Two years ago, the world met Avicii’s “Levels,” the massive, reverberating, and uplifting club anthem that shook the EDM industry. The track succeeded so much so that it topped the charts in Sweden and made the top-ten lists in 14 other countries. More importantly, “Levels” averted the world’s gaze from the United States as the epicenter of pop and onto Europe’s up-and-coming DJs.
The pop, EDM, and R&B genres have much to thank Avicii for. The Swedish producer, who has been creating music since he was a teenager, has continually inspired artists in other genres to incorporate house elements into their work. Over the past two years, we’ve seen mainstream artists like Rihanna and The Black Eyed Peas percolate house styles into their work.
In Avicii’s vision, however, the age of “Levels” is over. Through that vision emerges “True,” Avicii’s first studio album, a daring and adventurous work that explores unheard-of marriages between EDM and other genres. “True” showcases collaborations with artists of genres unorthodox to EDM — country musician Mac Davis, American soul singer Aloe Blacc, and bluegrass songwriter Dan Tyminski are among several musicians who have injected their unique styles into the album.
“Wake Me Up” was released as the lead single from the album and has been a smashing success, peaking number one in 10 countries and charting on 20 national single charts.
Its popularity stems from its incorporation of house elements into an otherwise lovable and upbeat country song. “Wake Me Up,” dubbed a “summer anthem” by Variance magazine, offers a fresh and entirely novel style from Avicii. Robert Copsey of Digital Spy gave kudos to Avicii for “dar[ing] to try something a little different for his latest offering,” especially since in today’s industry, “more and more acts arrive on the scene turning out mixes with identikit build-ups, tired lyrics, and uninspired breakdowns that newcomers to the arena lap up with excitement.”
“You Make Me,” featuring vocals from Swedish soul/pop singer and Silhouettes’ vocalist Salem Al Fakir, arrived as the second single from the album and has charted top 40 in numerous countries, peaked number one in Sweden, and reached top five in the United Kingdom. The track possesses an infectious beat and highlights many of the same catchy elements that made “Wake Me Up” a success.
These audacious tracks arrived in a timely manner, cleverly in the advent of Daft Punk’s recent album, a rebuttal to the past decade of electronic music. Avicii is making a statement: Electronic music has many paths to explore and is by no means to be kept independent of other genres. When the whizzing synths and stolid dance beats meet interesting new ideas from country, bluegrass, and rock, something strange and beautiful is born.
Though the two singles offer a fresh, new touch on EDM as a genre, other tracks in the album reinforce pre-existing house concepts. “Dear Boy” is electro-house at its finest, aptly including mesmerizing female vocals and a powerful drop, aspects that the EDM world demands in any concert hit. “Lay Me Down” takes a funky disco tune and drops a huge beat. The concept of uniqueness, however, still dominates this album. “Shame On Me” takes a swing-like song and enhances the bass while adding funky synthesizers. “Heart Upon My Sleeve,” featuring vocals from Dan Reynolds of alternative rock band Imagine Dragons, opens with devoutly acoustic sounds and soothing vocals, only to surprise the listener with a rapid crescendo leading into a great drop.
The EDM industry has few rules, and Avicii is intent on breaking new ground in his search for unique melodies and beats. “True” successfully explores creative ideas that cannot be found elsewhere. All the listener is left to ask is what surprises are to follow.
Hinson is a member of
the class of 2016.