Hey party people! I’m Sam Lansky, and this is my column “Pop Think,” where I’ve been known to show a little extra love to Scandinavian artists in the past — and this week is no exception, since we’re taking an in-depth look at the Swedish DJ Avicii, who has become one of the most recognizable names in the game for his warm, vibrant, super-catchy house tracks and massive remixes. Now, he’s making history as the first-ever DJ to headline historic Radio City Music Hall in New York City (!!!), another feather in his already impressive cap.
See, the road to mainstream success for DJs isn’t always an easy one: Many hugely talented ones have built extraordinary careers in their niche industries without ever becoming recognizable names outside of EDM circles. This makes Avicii’s stardom all the more impressive: His single “Levels” charted on the Hot 100 (a rarity for a straight-up house track) and was ultimately sampled in Flo Rida’s global chart-topper “Good Feeling,” helping to build him as a star in his own right. The Swedish house mafia (pun intended) is taking over, and I have no complaints about it.
Avicii — the man of the House.
The Swedes have been running the show for a minute, and the world of pop music is much better for it. From the legendary Max Martin to the tastemakers Bloodshy & Avant, there’s something in the water over there that’s had producers churning out all the most danceable pop in the biz for the last few decades. Never before, though, have the dudes who create the rich sonic tapestries and dizzying dance beats that you hear in the club or on the radio emerged as solo stars with real name recognition, but Avicii (born Tim Bergling) is part of a new crop — including David Guetta, Calvin Harris, and Avicii’s Scandinavian contemporaries Swedish House Mafia — who are changing that game.
Read more about Avicii and the Swedish House Revolution after the jump.
It’s been impossible to go to a club or turn on the TV over the last year without hearing his signature smash “Levels,” but if any song deserved to be a hit, it was that one. The melody alone was so infectious that even without Etta James’ deliciously husky vocals, it could get stuck in your head. If traditional pop songs rely on a big sing-along chorus for an earworm, Avicii knows how to create a melody just as strong in the instrumentation, which probably speaks to the success of EDM over the last few years. On the subject of his headlining Radio City Music Hall, which comes less than a year after Swedish House Mafia was the first EDM act to sell out Madison Square Garden, Avicii told Rolling Stone, “It’s been coming for awhile, but this year it’s just skyrocketed. The EDM world is really on top of its game right now.”
Part of this is due to how seamlessly EDM influences have been integrated into mainstream pop music, a radical shift away from the urban sound that dominated airwaves for much of the last decade. Now, a chilly house beat is standard even in hip-hop. But it’s also a testament to Avicii’s blazingly strong melodic sensibility. At the age of 22, he’s already accomplished a lifetime’s worth of career milestones. Let’s hope that he doesn’t stop, so the good feelings keep on circulating.