Meaning of “Bad Liar” by Imagine Dragons

“Bad Liar” is a single from American rock group Imagine Dragons. The track chronicles a tumultuous relationship that the band’s lead singer Dan Reynolds experienced with his wife musician Aja Volkman.

Verse 1

In the first verse of “Bad Liar”, the lyricist is comforting his “dear” as he acknowledges that it has been a “difficult year”.  However he then goes on to make heartless, contradictory and even erroneous statements.  First off he claims that “terrors don’t prey on innocent victims”, which is not only false but also implies that his “dear” deserves the “difficult year” she experienced.  Then he goes on to say he’s afraid of “integrity… and crocodile tears”, even though these two nouns are basically antonyms of each other.

Pre-Chorus

In the pre-chorus the lyricist once again acknowledges that he and his lover are going through a problematic time expresses his desire to make things better yet his powerlessness to do so.

Chorus

When you take the lyrics of the pre-chorus leading into the chorus, you could tell that the singer has a desire to make his partner “believe” that the issues plaguing the relationship would ultimately be rectified.  However in the chorus he once again adopts a disposition of hopelessness as he acknowledges that he is a “bad liar”.  In other words the lyricist himself doesn’t even believe that the issues in the relationship can be solved.

Verse 2

During the second verse, the singer seems to give the impression that he made a mistake by getting married – for instance questioning whether or not ‘happiness lies in a demand ring’ and then going on to say he has been ‘asking for problems, problems, problems’, as if to insinuate he brought this sorrow upon himself by seeking out the relationship in the first place.

Bridge

During the bridge the lyricists admits to his partner that he “can’t be what you want me to be”.  He follows this up by saying “believe me this one time”.  In other words he is pleading with her that even if she doesn’t believe anything else he says, she should be convinced that he can’t live up to her expectations for the relationship.

Chorus 2

The second chorus is identical to the first.  However the placement of it in the song is what perhaps makes its implied meaning more significant.  The chorus ends with the singer stating to his partner “now you’re free to go.”  However unlike the first chorus, this time that statement is followed by the lines of the outro which go “please believe me, please believe me”.

Ultimately, Imagine Dragons’ “Bad Liar” can be interpreted one of two ways.  On the surface it’s the tale of a person who lived to regret his decision to get married because he couldn’t live up to his partner’s expectations.  However, since the main themes of the track is his inability to tell the truth, it can be understood that anything he says is a lie.  So for instance when he’s telling his wife she’s “free to go” and then follows that up by begging her to believe him, he could actually be ‘lying’ and in turn want her to stay.

In general, according to Reynolds, “Bad Liar” is about his tumultuous relationship with Volkman. According to him, he and Volkman couldn’t fake it. They couldn’t lie to each other and tell each other that everything was fine in their marriage because things weren’t fine.

Facts about “Bad Liar”

  • “Bad Liar” was written by host of songwriters, including Imagine Dragons and singer Aja Volkman. Volkman is the mother of Dan Reynolds children. She and Reynolds got married in 2011. In 2018, the couple separated and began working on a divorce.
  • Reynolds and Volkman wrote this song before they were separated.
  • Record producer and songwriter Jorgen Odegard produced this song. He also co-wrote it.
  • “Bad Liar” was relased on November 6, 2018 as the fourth single from the album Origins. Origins is Imagine Dragons’ fourth studio album. The album also features the singles: “Natural“, “Zero” and “Machine“.
  • “Bad Liar” marks the first time Aja Volkman is collaborating with Imagine Dragons. However, it isn’t the first time Volkman is working with Reynolds. In 2010, the two formed the musical duo Egyptian.
  • It is noteworthy to mention that Selena Gomez also has a song titled “Bad Liar“. That song came out in May 2017.

Who sings the backing vocals on “Bad Liar”?

Aja Volkman provided the backing vocals on this track. So in addition to co-writing this song, she also contributes vocals to it.

Did Aja Volkman and Dan Reynolds eventually get a divorce?

According to Reynolds, he and Volkman went through a divorce but never signed the divorce papers. They began dating shortly before this track was released. As of 2018, Reynolds and Volkman have three daughters together.

Singer Aja Volkman

American singer and songwriter Aja Volkman.

Did Imagine Dragons shoot a music video for “Bad Liar”?

Yes. The video was directed by film director Ryan Reichenfeld. The aforementioned video can be viewed below:

21 Responses

  1. Larry D. Peed says:

    Beautiful Meaning song By Dan and the group Bad Lier is a song with meaning of love that falls apart. But as anyone don’t give up . On a family that has your babies cry at night for the mom and dad . They need both parents and love your kids like no parents can . Make your love life happy and your small kids even more . And the song has so much meaning. I would give my life for my sons as one is a Baby going to be 2 years old March 21st born in 2017 witch my ex left to move to Alabama with her parents a year and a half ago. I can only see my baby on facebook messenger and my exs other little now 7 year old son on there witch I raised him from 2 to 6 years old I miss him the most and he was my world. I hope I can see them both one day again to protect both of them. I hurt inside all I can do is help here from Virginia Beach. So this song means so much so love your kids and let themknow you do don’t let no hurt come to them at all. .

  2. Steve says:

    I interpret the meaning of the lyrics a bit different. Yes things are bad, but I read the lyrics as he is hurt by her. She is saying trust me darling and the chorus is him explaining that as much as he’d like to trust her, forget all the bad he is aware of, and act like everything is fine like it was but it’s not. He’s a bad liar. And he won’t be able to fake being happy and make her heart believe.

  3. Rick says:

    You read very little meaning into, what you call, “heartless, contradictory and even erroneous statements.” With a deeper interpretation, the statements are heartfelt, conflicted and as accurate as humanly possible, given the circumstances.

    If an individual is ambitious, perhaps a leader of a band, that person would likely have a very strong sense of destiny. A feeling of creating one’s own future, one’s own reality. A responsible person would take ownership of every meaningful consequence of that destined existence, regardless of their very human shortcomings.

    Recounting the relationship, every misgiving would, by nature, have to be his responsibility to amend, regardless of how he’d felt impinged on a personal level.
    In that environment, he has three fears; integrity, because when an opponent believes in them self, he would be petty to challenge it, as such with faith, since it is the ultimate expression of belief and crocodile tears, because anyone with a heart, must defer to the pain of another.

    He wanted her to believe, that despite the human frailties they both embodied, that together, through belief, they could rise above that level of existence and relating and I have to say that I agree, because belief trumps all. This is not to judge, it’s a matter of expressing and “getting it,” you do, or you don’t.

    There is also another interpretation about the meaning of the diamond ring. It is the accepted material symbol that validates a very spiritual relationship. In an enlightened, non materialistic society, a wedding ring can have many meanings that may actually be in conflict with the emotional and spiritual bond it was intended to celebrate.
    To say it another way, I lost the mother of my child, who I loved very much, to some shmuck with a fat diamond ring, that did not love her at all.

  4. Meg says:

    I got something completely different from Bad Liar. I heard that afraid of the relationship not being of integrity, can he have faith? or is it based on the crocodile tears and being disingenuous? . He is telling her that he has many faults and doesn’t want to expose them all and is having an internal struggle not showing all of them but, he’s a Bad Liar. HE wants her to look into his eyes and make her believe in them. Now that they know the thruth’s, she is free to go but if, she can accept the faults and look past them then, it will be perfect paradise.

    • Grace says:

      I love this interpretation! It’s what I thought the song meant too. There’s problems, and he may want to deny that he does not want to give her paradise, but it’s there in his eyes if she can see it and believe him. His lips may say she’s free to go… but his eyes tell a different story. He’s a bad liar.

  5. Lina Muller says:

    I believe it’s a about a father who doesn’t love the mother of his children , bound in a Marriage( that his children asked him to perform)with the mother and subsequently found the love of his life but is locked into this marriage by fear of losing his children and his life’s work which is the legacy to his children)

  6. M says:

    Meg and Rick nailed it. 😉

  7. Whitney says:

    Oh hush my dear, it’s been a difficult year
    And terrors don’t prey on innocent victims
    Trust me darlin’, trust me darlin’
    • “Oh hush my dear it’s been a difficult year”: He is starting by pointing out what she probably already knows. That is has been a bad year for both of them, but deep down they both probably knew the cause of things.
    • “Terrors don’t prey on innocent victims” gives the impression that this didn’t just stem from nothing. There have been problems along the way that they have endured and that have gotten them to the point that they are at now.
    • By him saying, “trust me darlin” he wants to give her comfort but at the same time assure her that he knows this is what is best.

    It’s been a loveless year
    I’m a man of three fears
    Integrity, faith and crocodile tears

    Trust me darlin’, trust me darlin’
    • “It’s been a loveless year”: This past year he (or maybe even both of them) have lost feelings for each other.
    • “I’m a man of three fears. Integrity, faith & crocodile tears”: These three things are what he fears or wants to avoid the most. They probably make him feel uncomfortable in addressing them or committing to something.
    Integrity: he fears having to be up front & honest with her even though it is what is morally right
    Faith: he fears believing in something so strong that it actually becomes part of who he is as a person
    Crocodile tears: he hates the idea of being fake or having to pretend

    So look me in the eyes
    Tell me what you see
    Perfect paradise
    Tearing at the seams
    • “So look me in the eyes, tell me what you see”: He is telling her to stop and really take a minute to look at things from his perspective and focus enough to understand that this is the point that they have reached.
    • “Perfect paradise, tearing at the seams”: He wants her to see their timeline of what has gone wrong. “Perfect paradise” relates to the beginning of the relationship when they were happy
    and in love. “Tearing at the seams” relates to where it has been torn apart and damaged. The love has fallen apart over time.
    I wish I could escape it
    I don’t want to fake it
    I wish I could erase it
    Make your heart believe

    But I’m a bad liar
    Bad liar
    Now you know
    Now you know
    I’m a bad liar
    Bad liar
    Now you know
    You’re free to go
    • “I wish I could escape it”: he wishes he could get away from the way he feels and change it
    • “I don’t want to fake it”: but he doesn’t want to keep being in a relationship where he has to pretend that he loves her. He is tired of having to just fake it and go through the motions every day pretending that he is happy.
    • “I wish I could erase it, make your heart believe”: he wishes he could erase everything that had happened so that he didn’t have to feel like he needed to end things. “Make your heart believe” insinuates that deep down even she knew this was coming or maybe even saw signs along the way. He wishes that the emotions never surfaced that got her to see that he had stopped loving her. He is a bad liar in the sense that he can’t fake it anymore without her really seeing how he feels. “Now you know” is a sense of relief that he has laid it all out on the table for her and now she can see what all he has been keeping inside from her. “You’re free to go” shows that he wants her to be happy without having to worry about hurting him. He is releasing her emotionally from the relationship because he knows he couldn’t give her what she really deserved and wanted. He is telling her it is okay to move on.

    Did all my dreams never mean one thing
    Does happiness lie in a diamond ring
    • Everyone always kind of wants to grow up and get married. In his dreams is where he envisioned getting married and starting that part of his life. By him saying, “did all my dreams never mean one thing, does happiness lie in a diamond ring” he is saying that rushing into marriage just to have the experience wasn’t all it was really about and that there is more to happiness and keeping a relationship going than just the materialistic things.
    Oh I’ve been asking, for
    Oh I’ve been asking, for problems, problems, problems
    • By him losing feelings and love for her, is he asking for problems. Problems with the divorce, problems with being hurt, and problems with the possibility of her being angry about what he is telling her. He knew problems were a result of losing feelings along the way. He was eventually going to have to face the consequences for being the one to back out of the relationship.

    I wage my war, on the world inside
    I take my gun to the enemy’s side
    • He has been at war with himself dealing with how he feels. He is tired of faking his happiness and deciding on whether or not he wanted to come forward and hurt her, but at the same time, he was tired of being happy himself. This probably indicates all the emotions that he has already processed and felt (guilt, sadness, fear, etc.) from going back and forth on whether or not to end things. “Taking my gun to the enemy’s side” is him coming to her with everything. Going up to an enemy is an uncomfortable feeling and you never know how things are going to go or turn out and he probably feels this way about having to go against someone that he had loved and been with.
    Oh I’ve been asking for (trust me darlin’)
    Oh I’ve been asking (trust me darlin’), for problems, problems, problems
    • Again, he knew all these feelings would eventually lead to the decision of him having to make a choice. He knew the problems that would arise from him telling her the truth and that this was the result of his feelings and what he was coming to terms with

    So look me in the eyes
    Tell me what you see
    Perfect paradise
    Tearing at the seams
    I wish I could escape it
    I don’t want to fake it
    I wish I could erase it
    Make your heart believe

    But I’m a bad liar
    Bad liar
    Now you know
    Now you know
    I’m a bad liar
    Bad liar
    Now you know
    You’re free to go

    I can’t breathe
    I can’t be
    I can’t be what you want me to be
    Believe me this one time, believe me
    • He is telling her that he can’t give her what she is looking for in a person or relationship anymore. He can’t just mold himself into something he isn’t just to make her happy. “Believe me this one time” is his way of telling her if she were to ever believe anything that he said, believe him this time. He is stressing the fact to her that he can’t give her what she wants and that it is over.

    I’m a bad liar
    Bad liar
    Now you know
    Now you know
    I’m a bad liar
    Bad liar
    Now you know
    You’re free to go

    Please believe me
    Please believe me

    Video interpretation: The video starts out with a girl walking into a school and seeing a man slumped over and hanging in the air. This is him carrying around the stress, guilt, hurt and other emotions of trying to hold onto something that he knows is gone and it is weighing him down. She walks around him and starts to dance. The moves are more slow and pronounced like she is taking her time to really do it right. This can represent the beginning of the relationship. Maybe he thought he wasn’t good enough or struggled with depression or maybe never even really thought about the idea of being in love with someone. With her dancing around him, it’s her attempt to “fix” him and try to make him happy. She is taking her time and moving slow as you would at the beginning of a relationship to make it perfect. When she sees that there is still no reaction (emotion), she gives a little more to try to get something out of him. When the scene moves to another room, this could indicate another step or different spot in their relationship. She continues to dance, and this time lifts his head to try to look at her and she still isn’t able to get anything out of him. This shows that she is giving even more of herself to try to make him happy and notice her which can be translated to show his lack of involvement in the relationship and his unwillingness to put forth the effort to fix things. She so badly wants him to give her some sign that he is “there” emotionally. There is a part where she lays on the table for a few seconds which can possibly represent her getting “tired” or needing a break from trying to save things. She quickly picks back up which shows she isn’t ready to give up on things. She picks up the pace on her dancing again after stepping back to the table and it’s almost as if she’s saying “hey! Here I am! This is what I have to offer! Notice me! Love me! Give me SOMETHING”. She seems to be hurt and frustrated with him at this point but she is still not giving up. Her sitting on the table is a realization to her that nothing she does is good enough and that she can’t reach him like she wants to. At this point she sees that she may have to give up because nothing she does is getting through to him. The next scene shows her in the gym by herself and him slowly moving towards her. This can be him not wanting to fully let go just yet or maybe he is just giving something, even if it is little, to avoid her getting hurt by realizing that he doesn’t care. She turns to see him and it is as if that little move meant everything to her. He gave her just enough to not give up on him and gave her hope that there was still a possibility of saving things. Her dance moves become more pronounced and the pace picks up which seems to be a burst of her efforts that she still has to save him (the relationship) and she is giving all she has in her to accomplish this. She picks his hand up almost to give him the opportunity to take his “move” towards her just a little further. She is begging for something in him to show her that sign that she is so desperately looking for that he wants things too and it is not just her trying. She lays her head on his shoulder and you can see that there is some realization that her efforts won’t ever work or matter. She has some sense of relief to this, but still tries even though she has pretty much given up and accepted things. It seems hard for her to walk away so she continues to still try until she stops and looks exhausted and out of breath indicating that she is tired and worn out from trying so hard. Her final bow is her way of saying that she is done and that it is over and this causes him to drop to the ground showing that everything that has been holding him back or keeping him down has been released. They are both “free” of the burden of putting in so much effort on something that makes them both unhappy.

  8. Brent says:

    I’m not going to address all of what I hear or have read here. I think Rick’s interpretation is very good. Lyrics often are shrouded in metaphor and don’t always tell a succinct story. The need for hooks and rhyme are important and often influence the choice of words. I like the fear of “crocodile tears.” To me, he is saying he is afraid of her crying because it means that he has hurt her emotionally, and probably not intentionally, maybe it goes both ways. He is caught between trying to accept things and be honest, and sometimes lying to protect feelings of guild or shame of not living up to his own ideas about integrity and faith. Being honest (truthful) sometimes is hurtful and balancing those is challenging.

    • Lola says:

      Saying that “lyrics are often shrouded in metaphors and don’t always tell a succinct story” and then mentioning that “fear of crocodile tears” as used in the lyrics means that he is “afraid of her crying because it means he has hurt her” seems contradicting. You did not interprete “crocodile tears” as a metaphor, but rather in a straightforward manner to mean tears. I believe that to imply a metaphor being used in that line would mean that “crocodile tears” was used to represent the idea of pretense; or rather, his fear and disapproval of pretense and faking that the relationship between then is okay at that point.

  9. Bsandra says:

    Comfort song to us going through difficulties in relationship

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think it can be interpreted differently depending on your own feelings or hurt that u have had in life

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