Imagine Dragons don’t usually practice the virtue of self-control. Until this fall, I was under the impression that they had yet to record a passable song that wasn’t all fists-clenched, veiny, shouty gym-rock by the chorus. Then the Microsoft Surface Laptop ads started airing during every commercial break of the MLB postseason, and I’ll admit it, I was charmed by the snaps and chirpy, pitch-shifted vocals of “Thunder.” It has some dumb platitudes about dreaming of rock-star status in a city where rock stars go to die, but also kind of slaps? Were they growing up? Working with Lorde producers? (No, and yes—but surprisingly not on this song.) It owned the charts this fall, on the back of that commercial, and Big Rock still does just fine when it goes pop.
Khalid’s debut album is far less of a guilty pleasure; the kid’s 19 and already has more good songs to his name than Imagine Dragons, and a number of artists who currently reside on the Hot 100. But for some reason (sweet, sweet streams, and killing time at award shows), the two teamed up at the American Music Awards this November for a mashup of “Thunder” and “Young Dumb & Broke.” Earlier this week, they released an official version of the medley, which is better than it sounds on paper. The first transition’s pretty fucking jarring—they pull the rug right out from Khalid’s original “Young Dumb & Broke” intro, switch the key and never look back, as he weaves in and out of “Thunder.”
All said, it’s better than Imagine Dragons’ original sin with Kendrick Lamar at the 2014 Grammy Awards which revived this whole genre of mashup. So that’s it: I like both of these songs, have yet to meet someone in real life who feels the same way, and am unafraid to admit it. Let’s talk in the comments.