many saying the track sounds "distorted", "compressed", or otherwise commenting on the poor audio quality.[20][21][22]

Commercial performance[edit]

Radioactive debuted at 96 on the Billboard Hot 100 after the release of Night Visions in September 2012 and remained at the lower ends of the chart for some time. In April 2013, the song made its top ten debut at number 7,[23] besting the number 15 position set by previous single "It's Time". In mid June, the song reached number four, breaking the record for the slowest ascension to the top five, besting the previous holder Florida Georgia Line's song "Cruise", which broke the record just three weeks earlier.[24] Two weeks later, the song reached its peak at number three.[25] The song has been certified 6x platinum by the RIAA. The song currently holds the record for the longest reign atop the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart, with 23 weeks.[26] It also holds the record for the longest reign atop the Billboard Rock Airplay chart, with 24 weeks.[9][27]

The song is also the best-selling rock song in US digital history. It was the No. 2 Song of the Summer according to Billboard and to date has spent 79 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, breaking the all-time chart longevity record, previously held by Jason Mraz's 2008 single "I'm Yours".[28] It has sold more copies in a calendar year than any other song by a rock act in digital history.[29] It was the third best selling song of 2013 with sales of 5,496,000 for the year.[5] As of February 2014, the single has sold 6.6 million copies in the United States and is the 16th best-selling download in the history of SoundScan.[28][30]

The song has reached number one in Sweden and in the top twenty of several countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand as well as several parts of Europe. In the UK, the song debuted at 35 thanks to strong downloads from the Hear Me EP in November. After the release of Night Visions in April, the song peaked at number 12, becoming their highest charting single there.

Live performances[edit]

Imagine Dragons performing "Radioactive" at The Pageant in St. Louis, Missouri.

The first televised performance of "Radioactive" was executed on the September 4, 2012 airing of ABC late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!. The song was performed alongside then-current single "[It's Time".[31]

In February 2013, the band started the 145-date[32] Night Visions Tour, which saw the band perform across North America and Europe. During the North American leg, the band made their first national television appearance, performing "Radioactive" on the February 22, 2013 airing of CBS late-night talk show Late Show with David Letterman.[33]

In addition to performing the song on the March 28, 2013 airing of NBC late-night talk show The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,[34] the band also performed "Radioactive" on the July 29, 2013 airing of NBC late-night talk show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,[35] following the historic performance of "It's Time" to an empty audience during Hurricane Sandy on the October 29, 2012 airing of Late Night.[36] They performed the song on Saturday Night Live with a guest performance by Kendrick Lamar on February 2, 2014, recreating their teamed performance of the song at the Grammy Awards the previous month.

Usage in media[edit]

"Radioactive" was used heavily in promotion for the video game Assassin's Creed III[37] and the 2013 film The Host,[38] and is included in the soundtrack for the video game MLB 13: The Show and NBA 2K14 released October 1.

In addition to being featured in commercials for 2013 premiere shows on the History channel, the song has been used in various promos: Chicago Fire, Run For Your Lives,[39] the European Outdoor Film Tour,[40] Defiance (as well as its tie-in video game), and Graceland. The song was also featured in the commercial for Powerbeats by Dr. Dre and starring Lebron James. In the series Arrow, "Radioactive" was also used during episode 22 of season 1. It was used as the theme song for the Combat Zone Wrestling event Cage of Death XIV, TNA Wrestling PPV Slammiversary XI and for the 2013 television series Inside Combat Rescue on the National Geographic Channel. The song was also used by Sony for starting their E3 2013 press conference. The song was played during the end credits of the True Blood season 6 finale of the same name, as well as the HBO Go commercial that immediately preceded the episode. The song was used in a hype video for a Korean League of Legends tournament hosted by Ongamenet, to introduce the two final teams for their 2013-2014 winter season.

The song has also served as St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday's walk up song during the 2013 season.[41] It is also commonly played during warm ups at New England Revolution games. ESPN used the song to promote the October 14, 2013 Monday Night Football game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers.

Music video[edit]

The music video debuted on December 10, 2012.[42] It was directed by Syndrome and features actors Lou Diamond Phillips and Alexandra Daddario and puppeteers by the studio Puppet Heap. The video revolves around a mysterious female drifter (Daddario) who is on a quest to save her friends (Imagine Dragons) from the perils of a sinister, underground puppet-fighting ring. The "Champion" of the fight, a large purple-colored beast, beats and kills innocent stuffed animals and puppets forced to fight. The woman's pink teddy bear puppet enters the ring and fights the "Champion", initially being beaten up. But after getting up from the ground, the teddy bear knocks out the main winner of the ring and disintegrates two bodyguards of the owner of the ring with laser vision. The woman then takes the key off the owner's chest and unlocks the band from the perils, and they all walk out, leaving the owner to be surrounded and attacked by the rest of the puppets that had been defeated earlier.

Speaking of the video to MTV, Reynolds said ' "We read through a ton of scripts from really talented directors, and we came across one that stood out to us in particular, because it put into visuals the general theme of the song, which is kind of an empowering song about an awakening, but it did it in a way that was very different,". "A lot of people probably see a post-apocalyptic world when they hear 'Radioactive,' understandably, but we wanted to deliver something that was maybe a little different from that ... a lot different from that."

Track listings[edit]

CD (0602537399185)
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Radioactive"  Ben McKee, Dan Platzman, Dan Reynolds, Wayne Sermon, Alexander Grant, Josh MosserGrant3:07
2."It's Time" (Bastile Remix)McKee, Platzman, Reynolds, SermonWill Farquarson, Kyle Simmons, Dan Smith, Chris Wood3:30
Total length:
6:37

Personnel[edit]

Adapted from Night Visions liner notes.[43]

Imagine Dragons
  • Dan Reynolds – vocals
  • Wayne Sermon – guitar
  • Ben McKee – bass
  • Daniel Platzman – drums, viola
Additional musicians
  • J Browz – guitar
Additional personnel
  • Alexander Grant – co-writer, producer
  • Josh Mosser – co-writer
  • Manny Marroquin – mixing
  • Joe LaPorta – mastering

Charts and certifications[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2012–14)Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[44]6
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[45]4
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[46]11
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[47]15
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[48]5
Canada (Alternative Rock)[49]2
Czech Republic (IFPI)[50]11
Denmark (Tracklisten)[51]6
France (SNEP)[52]30
Germany (Media Control AG)[53]4
Ireland (IRMA)[54]16
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[55]77
Luxembourg Digital Songs (Billboard)[56]3
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[57]42
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[58]4
Norway (VG-lista)[59]2
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[60]13
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[61]22
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[62]1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[63]5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[64]12
US Billboard Hot 100[65]3
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[66]20
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[67]2
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[68]1
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)11
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[69]2
US Rock Songs (Billboard)[70]1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2013)Position
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[71]9
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[72]7
US Billboard Hot 100[73]3
US Adult Pop Songs (Billboard)[74]10
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[75]1
US Rock Songs (Billboard)[76]1
US Pop Songs (Billboard)[77]7

Certifications[edit]

RegionCertificationSales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[78]3× Platinum210,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[79]Gold15,000x
Canada (Music Canada)[80]3× Platinum240,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[81]3× Platinum90,000^
Italy (FIMI)[82]Gold15,000*
Germany (BVMI)[83]Platinum300,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[84]5× Platinum75,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[85]5× Platinum50,000*
Sweden (GLF)[86]3× Platinum120,000x
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[87]Platinum30,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[88]Gold400,000^
United States (RIAA)[89]6× Platinum6,600,000[30]

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

Accolades[edit]

YearCeremonyAwardResult
2013MuchMusic Video AwardsInternational Video of the Year (Group)Nominated
Teen Choice AwardsChoice Rock SongWon
MTV Video Music AwardsBest Rock VideoNominated
UK Festival AwardsAnthem of the SummerNominated
2014People's Choice AwardsFavorite SongNominated
Grammy AwardsRecord of the YearNominated
Best Rock PerformanceWon
PublicationCountryAccoladeYearRank
SpotifyUnited StatesMost Streamed Tracks of 2013 (U.S.)[90]20131
SpotifyUnited KingdomMost Streamed Tracks of 2013 (U.K.)[91]20134
BingUnited StatesMost Searched Tracks of 2013 (U.S.)[92]20134
BingCanadaMost Searched Tracks of 2013 (CAN)[93]20135
GoogleWorldwideMost Searched Songs of 2013 (World)[94]201310
RdioWorldwideTop Global Tracks[95]20134
RdioUnited StatesTop U.S. Tracks[95]20132
SoundHoundWorldwideTop Songs of 2013[96]20137
105.7 The PointUnited StatesTop 105 of 2013[97]20131
106.7 KROQUnited StatesKROQ's Top 50 Songs Of 2013[98]20131

Release history[edit]

Commercial[edit]

CountryDateFormatLabelCatalog No.
AustriaMay 3, 2013[99]CDInterscope, KIDinaKORNER0602537399185
Germany
Switzerland

Promotional[edit]

CountryDateRadio FormatLabelCatalog No.
United StatesApril 2, 2012[1]CD-R (Modern rock / Alternative radio)Interscopeunknown
October 29, 2012[2]
United KingdomJanuary 21, 2013[100][101]CD-R (Contemporary hit radio), (BBC Radio 1 rotation)
Europe
United StatesMarch 25, 2013[102]CD-R (Adult contemporary radio)
April 9, 2013[103]CD-R (Contemporary hit radio)

Remix featuring Kendrick Lamar[edit]

"Radioactive"
Single by Imagine Dragons featuring Kendrick Lamar
ReleasedJanuary 27, 2014
RecordedJanuary 2014
GenreAlternative rock, electronic rock, Rap rock
Length4:43
LabelKIDinaKORNER, Interscope
Producer(s)Alexander Grant
Imagine Dragons chronology
"Demons"
(2013)
"Radioactive"
(2014)
Kendrick Lamar singles chronology
"Forbidden Fruit"
(2013)
"Radioactive"
(2014)
"Nosetalgia"
(2014)

The Night Visions track was remixed by the band, featuring guest vocals from American hip hop recording artist Kendrick Lamar. The remix, while retaining most of the original track from Continued Silence, was recorded by the band and Kendrick Lamar for release as a single. The single was released on January 27, 2014.

Live performances[edit]

"Radioactive" was first performed by Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, held at the Staples Center, Los Angeles on January 26, 2014. The song was performed in a mashup with Kendrick Lamar's "M.A.A.D City", a track from his Grammy-nominated album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.[104] The song was performed by the duo again on the February 1, 2014 airing of NBC late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show Saturday Night Live.[105]

Track listing[edit]

Digital download
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Radioactive" (feat. Kendrick Lamar)McKee, Platzman, Reynolds, Sermon, Grant, Mosser, Kendrick LamarGrant4:43

Personnel[edit]

Partly adapted from Night Visions liner notes.[106]

Imagine Dragons
  • Dan Reynolds – vocals
  • Wayne Sermon – guitar
  • Ben McKee – bass
  • Daniel Platzman – drums, viola
Additional personnel
  • Alexander Grant – co-writer, producer
  • Josh Mosser – co-writer
  • Manny Marroquin – mixing
  • Joe LaPorta – mastering
Additional musicians

Charts and accolades[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2014)Peak
position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[64]32

Accolades[edit]

YearCeremonyAwardResult
2014mtvU Woodie AwardsBest Collaboration Woodie[107]Pending

Release history[edit]

CountryDateFormatLabelCatalog No.
Australia[108]January 27, 2014Digital downloadInterscope, KIDinaKORNERnone
Canada[109]
Germany[110]
United Kingdom[111]
Untied States[112]

Other remixes and covers[edit]

"Radioactive" was covered by American violinist Lindsey Stirling with Texan a cappella group Pentatonix and uploaded to Stirling's YouTube channel, becoming immensely successful and as of December 24, 2013 has 50 million views[113] The recording subsequently earned a 2013 YouTube Award. Jason Derulo covered the song live on BBC.[114] Daughtry covered the song live on SiriusXM.[115] Lady Antebellum covered the song live backstage on their Take Me Downtown Tour and put the video on their YouTube channel.[116] Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation recorded a version on their cover album The Q-Music Sessions released in April 2013 and released again on their album Hydra. American post-hardcore band Our Last Night covered the song.[117] Masha covered "Radioactive" on her popular YouTube channel on May 25, 2013, the video has received more than 50,000 views as of November 2013.[118] The Radioactive Chicken Heads recorded a punk rock cover of "Radioactive" and released a music video for their version on YouTube.[119]

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External links[edit]