The Hit Songs Deconstructed Wire




If you want to see an example of a song that is meticulously well crafted on all fronts, then look no further than Imagine Dragons current hit, Radioactive.

This is a song that has it all – infectious, engaging and memorable melodies, multiple “payoffs,” multiple “magic moments,” deep, engaging lyrics that can be interpreted in a multitude of ways, stellar vocals, multiple sub-genre influences and the list goes on and on.

In this article we’re going to take a look at one of Radioactive’s core attributes that put the song over the top – its “magic moments.”

What I mean by “magic moments” are certain aspects of a song that take the listener’s experience to a level far beyond what they were expecting.

This could be a particular lyric, the manner in which a particular lyric or line is sung, a synth effect, an unexpected piano or guitar progression, etc…  Just something that makes the listener go WOW!!! and takes the song to the next level.

In the case of Radioactive, there were actually 2 “magic moments”:

The “Gasp”

The first is the “gasp” natured inhale/exhale that occurs between the first verse and first pre-chorus following the line “I’m breathing in the chemicals.” Yes, the lyrics are effective in the sense that they tell you what’s happening to the protagonist within the story, but then when you actually HEAR THE PROCESS of him taking that deep gasp of air, it takes it to a whole new level far beyond what just hearing a description could ever do.  It catches the listener by surprise the first time that they hear it, and still maintains a high engagement value with each subsequent listen.

The “Vocal Jump”

The second is that lead vocal octave jump that occurs near the beginning of the chorus.  Remember, there was nothing really all that intense going on with the vocal melody during the verse and pre-chorus sections, and the monotone B delivery of the lyrics “I’m wakin’ up” at the onset of the chorus continued on in the same fashion.

But what follows is that ultra-intense octave jump on the lyrics “I feel it…” that I guarantee caught you off guard and sent shivers down your spine the first time that you heard it.  It’s ultra-intense, and you weren’t expecting it.  What’s really “magic” about it is that it still retains the same impact with each subsequent listen, even though you know it’s coming.

Graphical representation of the chorus vocal melody


Providing your song with that “extra something” that puts it over the top can spell the difference between landing that deal or being passed over. It’s ultra-competitive out there as you well know, so go that extra mile – you’ll be glad you did!