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July 1, 2014

Radioactive - Imagine Dragons

Written by : Imagine Dragons, Alexander Grant (Alex Da Kid), Josh Mosser
Produced by : Alexander Grant
Mixed by : Manny Marroquin
Mastered by : Joe LaPorte

iTunes link :

Acoustic guitar
Electric guitar
Background vocals
Synth bass

The drums on radioactive sound like all sampled and manipulated. The beat is basically the same pattern throughout the entire song. The kick drum sounds like a big vintage acoustic kick with heaps of distortion and vibe to it. It has a fat and long sound to it, with lots of color and saturation to make it sound larger than life while actually being very contained dynamically. The snare contrasts with the warm sounding kick by being very up front, short and snappy snare sample and then the absence of reverb keeps it right in front of everything else at all times. Then there is just a reverse snare and crash cymbal, 4 drums total, part of the song's success is due to the creative simplicity that is expressed in the production and mix, by focusing on the detailed sonic character of each sound they were able to make an otherwise painfully simple grove sound ginormous and unique.

They used a very aggressive sounding synth bass with varying fast and slow pulses/wobbles to create the rhythmic interest on top of the basic drum beat. It's perfectly mono allowing it to sit inside of the wide bass drum and EQ-wise the bass is not very fat, so it sits on top of the kick. since it's the only element driving the bus for a majority of the verses, the kick drum takes care of the low-end and the bass give takes up the rest of the sonic spectrum.

Layers on layers, the song starts with a strumming acoustic, a picked acoustic and an electric guitar all interweaving with each other, what's great about this mix is how easily it is to hear these intricate parts. The panning plays a big part in this clarity as well as great eqing that brings out the most distinct areas of each part allowing them to speak loudly but without stepping on everything else. That is what I'd say is the best aspect of this mix, it's big and loud but not blaring or offensive each part has size and weight without being dark or muddy and the overall energy is high for such a slow and heavy production.

Throughout the song the guitars are kept out of the way but you can easily pinpoint and recognize each one as they layer themselves on. An interesting texture is the almost "metal-zone" pedal sounding guitars kept near the middle in the chorus that can be heard in the clear at 2:04 along with the bass. They are super driven and almost fizzy like they have been bit crushed a bit, this distinct tone really fits well with the message and tone of the song. My other favorite element is the high E-Bow guitar part that creeps in during the 2nd verse most noticable then also is there for the chorus.

The verses are a single vocal and the chorus sounds like a hundred vocals surrounding the same lead vocal. The overall vibe of the mix is big and heavy which serves as a perfect bed for the vocals to stand out in front of everything. There are the usual doses of delays and a small to medium sized room reverb on the lead and then much larger and distant verbs to help enlarge the chants and chorus. Listen to use of delay throws on the lead vocal, highlighting certain phrases and filling in spaces.

What keyboards?? This song has a noticeable lack of big keyboard parts which is interesting considering the modern technology influenced vibe of the production. The only keyboards are the synth bass I talked about earlier and some light pads in the chorus but nothing distinct enough to point out.

Your Turn
What do you hear? From a sonic perspective what do you think about this song? What can you take from a song like this and apply to your mixes?

Mix Analysis by Ben Lindell