RE­MEM­BER­ING ELEC­TRONIC DANCE SU­PER­STAR AVICII

THE DEATH OF SWEDISH PRO­DUCER AND DJ AVICII IS A COM­ING-OF-AGE IN THE ELEC­TRONIC MU­SIC BOOM

The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Front Page - by Shaun Tan­don

Rock ‘n’ roll had Buddy Holly, the psy­che­delic era had Jimi Hen­drix and Ja­nis Jo­plin and grunge had Kurt Cobain. Now elec­tronic dance mu­sic has Avicii.

The Swedish DJ’S death last Fri­day at age 28 marks a sym­bolic com­ing-of-age for a genre that re­mains res­o­lutely youth­ful, with the irst

elec­tronic su­per­star to die near his prime.

Avicii, the stage name of Tim Ber­gling, was not a irst-out-the-door pioneer of elec­tronic dance mu­sic (EDM), a scene that has ex­ploded since the turn of the cen­tury and last year was worth $7.4 bil­lion (Dh­s27b), ac­cord­ing to a study by the in­dus­try’s In­ter­na­tional Mu­sic Sum­mit in Ibiza.

But Avicii both showed the main­stream pos­si­bil­i­ties of EDM — and, by the end of his short life, had al­ready be­come a sage elder who cau­tioned about the artis­tic and com­mer­cial over­reach of the mu­sic.

Avicii came to deine the new age of

ra­dio-friendly EDM in 2011 with Lev­els, which en­tered the top 10 across Europe with its sam­ple of soul great Etta James in be­tween syn­the­sizer riffs that soar with sta­dium-pack­ing power.

Non-club­bers also heard EDM’S en­ergy when Avicii teamed up with rock­ers Cold­play on Sky Full of Stars, with Chris Martin’s voice giv­ing way to fast-build­ing, syn­the­sized ec­stasy.

But per­haps his most in­flu­en­tial mo­ment came

in 2013 when he head­lined the Ul­tra Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in Mi­ami. A year af­ter he in­vited Madonna as a sur­prise stage guest, Avicii be­fud­dled a crowd of ravers by bring­ing out a blue­grass band with a banjo for his soon-to-be-hit Wake Me Up.

In an in­ter­view shortly af­ter­wards, Avicii warned that EDM was mov­ing too quickly into a sound too hard and un­melo­di­ous, say­ing that au­di­ences would soon tire of it.

“Since it got so big in Amer­ica the past cou­ple of years, dance mu­sic is tak­ing over every­where,” Avicii told the Lon­don Evening Stan­dard. “It’s im­por­tant that it keeps chang­ing so it doesn’t be­come a fad.”

‘Stay For­ever this Young’

Wake Me Up may now be re­mem­bered for more than the banjo twist. The track, fea­tur­ing singer Aloe Blacc, relects on

age­ing with the line, “I wish I could stay for­ever this young.”

Like other mu­si­cians who died with so many years ahead of them, Avicii looks des­tined to be re­mem­bered with an aura of tragedy. He re­tired from tour­ing in 2016 as he suf­fered health prob­lems in­clud­ing acute pan­cre­ati­tis, trig­gered in part by ex­ces­sive drink­ing.

Avicii, who ac­knowl­edged his prob­lems in the sole lyric to the song Al­co­holic, died while on va­ca­tion in Oman. The cause re­mained un­clear, although po­lice sources in the Gulf sul­tanate did not sus­pect foul play.

The elec­tronic mu­sic world has been struck by few other deaths. House mu­sic fore­run­ner Frankie Knuck­les and New York party or­gan­iser David Man­cuso have both died in re­cent years, but both were con­sid­er­ably older.

Avicii’s death puts him nearly in the so­called 27 club — cel­e­brated mu­si­cians who have died at age 27 in­clud­ing Cobain, Hen­drix, Jo­plin, Jim Mor­ri­son, soul singer Amy Wine­house and Rolling Stone Brian Jones.

Avicii — a stage name de­rived from the San­skrit for the deep­est stage of hell, the in­verse of Cobain’s Nir­vana — had spo­ken of be­ing an in­tro­vert who was never com­fort­able with the hard-par­ty­ing life­style of a DJ, for whom al­co­hol was al­ways avail­able and usu­ally free.

EDM Over­sat­u­rated?

But could his death also amount to a turn­ing point for EDM? Late in his life, he ap­peared to think the scene was on a wane.

“EDM started get­ting over­sat­u­rated four, ive,

six years ago when money be­came ev­ery­thing. From that point, I started men­tally not want­ing to as­so­ciate my­self with EDM,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in Septem­ber.

Af­ter re­treat­ing to the stu­dio, he last year re­leased an EP whose sin­gles in­cluded Lonely To­gether fea­tur­ing singer Rita Ora — Avicii’s sound­scape ac­cen­tu­at­ing a tight pop song with none of the boom­ing syn­the­siz­ers of EDM anthems.

But there are lim­ited signs of an im­mi­nent bub­ble in EDM. Calvin Har­ris, the top-paid DJ, earned $48.5 mil­lion (Dh­s178m) last year, ac­cord­ing to an es­ti­mate by Forbes, and the rise of stream­ing sub­scrip­tions has helped bol­ster the in­dus­try’s over­all earn­ings.

Kygo, an­other lead­ing DJ, closed his set last Fri­day at the Coachella fes­ti­val in Cal­i­for­nia with a trib­ute to Avicii, to whom he cred­ited his de­ci­sion to pur­sue elec­tronic mu­sic. “I know he’s in­spired mil­lions of other pro­duc­ers out there,” Kygo said.

Avicii re­tired from tour­ing in 2016 as he suf­fered health prob­lems in­clud­ing acute pan­cre­ati­tis, trig­gered in part by ex­ces­sive drink­ing.

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