Meaning of “Zero” by Imagine Dragons

“Zero” is a 2018 track by the renowned American pop rock band Imagine Dragons. This song is featured in the 2018 American animated comedy film Ralph Breaks the Internet. The lyrics of “Zero” touch on the struggles and dark moments in the life of the narrator (Dan Reynolds) who constantly feels like “a zero”.

“27 years and I’ve nothing to show”

From the lyrics above, we find out that the narrator is a 27 year old man. Having lived for 27 years and achieved nothing, he feels like a complete loser. Deep inside, he is empty, depressed and feels absolutely worthless. All he looks for is a way out of his misery.

Lyrics are real

In an interview Imagine Dragons had with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe, frontman Dan Reynolds revealed that the words of the song are autobiographical.

According to him, in writing the song, he went to a very vulnerable place in his life as a kid. He revealed that growing up, he wasn’t one of the popular kids. He was the type of kid who lived a lonely life. Here are Reynolds’ exact words to Lowe about the lyrics of “Zero”:

Dan Reynolds' interview with Zane Lowe

More about “Zero”

This song was written with the protagonist of a 2018 Disney flick entitled “Ralph Breaks the Internet” in mind. We don’t know much about that movie. But what we do know is that Dan Reynolds was able to constructively contribute to the composition of this hit because he was able to identify with said character. 

And the way he explained that relation is by recollecting how he himself, during his school days, “was… not a popular kid” by any stretch of the imagination. And as for Wreck-It Ralph himself, he is described by Wikipedia as being a “soft-hearted man”.

Lyrics of “Zero”

And it is beneficial to have such a foundation to work on when analyzing “Zero”, because straight from the onset Reynolds and co. attack in a very metaphorical kind of way. And it’s hard to describe the character the vocalist is portraying in just one word. But if we could explain him in two words, as portrayed in the verses, those would be timid and pessimistic. 

Indeed in the latter regard, he comes off as one to those types of individuals who may be convinced that he is not going to live to see an old or even middle age.

So it’s like he needs help. But at the same time, he’s not really on it like that. Or put differently, the narrator does not appear to be the type to, say, join an intervention program. He doesn’t want any of the run-of-the-mill, ultimately ineffective advice that is usually afforded to sufferers of depression. But such a disposition, as expressed in the pre-chorus, may be further indicative of his melancholy.

Narrator feels like “Zero”

And in the chorus, he more or less confirms our analysis of the first verse. He does in fact feel like a “zero”, which is basically another way of saying that he has low self-esteem. However, as relayed in the bridge, this isn’t a case of him moping or anything like that.  Instead he’s resolved to accept and shall we say make the best out of his meek existence. 

And he’s also instructing other ‘zeros’ to do the same. In fact going back to the real-life story of Dan Reynolds, he basically used the inspiration of being an outcast to focus on his music. And we all know how that ambition turned out for him.

And when you read between the lines, even though the narrator may not be keen on receiving advice, he is compelled to give some, using his own life as an example. Or perhaps more actually, it can be put forth that he is empathizing with his emotionally-downtrodden ilk. And fundamentally, what it appears he is saying is that he has learned how to balance his depression and sense of alienation with more steady thoughts.

Keep it Real

One of the main ideas being put forth is this concept of keeping it real. It would appear that, at least for the time being, the singer has accepted depression as his lot. But that doesn’t mean he has a defeatist attitude, even if he is pessimistic. Rather he feels that accepting his estrangement, i.e. accepting that fact that he is a “zero”, is the sound course of action in terms of effectively dealing with the matter at hand.

But as far as the thesis sentiment goes, he wants the general audience to be able to relate to how it feels to have low self-esteem. It’s almost as if he’s saying ‘depression is no joke’. And all factors considered, it would seem in that regard that he is speaking directly on behalf of Wreck-It Ralph. 

In other words, this song sets the stage as Ralph being a character who perhaps doesn’t think too highly of himself. And accordingly, in drawing from how he felt having gone through something similar, Dan wants to instantly evoke compassion for him.

Facts about “Zero”

The official release date of this song was on 19 September 2018. Most notably it served as the lead single from “Ralph Breaks the Internet (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)”. And concurrently it acted as the second single from the Imagine Dragons’ album entitled “Origin”.

Imagine Dragons’ mainstays Ben McKee, Daniel Platzman, Dan Reynolds and Wayne Sermon wrote this song alongside its producer, John Hill. And it is based specifically on the Disney animated film Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) and more directly its main character.

Moreover the music video to this track, as directed by Dave Meyers, served the purpose of promoting the film.

In creating this song, the band’s frontman, Reynolds, was inspired by the sound of The Cure, a well-known British rock band.

The first time Imagine Dragons performed this song live was on 22 September 2018.  The location was Las Vegas, and the event was called the iHeartRadio Music Festival.

“Zero” managed to score a number one on the Belgium Ultratip Flanders chart. It also, perhaps most notably, broke the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot Rock & Alternative Songs list, in addition to being certified platinum in Italy. And overall it charted in nearly 10 countries.

Below is a clip of Imagine Dragons performing “Zero” live for the first time:

Is this song about suicide?

Many have said that certain parts of the lyrics touch slightly on suicide. According to them, the lines below from the song’s chorus support their argument:

“Let me show you what it’s like to always feel, feel
Like I’m empty and there’s nothing really real, real
I’m looking for a way out”

While the lyrics of “Zero” deal heavily with the issue of depression, suicide is a far stretch!

The “Origins” Album

Imagine Dragons released “Origins” on 9th November, 2018, as their fourth studio album.

Many composers and producers including the band members themselves came together in making the release of this album successful. The album has a collective length of forty minutes, two seconds and was recorded between November 2017 and October 2018. The categorization of the songs in this album is Pop.

The album has significantly three (3) parts. The standard edition (containing 12 tracks), the Deluxe and Japanese containing 3 bonus tracks and the international version of the bonus tracks. With the inclusion of the bonus tracks, the album has a total length of fifty-five minutes, thirty-four seconds.

5 singles were released from the album. They are:

7 Responses

  1. jordan says:

    i got to be honest it really explains me and im in 6th grade

  2. Jeramey Metzger says:

    Hey my dude remember that life will get better, I have been there. No matter what shit you are going through Life sucks sometimes, just keep plugin along it will turn around. You are important, even if you dont think so.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Instead of it being about suicide – although I definitely see where that could be an interpretation – I almost looked at it as being stuck in a cycle and wanting a way out of the cycle. You know? Almost like breaking through the glass, pushing out of the box, jumping off of the merry go round. However you want to see it. I think when you look at it in that sense, it’s just as relatable while also giving the view that there /is/ a way out of feeling like a zero.

  4. Nona deploom says:

    I agree. I think suicide is a stretch. Why turn such a great song into something dark and morbid? Yes, crows can mean death but death can mean change. And I don’t get that he felt so alone in that he says maybe this has happened to you. I think he’s saying more like what Jeremy said.

  5. Anonymous says:

    For me, this song always reminded me of Nico di Angelo from Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus for some reason. The song just adds up so well to his life, I can’t help but wonder if it’s more than a coincidence.

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