I'm Clifford Stumme, and I use literary analysis and research to explain the deeper meanings of pop songs. Feel free to leave a comment or to email me at with questions or ideas!

What does "Thunder" by Imagine Dragons mean?

What does "Thunder" by Imagine Dragons mean?

"Thunder" Lyrics Meaning

Just a few days ago, Imagine Dragons released "Thunder," and I have to say that I really like it. I remember hearing "Radioactive" for the first time. There was a girl I liked, and she, a few friends of ours, and I sat on her parents' living room floor sharing music. She brought out Imagine Dragons, and while relationally she didn't change my life (I was only in the area for a few months), musically she might have. I was interning for a US senator at the time, and I remember pulling up Grooveshark and listening to Imagine Dragons songs non-stop, and I feel like I've never stopped.

Of course, that was back when they only just had Night Visions out. They later released Smoke + Mirrors,  and I never got very excited about it, but I've really been enjoying the singles from their upcoming albums. "Believer" was really good and deep as well--I've already explained it--and I'm now intrigued by "Thunder." 

I honestly think the music of "Thunder" sounds, for lack of a better word, "doinky." It's bouncy, and the weird autotuned voice is a bit much for me, but it's unlike a lot of what I'm used to, so I'm trying to stay open to new things. Apart from that and the excessive amount of lyrical repetition that doesn't play in thematically, so it sounds lazy, I'm very interested in "Thunder" and can't wait to get into its deeper meanings. 

Psst! You can also listen to my podcast explanation of the song! Subscribe on iTunes for more including an explanation of Evolve!

"Thunder": I Made It Because I Dreamed I Could

So, the lyrics of "Thunder" aren't very complicated, and the song, in fact, only has three unique stanzas. The basic premise is that Dan Reynolds is taking us back to when he was a child and a dreamer. Back then, he dreamed of the amazing things he wanted to do and didn't let his peers (who didn't bother to dream) keep him back. The idea of the title of "Thunder" is that when he was a kid, he was "lightning before the thunder." He was dreaming--there was that flash of light--but the rumbling thunder of success was coming.

Verse 1 

Just a young gun with a quick fuse
I was uptight, wanna let loose
I was dreaming of bigger things in
Wanna leave my own life behind
Not a yes-sir, not a follower
Fit the box, fit the mold
Have a seat in the foyer, take a number
I was lightning before the thunder

Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds sings that he was a "young gun with a quick fuse" perhaps because he was quick-tempered or high energy. He did what he wanted to and acknowledges that he was "uptight" and wanted to "let loose" because he had so much pent up energy. He dreamed "of bigger things" than his peers and wanted to "leave [his] own life behind." He was unhappy with where he was and wanted to be in a better place.

He never saw himself as a "yes-sir"--someone who obeys tells authorities what they want to hear--and didn't want to be a "follower." He wanted to blaze his own trail. He determined not to "[f]it the box" or "the mold." And even though he was told to "[h]ave a seat in the foyer" and "take a number," he wasn't going to obey. The "seat" and "number" could refer to his attempts to break into the music industry as he was trying out or auditioning for different opportunities, but they could also be referring to how he approached his entire life. 

It's the end of this stanza where Imagine Dragons tells us that Reynolds saw himself as "lightning before the thunder"--that idea before it's executed--the pre-warning of something greater to come.


Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder
Thunder, thunder

Being so repetitive, there's not much to be said for the chorus. It mostly capitalizes on the ideas laid down in the last lyric of the first verse and gives the effect of Reynolds and Imagine Dragons mulling over the idea.

Verse 2

Kids were laughing in my classes
While I was scheming for the masses
Who do you think you are
Dreaming 'bout being a big star?
You say you're basic, you say you're easy
You're always riding in the back seat
Now I'm smiling from the stage
While you were clapping in the nose bleeds

In the second verse, Reynolds and Imagine Dragons share more details about growing up as a dreamer. Reynolds tells us about kids in his (perhaps) high school classes who would laugh at him or goof off while he "was scheming for the masses"--planning to create something that millions would enjoy. 

Others would ask him, "Who do you think you are / Dreaming 'bout being a big star?" but he ignored them and calls out people who make excuses for their lack of effort--those who excuse themselves by putting themselves into boxes like "basic" or "easy"--perhaps a reference to "easygoing." He tells them they're always "riding in the back seat," but because he didn't "take it easy," he's "smiling from the stage" while they can't even afford good seats to his shows and have to sit "clapping in the nose bleeds." 

Deeper Meaning of "Thunder" by Imagine Dragons: The Thunder of Success

I honestly empathize with this song a lot. I feel like I'm one of those people who dreams of big things and wants to go to new and better places, but I'm frustrated because my surroundings and my personal limits keep me from being everything I think I can be. 

Those things aren't necessarily bad, and they keep me humble, but that's not what Imagine Dragons focuses on in the lyrics of "Thunder." The meaning of this song is all about that success that comes after the "lightning of wanting to be somewhere else." That thunder rolls in, washes over everything. Everyone forgets the lightning and can experience nothing else but that thunder as long as it lasts. 

That's really what "Thunder" is about, and I'd love to know what you think about Imagine Dragons' new song. Comment below and let me know your thoughts. 

Check out other Imagine Dragons explanations here: 
Whatever It Takes
Rise Up
Walking the Wire
Mouth of the River
I Don't Know Why

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