"Believer" — a track on the 2017 Imagine Dragons album Evolve — is more than just a hit rock song.
Dan Reynolds, the Imagine Dragons front man, revealed that he wrote "Believer" around the time of the 2016 U.S. presidential election alongside out songwriter Justin Tranter, whose queer visibility in the face of adversity helped inspire the empowering lyrics.
At the time, Tranter "was telling me about the fear in his heart about the future. And we were writing these songs about how we want to change and how we wanted to speak our truth no matter what came our way," Reynolds said.
The lyrics to the song — written by Reynolds, Tranter, Wayne Sermon, Ben McKee, Daniel Platzman, and the songwriting duo Mattman & Robin — read, "Oh let the bullets fly, oh let them rain / My life, my love, my drive, it came from / Pain / You made me a, you made me a believer, believer."
Reynolds discussed the song at a musical event organized by GLAAD Wednesday on the eve of Spirit Day, an annual event that fights the bullying of LGBTQ youth. There, Reynolds praised the power of the visibility of Tranter, who was standing next to him onstage at the Sayers Club in Los Angeles. In his career, Tranter has written lyrics for the music industry's top names, including Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, and Kelly Clarkson; he was also formerly the lead singer of the band Semi Precious Weapons.
"Justin has [spoken his truth] his entire life," Reynolds lauded. "[He] wore his high heels onstage. And this was way before record industries were OK with it. People were telling him, 'Could you sing a little less gay? Could you just not wear high heels onstage with Semi-Precious Weapons?' And he’s always done it. He’s a stone, and his ripples will go out and affect artists all over the world."
In response, Tranter — a GLAAD board member who was hosting the event — praised the advocacy of Reynolds, an ally who has raised millions of dollars in support of queer youth through his LoveLoud concert. Reynolds was raised Mormon, and his journey to speaking out against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its anti-LGBTQ policies was chronicled in the HBO documentary Believer, which was named after the song mentioned above.
"Thank you for being the definition of an ally," said Tranter, who defined an ally as one who listens to and supports the voices of members of marginalized communities. "This motherfucker listens perfectly, and he supports like no other white straight male I have ever met in my life." Afterward, Tranter performed a duet of "Believer" with Reynolds onstage.
In addition to Reynolds, Darren Criss, Sarah Aarons, Shea Diamond, and Vincint performed at the musical fundraiser, which raised more than $400,000 for LGBTQ youth. Donors included Nick Jonas, Ariadne Getty, Derek Hough, and August Getty. Reynolds and Criss each donated $50,000.
Other celebrities in attendance included Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why), Tommy Dorfman (13 Reasons Why), JoJo, Trace Lysette (Transparent), Parson James, Bea Miller, Daya, Laura Marano, Raymond Braun, Jacob Tobia, Alma, Shawn Wasabi, Willam, Wes Period, Aaron Bay-Schuck (CEO of Warner Bros. Records), and Sarah Kate Ellis (president of GLAAD). The evening's sponsors were CAA, Ketel One, Sony/ATV, the Ariadne Getty Foundation, Benny Blanco, Warner/Chappell, and Warner Bros. Records.
Watch Reynolds and Tranter perform "Believer" below.