Avicii was a recent winner at the AMAs poll-driven prize for electronic music with the first ever Favourite Artist EDM category
Avicii keeping it real
- Rod Nicholson
For Swedish superstar DJ Avicii, 2013 has been a banner year. Currently, he’s dominant globally in the international electronic dance music (EDM) scene. The former Tim Bergling has already become used to commanding six-figure fees for his live appearances and the runaway success of his single ‘Wake Me Up’ (Universal) has placed him among the three biggest-selling acts of 2013.
Although initial reception of the audacious EDM/country mash-up that drives ‘Wake Me Up’ was not positive, it did not take very long before the track’s smooth mix of musical genres previously thought incompatible and fine vocal work by singer Aloe Blacc began to work its magic on Avicii’s fan base. The rest is history, but the DJ hasn’t forgotten the fan’s first reaction.
"I knew it was going to be a shock. All they see is country and house music. They think, 'Country? That's old people.' I knew it was going to be like that. It freaked me out when I got a bad reaction to the song, though, I must admit," said Avicii during an interview with The Guardian.
The 24-year-old superstar has no intention of allowing contrary commentary from the blogosphere and social networks to deter him from seeking a creative outlet in musical innovation. He realizes that the artistic impulse to try something new eventually proved the naysayers wrong and accounted for the record’s success.
“Originality is definitely missing from EDM. There are people looking for it and exploring but I feel it's so big now it is just getting milked. House music is losing all its melody as it becomes more about how dirty the drop is and how energetic it is. It loses touch with what music really is. It's gotten to a point where everything sounds the same. There is no longevity in what's happening at the moment."
Finding himself in the same league sales-wise as Daft Punk and Robin Thicke carries with it certain rewards along with the risk of being seen as a singles artist. In line with his determination to be known as an innovator, Avicii’s new album release True (Universal), with its hints of rock, bluegrass and country, has shown him capable of creating a musical world greater than any single track.
"If I wanted to make a quick buck there's far easier ways of doing it. What I want is to provoke people. If you want a hit song, all you need to do is rewrite an old song. It might have been proven to work but you won't be remembered the same way."
His meteoric rise to fame has made Avicii a multi-millionaire in a relatively short time and the young DJ wasn’t initially averse to enjoying the perks and pleasures that came along with success. The world of EDM is known for the prevalence of drug and alcohol use amongst its fans and a serious pancreatic attack at 21 made Avicii choose a sober lifestyle as a result.
Avicii’s view of the global EDM scene and his travels all over the world to perform for his many fans has lead him to the conclusion that much of the magic in the music and what it means to those attaching themselves to it and its ambience varies from place to place. He is particularly dismissive of the materialistic vibe he has encountered in his regular visits to Las Vegas to perform live.
"Americans call it their version of Ibiza but it's not. People go for a week and then leave. It's a huge money-making machine. Everything is massive and expensive, there's just so much money there. You can really feel it. Ibiza is about passion for music, Vegas doesn't feel real. It's a product."
Now that he’s achieved superstar status, Avicii refuses to allow his career success or the praise from his fans hamper his ability to stay focused on creativity. A self-deprecating quote from a recent interview with GQ that both upset his management and pleased true believers in the power of the music over the cult of celebrity makes it clear that his quest to provoke rather than pander is far from over.
"I love deejaying, I do, I love everything that comes with it; it's fun and it's kind of glamorous. It's just like when it's right in the moment and you have that stupid bright light on you. It feels so awkward. I guess, deep inside, I know that it's a different kind of performing. You're not performing like a guitar player or a singer is performing. Technically, it's not that hard."