Society of Sound Media

Music That Matters

Radioactive - Imagine Dragons

Key Lyrics

“I'm waking up to ash and dust

I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust

I'm breathing in the chemicals

I'm breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus

This is it, the apocalypse


I'm waking up, I feel it in my bones

Enough to make my systems blow

Welcome to the new age, to the new age

Welcome to the new age, to the new age”


Where’s the meaning?

Radioactive is wrought with dark undertones and is filled with apocalyptic and revolutionary images – and can be interpreted as a subtle provocation aimed at the rampant consumerism and blatant disregard for the negative externalities that production of goods and services on a global scale has on the environment and the respective ecosystems around the world.

The lyrics paint a picture of a post-apocalyptic world which is filled with ash and dust and humans breathe in toxic chemicals - alluding to what a world might look like if we continue on with our current methods and means of production and consumption.

For example, the current population of the world is 7.6 billion human lives and is projected to reach 9.8 billion lives by 2050. This trend coupled with rising purchasing power of those in emerging markets such as China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, etc. means that we are putting significant strain on our world resources to meet global demand. The question that this song is provoking is how do we sustainably meet this growing demand for goods without destroying the environment and ourselves in the process?

 Imagine Dragons has woven into its lyric a deeply profound prospect, that while we, as a collective world, have been pursuing growth for the sake of economic prosperity, in so doing we have also sown the seeds of our own destruction. These seeds are now emerging as negative externalities such as waste water run- off, deforestation, air pollution, land degradation due to dumping and waste, and if we don’t change now then we may very well be “waking up to ash and dust”.

Muse points:

  • Thinking locally, what are some of the negative externalities produced by consumption and production patterns in your own community e.g. waste water run off, environmental racism, health related issues, excess traffic etc?

  • When thinking about your own purchasing choices, what is it that you buy most frequently that has the greatest harm on the environment around you?

  • Why is it so tough to change behavior in your community, do the norms in your community come from religion, family, community legacies, and how would you begin to change this?

Organizations working on this issue: