The song is not just inspirational, but incredibly deep. If you’re not paying close attention, you could actually miss how deep it is. Further, it builds on my last Deep Song Breakdown, Metallica’s “Unforgiven”. In “Whatever it Takes”, Imagine Dragons decide to do whatever it takes to not be deemed “unforgiven”.
Words like “whatever it takes” and “I was born to run, I was born for this”, you can definitely tell by both the title of the song and many of the lyrics that the song is about getting after it. Still, much of the song is about how hard it will be to reach the top of the mountain. Despite the difficulties and your imperfections, confidence and grit will allow to reach the finish line.
Singer, song writer, and Imagine Dragons lead vocalist Dan Reynolds tells us this song is about “overcoming my own self-confidence issues that I’ve had since I was young”. He goes onto say that
“Since I was young… I was taught that you could do whatever you could dream of, you just had to work harder than everybody else and you had to never give up. It’s a cliché. But there’s a reason it’s a cliché.”
In my view, the full depth and genius of the lyrics are found in the later part of the song (bold my emphasis):
Don’t wanna be the parenthetical, hypothetical
Working onto something that I’m proud of, out of the box
An epoxy to the world and the vision we’ve lost
I’m an apostrophe
I’m just a symbol to remind you that there’s more to see
I’m just a product of the system, a catastrophe
And yet a masterpiece, and yet I’m half-diseased
And when I am deceased
At least I go down to the grave and die happily
Leave the body and my soul to be a part of thee
I do what it takes
“To die regretfully” is to be deemed “unforgiven” says Metallica – giving into your chains, not being aware that you’re in chains, and/or never truly finding your identity. Imagine Dragons pick up on this theme and will do whatever it takes to die happily.
This will require working on something that you are truly “proud of, out of the box” – and by doing it will be “an epoxy to the world and the vision we’ve lost”. Even though you are a “product of the system, a catastrophe”, you can do it. Despite how difficult the challenge and despite your imperfections and being “half-diseased”, you’re also “a masterpiece”. And if you keep going you’ll “go down to the grave and die happily” and in turn; change the world, inspire, and leave and example behind for us, leaving your “soul to be part of thee”.
For Metallica’s call of not being “unforgiven”, Imagine Dragons double-down on the theme by doing “whatever it takes”.