This morning, we learned about the passing of Tim Bergling, the Swedish DJ, producer and icon known worldwide as Avicii. He was just 28 years old.
Rising to prominence during the EDM boom of the early 2010s, Avicii became one of the first artists to achieve mainstream success outside the confines of the genre. He arrived with the seminal progressive house single “Levels” in 2011, just as EDM began to crest. The track features a brilliant sample of Etta James’s “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” and its razor-sharp synth lines became ubiquitous in clubs and college dorms. It remains a festival mainstay even today.
A debut album, True, followed in 2013. At the Ultra Music Festival that same year, the then-23-year-old DJ performed alongside singers Aloe Blacc and Mac Davis, backed by what was essentially a country band. Both live and on his albums, Avicii demonstrated a willingness to take musical risks, and these genre-blending experiments guided mainstream dance music to brave new places.
Avicii was an EDM superstar whose career trajectory mirrored — and arguably dictated — the rise and plateau of the genre in lockstep. Kygo, a DJ inspired and later championed by Avicii, filled in at the 2014 Tomorrowland festival after failing health forced Avicii to cancel his appearance. Kygo showcased a new tropical house style that would go on to rival EDM in popularity.
When Avicii announced his intention to retire from touring in 2016, it signaled the end of an era in modern dance music. Soon afterward, Mike Posner released his song “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” which references Avicii by name in its opening lines. Posner’s single climbed to number one on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart, turning its subject into a household name. While he remained offstage and out of the spotlight in subsequent years, Avicii continued to release new music; his 2017 EP Avīci (01) is easily some of the best material of his career.
It goes without saying that Avicii was taken from us far too soon. But while the dance community mourns his loss, we can be certain that his influence will be lasting and forever recognized.