The posthumous LP of the late superstar DJ suggests that we know less that we thought we did about Avicii, an artist struggling in both heart and art, but ultimately the record honor’s the late DJ’s EDM legacy.
The Swedish DJ, whose real name is Tim Bergling, was found dead in his Oman hotel room in April 2018 at the age of 28 and for once, the entire world collectively mourned the loss of such a young and remarkable EDM icon whose music has changed and invigorated the Scandinavian EDM/dance scene. His grieving family eulogised “a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions… He really struggled with thoughts about meaning, life, happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace” and it is with this that Avicii’s family and estate decided to release a final and posthumous album to preserve Avicii’s memory (all profits from the album will go towards the Tim Bergling Foundation, which was set up following Avicii’s suicide, for mental health awareness).
At the time of his death, press releases hinted that an upcoming album was near-complete before Bergling’s death although his co-producers have said otherwise. Still, many of the songs feel like stems to something bigger – half of the 12 tracks are well under three minutes and only two songs extend past four minutes total. Yet what is great upon a first listen is that these “song stems” offer us a small pathway into the career that Bergling has well established, namely, trying to meld EDM’s bliss with that of pop and mainstream music’s bliss. The album boasts some big name collaborations (Chris Martin, Imagine Dragons) and various reunions of previously successful collaborations (Aloe Blacc, Vargas and Lagola). Combined with Avicii’s archetypal songwriting formula – upbeat piano chord builds, caption ready lyrics about life, love and death, as well as the EDM drops – remains the unswerving guiding light.
The Chris Martin-featuring “Heaven” follows this aforementioned song structure to a tee. A certain lyric by the Coldplay frontman, “I think I just died and went to heaven” has taken on in the wake of Avicii’s passing and it’s an evident example of how unclear the amount of direction Avicii gave in regards to the majority of the lyrics we hear throughout the posthumous release. In Blacc’s collaboration, the sunshiny synth “SOS,” Avicii wrote “Can you hear me? S.O.S. / Help me put my mind to rest,” it is clear that some of the songs have long been in development. Avicii himself, in an interview from 2013, said that writing lyrics wasn’t his strong suit but his lyrics are not what has made him successful in the past decade. His speciality lays in crafting the kind of chirpy melodies that could drive any one of his EDM-laced bangers in the warm embrace of mainstream radio stations worldwide.
Over the course of the dozen tracks that compromise his album, the impression you get is one that ultimately preaches to the converted. It is a posthumous album that appears to be curated by the artist’s estate and family but one that is designed to please the die-hard fans that have brought the late DJ so much success. When the record does ever-so-slightly veer from its creator’s tried-and-tested structure, such as the Middle-Eastern inspired “Tough Love” or the tolerable soft-rock approach adopted on “Excuse Me Mr. Sir.” With these songs, you almost forget the consistent formula that drives Avicii’s songs, offering a glimpse into an artist that struggled with creating and branching away from the sound that made him so popular to begin with.
TIM is unlikely to create new Avicii fans or win over any existing EDM-deniers over but the tracks on the album are a lovely addition to Avicii’s back catalogue will come as great comfort to both the fans and family of the late DJ. For an artist whose music aimed for maximum accessibility, often to a fault, Avicii should be remembered as an innovator. And what is sad most about this collection of tracks is that it seems like he was just getting started.
Recommended Song(s): “SOS” (featuring Aloe Blacc), “Tough Love” (featuring Agnes and Vargas & Lagola), “Hold the Line” (featuring A R I Z O N A), “Fades Away” (featuring Noonie Bao)
Released: June 7, 2019.
Genre(s): EDM, pop, house.
Label: Avicii, Universal.
Featured Artist(s): Vargas & Lagola, Aloe Blacc, Agnes, Joe Janiak, Bonn, A R I Z O N A, Imagine Dragons, Noonie Bao.
Vinyl Edition: N/A. (as of publishing)