Radioactive was first broadcasted for US radio stations on 2nd April 2012 as a promotional single for the band’s debut album Night Visions. Written & recorded by the Las Vegas band itself, the music has gained favourites for its creative mix of dubstep, acoustics & electronic rock. Because its lyrics highlight the idea of a revolution in a post-apocalyptic scene, it works hand-in-hand with addictive 14-second chords(courtesy of vocalist Dan Reynolds) to glue our ears to the song. Something which is supposed to be more common for hit pop singles, is now seen in an indie rock song.
Reynolds has highlighted on multiple occasions of how the song basically describes a person’s “awakening” after a long bout of struggling with depression, ADD & anxiety. Of how that person gets up one day with a renewed “vigor” and sense of purpose in life. The lyrics were penned down in the hours of 3-6am, where people are supposed to be sound asleep. Hence, the song represents something of a “bad dream”, since its inspiration came from such sleep depravation and demanded its songwriters to keep awake at such hours.
A Revolution I Suppose
A mysterious, misty blue-eyed female drifter makes her way through the woods with an equally mysterious package. The don’t hear the lyrics, just the background hymns. Absolutely no indication of apocalypse or revolution. Yet. Everything looks like a calm, serene day. Then we notice flashes of the band members in strange, dark prison. Now looking at her expression, we notice she’s a lady on a mission. She comes across an old hut, something which she seems to have been looking for, and makes her way inside.
Where the world, and the music, changes. And we are plunged into a brand-new scenery that explains everything.
A dusty, cockfighting ring is filled with a crowd of cowboy spectators hungry for violence. A little strange. Then we discover later the ones in the ring are actually puppets. A vicious purple ape doll mercilessly sheds the
blood cotton of any challenger that steps in. A very, very strange kind of violence for such men to crave for. We find out the band are being kept prisoners, presumably by the ringleader, below the ring in morbid conditions, hidden from existence. As each stuffed animal falls under the beast, they are sent into the same prison. The concept of an underground puppet fighting ring is virtually unheard of, and life is given to inanimate objects which are supposed to represent childhood. And what kind of people actually pay to watch dolls fighting each other in such a wicked cockfighting-gladiator fashion? It has to be some sort of bad dream.
Then we realize that it must be. We’re definitely inside someone’s thoughts, and as Reynolds has explained, his battle against its darkness.
“ ‘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. A lot of people hear it in a dark way, but, I think, without saying the word too many times, it’s empowering, and so we wanted to display that in a way that the listener wouldn’t see normally.”
-Dan Reynolds tells MTV News
Every other stuffed animal have simple, pure concepts as to what they are. The elephant is an elephant, the lion is a lion, the tiger is a tiger, monkey a monkey. But the purple ape is some kind of strange chimera with fangs, a horn, oversized, with red eyes & a bloodlust. Almost demonic. Purple itself represents something unnatural, being the colour that occurs the least in nature. As well as a symbol of royalty & opulence, and in this MV a rich, oppressive power.
The title & its repetition spells the absolute need for the persona to drive his message home. What’s more if it’s always accompanied by the upbeat of the chorus, and it‘s sung over & over like a war chant. Radioactive, radioactive. His awakening is flooded by a rush of energy, which stems from a renewed sense of purpose, which explains why he shouts “Woah, woah, woah…” as he’s emotionally & mentally overwhelmed by the thrill of this new power after being “imprisoned” for so long in his own head.
“I raise my flags, don my clothes
It’s a revolution, I suppose
We’re painted red to fit right in
Individuals with depression have the thinking that they are weak & hopeless, and therefore normal people avoid them like the plague. In this case our guy branded himself as “Radioactive”, something which people instantly flee from. Something that must be quarantined. But in his war against his inner demons he plans to use it as if he’s an activist in a revolution, complete with his “flags” & even “painted red”, symbols of a dangerous revolutionary party. Because the radio is an excellent channel to spread his message, he decides to be “active” on the “radio”. Hence, “Radioactive”.
But in the end, we realize that the band would not have escaped without help from their blue-eyed friend & her awesome laser-eye-shooting pink bear. A similar state for people who refuse help or treatment when they are struggling with an episode like depression. Suffering in silence. We would never have known about the underground puppet ring if she hadn’t been down there. The fact that she came prepared with that laser-eye-shooting pink bear means she knows the situation well, and came to solve it.
All that dust that have been collecting on the drum gets scattered by a single drumbeat. Waking up after a long, long period of oppressive sleep.
Moral of the story? Don’t mess with a stuffed pink bear.
The song has been used in a video game trailer for Assassin’s Creed III. The MV was directed by LA-based Syndrome Studio, and the colorfully deadly puppets were supplied by Puppet Heap. The blue-eyed female drifter was played by actress Alexandra Daddario, who also had starring roles in the films Texas Chainsaw 3D & Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters. The ringleader was played by television actor/director Lou Diamond Phillips. The crew originally intended to shoot in New York, but had to relocate because of the situation with Hurricane Sandy. But a perfect, “dungeon-like” place was still found in London, Kingsway Place. The MV was finally published on 10th December.
A cover by dubstep violinist Lindsey Stirling & beatbox-capella band Pentatonix was published on 12th March 2013 on Lindsey‘s YouTube channel. Here it is, enjoy!