Saying Goodbye to a Dance Music Legend

Ever since Avicii passed I had been wanting to sit down and write this, but I needed to find a good time to let the emotions flow back and reflect on Avicii and his loss. As 2018 comes to a close now seemed like the appropriate time. For an EDM fan much closer to 30 than 20, the loss of Avicii reminds me of the feeling I got when I finished the final Harry Potter book. This series I had started as a young boy had guided me through my growth into a young man. Then suddenly it was finished and that chapter of my life was over. In the same way, Avicii had introduced me to dance music somewhere in that next chapter of my life and his music grew as I grew. In fact, Avicii was born a mere 2 days before me. His progress through life quite literally coincided with my own, albeit at a very different level. Now with his tragic passing I am sadly forced to realize another chapter of my life is over.

My Introduction to Avicii

For a great many in the dance music community, Avicii was our first taste of this new musical world. Back around 2010 I was in college listening to mostly hip-hop and indie rock, playing party DJ for my fraternity. Back during that time Asher Roth’s “I Love College” was the biggest song in my world, and on the hunt for similar “college tunes” I came across this track called “Seek Bromance“. That’s literally the way it happened. At first I was not interested because of how different it was, but the melody had already seeped into my mind without me even realizing it.

Suddenly I found myself scrolling to the BPM channel on XM Radio and noticing more tracks from this Avicii or Tim Berg as he was sometimes known. From there I discovered more tracks like his “Sweet Dreams” remix, “My Feelings For You” and his “Drowning” remix. The infectious melodies slowly took over, as the most musically-forward people around were all listening to Avicii and other EDM. From there I discovered Swedish House Mafia, Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, and the rest is history.

Back then “Levels” was known simply as “ID” and I didn’t even realize ‘ID’ was just a placeholder, but I was tracking its development constantly. It went for a long time as a purely instrumental track before that classic vocal was added in. Various versions of “Levels” popped up on Limewire or various other download/streaming sites and blogs along with countless other ID tracks from Avicii. Any EDM fan of that period probably downloaded dozens of demos, edits, IDs, or even fake tracks from the Swede. Some of those ID tracks like “Stay With You” were never released, and now who knows if they ever will be.

I finally got to see Avicii in 2011 at a local show in Gainesville, Florida back during Avicii’s progressive peak, and it is by far my favorite performance of his that I was able to see. It was that classic Avicii liveset like his legendary Pier 94 set that many regard as his best ever. In this set many of the most popular tunes in dance music were introduced and mashed up for the first time. It was magical and energetic and uplifting – Avicii at his absolute best. Even as Avicii’s music shifted towards a more pop and folksy sound at times, it never lost its strong emotional and melodic resonance. The lyrics and the melodies were still as infectious as they ever were, even if the livesets never quite matched up with those 2011 ones. All told, I saw Avicii live 3 times (Ultra 2015 and 2016 being the other 2).

When The First Problems Arose

I can still distinctly recall the feeling in 2014 when news hit that Avicii was hospitalized and forced to cancel his Ultra headlining slot. At the time nobody knew what was going on, but it sounded bad. Rumors flew and the crowds waiting in line at Ultra on Saturday literally didn’t know who would be performing that night. As Ultra tweeted out news that Deadmau5 would be stepping in to perform, the seriousness of the situation became even more clear. Rumors continued to spread there was a grim feeling in the EDM world that at any time we might get news that Avicii had died and joined that revered 27 club. You could feel the sense of worry in the air as Deadmau5 performed in Avicii’s place and played a cheeky callback to Levels in his own set.

That Dreadful Week

The very week of his passing, the True Stories documentary had begun leaking online and I had just watched it days earlier. The documentary paints a picture of the mental struggles Avicii went through to bring us his beautiful melodies. It also traced my own discovery in dance music, as Avicii’s career growth paced the EDM explosion and mirrored my own trajectory into the world of EDM and music festivals. Suddenly everything came into clear focus including the hospitalizations and missed performances, and I saw that Avicii was damaged but he was on the mend. The documentary left me feeling that he had turned a page and we would soon see a flourishing new Avicii. It’s much harder to watch now, seeing how it all rings so false.

All of that made April 20th hit even harder, and I thought back to 2014 and everything I had just seen in the documentary. It was soul crushing to realize that the demons he was battling won, and that he would end up in that dreaded 27 club after all. It’s macabre to say but his passing cemented his status as a legend, and at this point he is far and away THE legend of EDM. Everybody who worked with him was in awe of his genius and talent, and he still had so much music to share with us. The live tributes that followed in the weeks after his death were tear-jerkers for certain, but like many it sent me on a mission to rediscover Avicii and his discography. Through that I was reminded of the incredible albums, tracks, edits, and IDs in his library and how his music will live on.

His passing brought a much needed mental health focus to the dance music community which we chronicled in our end of year editorial. If anything positive can come of this, at least there is that. Now as we continue to mourn and try to move on, we wait and wonder if his nearly finished album will ever see the light of day. With his passing, his remaining music takes on even greater significance as he has now ascended this life to become a legend. We will always be thankful to Avicii for bringing EDM to the masses and sharing his talent with us. Even as his passing signifies the closing of an important chapter in many of our lives and for EDM, we will carry on. However we will always have his music and through that we will always remember him and never stop missing him.