4 Years ‘Without You’: How Avicii’s Passing Signalled The Death Of ‘EDM’

Friday 20th April 2018.

Most will remember where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with, when they heard the news. There was an initial feeling that this newly-found reality of a Bergling shaped void in our future society was some form of elaborate ruse on such an eerie Friday evening. The weekend passed, coated in glorious skies filled with beaming sunshine, and tributes began to flood in from across the globe, none more prominent than in his native Stockholm. 4 years on, this date still marks a haunting and melancholic feeling among true Tim aficionados, caught between the emotive sadness of such tragedy, or the need to celebrate his genius via a pioneering back-catalogue and legacy.

Fast forward to 2022 and as the brightest supernova in our sky full of stars begins to flicker once again on this anniversary of such a date, the Avicii-shaped silhouette which still looms large in the torn curtain of ‘EDM’, bears more prominence than ever before. 2018 was a truly monumental year for the term invented by the American crowd at the turn of the last decade, with Tim‘s death prompting the retirement of Hardwell, (the former number 1 DJ in the world declaring his own need to prioritise his mental health), and the comeback of Swedish House Mafia, who many felt would offer the type of reicarnation of the same ‘progressive-house‘ sound they’d shared alongside Bergling at the peak of their powers around 2010-2013. What we’ve seen since, couldn’t be further from such a prediction.

With the King of ‘EDM’ felled by the broken arrows of his own depression, various artists started to turn away from the joyfully euphoric yet sometimes shallow sound of the mainstage-ready anthems which has filled the lungs of just about Millennial looking to ‘rage’ through their late teens and early 20s during the peak boom of the genre. David Guetta, a man facing intense ridicule throughout the mid-part of the decade, salavaged his career from the depths of meme territory, in the very same year. First, asking festival promoters to ‘turn off the lights’, as he aired deep techno brooders like Adriatique‘s ‘Voices From The Dawn, on iconic mainstages, before launching into his ‘Jack Back‘ alias to deliver tech-house stompers on iconic dance labels like Defected, during his Ibiza residency. If the Frenchman himself had – alongside Calvin, SHM, Avicii etc – proved the catalyst for the rise of DJs as the new rockstars in 2010, then he too was to prove the man to reverse the tide heading into the next decade.

A quartet of years later, and Guetta‘s bold decision has proved somewhat justified. Claiming DJ Mag‘s infamous yet prestigious gong as the World’s finest for the past two years in succession, the voting shift has proved personification of fan tastes, as more start to turn away from the “3, 2, 1, jump” nature of a booming Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike hook, instead opting for the ‘Future Rave‘ sound coined by Guetta and Scandinavian colleague, MORTEN. Elsewhere across the scene, producers are tapping into their own artist versatility and desire to craft sounds unique to them, and refreshing to many. The only pockets of ‘Paradise Again‘ criticism were fired by those expecting ‘Don’t You Worry Child 2.0‘, with most journalists acknowledging the brave shift from Monsieurs Angello, Ingrosso, and Hedfors, in crafting their own unique piece of art, despite the potential backlash. Likewise, Hardwell‘s return at Ultra last month may have proved a damp squib to many members of the ‘Big Room Never Dies‘ community who were expecting. a flurry of ‘Spaceman‘ and ‘Apollo‘ style anthems to echo out into the Florida skyline.

In the form of his new tech-inspired sound, particularly latest single ‘F*CKING SOCIETY’, the Revealed head honcho is still very much adhering to his ‘Go Hardwell or Go Home‘ slogan, though this time he’s battering his way through those aggressive basslines with a sleek jet-black industrial drill, rather than the shiny wood-silk hammer of 2014. Of course, such artists will not be the last to experiment so wildly, and openly, in such a public forum. But they won’t be the first. That honour rests with the man who inspired others, and demonstrated courage and confidence above all, at a time when the drop-hungry audience was far less forgiving. When Avicii turned up to Ultra Music Festival in 2013 as the posterboy for a bubble which showed no sign of bursting, he was undoubtedly at the peak of his powers.

Leaving the Miami crowd open-mouthed and stunned into audible silence, Avicii aired an army of IDs from his country & western-infused forthcoming album in place of crowd favourites like ‘I Could Be The One’, with the fiasco now going down in folklore. Dance website Dancing Astronaut labelled the set “too advanced for dance music”, whilst Avicii himself issued an official statement in the aftermath that read: “Wow looks like I stirred up some controversy with my set Friday night at UMF. Seeing a lot of people who don’t understand. I really wanted to switch things up and do something fun and different, as I always strive for, and this album is about experimentation and about showing the endless possibilities of house and electronic music. People will soon see what it’s all about.”

The latter part of said statement feels particularly poignant, with ‘Wake Me Up‘ – the standpiece track of the performance which garnered so much negativity – going on to reach number 1 in 22 countries just a few short months later, en route to multi-platinum certification and various awards and records. To this day, the track is closing in on 2 BILLION Spotify streams, making it one of the most listened-to tracks ever made in music history. Such artistic bravery is what set Tim apart from the others, and represents the figurehead of a myriad of reasons as to why he’ll never fade into darkness. If there’s one thing the past 4 years have taught us, it is that the fizzing-energy of the fist-pumping ‘Levels’ world we once knew, is long gone, but not forgotten. EDM is dead… Long live the King.

R.I.P Tim Bergling, 1989-2018




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