You’re not really sure what you would prefer.
Avicii, or Tim Bergling by his given name, all-powerful and superstar Swedish DJ who conquered it all, passed away on Friday in Oman at the young age of 28 years old. The cause of death, as far as you know, hasn’t been determined but you’re not sure it would really matter.
That the eventual cause of death be ruled an overdose of substance X or Y? That it be ruled a suicide, that this man who had brought joy to so many was suffering so much he couldn’t stomach it? What would be the best way for Avicii to have died?
Dead is still dead, you know?
He dies as one of the world’s biggest DJ, and you’re glad for everything he brought you. You’re glad for Le7els having been your soundtrack when you lived in Toronto. You’re glad for your story of Avicii.
You hadn’t listened to Avicii in a minute when you heard the news on Friday, but for a while there was scarcely a week when you didn’t. You were young then—not actually though, you were already 23 years old but you were still in school, so yeah kinda young. Starting over, or something like that: a second bachelors degree, a new city, a new language, and a bunch of new friends.
A new kind of music too, that’s what your new friends listened to in Toronto. Electronic music, aka EDM, they called it and you weren’t especially sure about it. You had grown up a fan of rap music, a pretty big one at that, and you had spent your teenage years going to hip-hop shows in your hometown of Montreal.
But, your new friends listened to new music so you listened to new music too, that’s how this goes. Your love for EDM came slowly over the months and years in Toronto. At first, you mostly listened to the music at the clubs on nights out with said friends, but not necessarily on your own. You liked the Man On The Moon album a whole lot then, so you loved the Crookers remix of Day N Night obviously but mostly cause you loved Kid Cudi. You never really listened to EDM by yourself, in your dorm room during that first year or in your apartment the next year. Neither did you between classes. It was seemingly always rap. Cause shit, where do you even start when you don’t know?
Well you probably start by not saying "shit." EDM is uplifting, and it’s become a caricature to say so by now, but it’s all about celebrating joy, love and togetherness—or rather, the PLUR in all our lives: peace, love, unity and respect. But that’s something you only learned later on. At first, you knew next to nothing, you’re repeating yourself you’re aware, but it's important: all you knew was that the music was good enough when you played it loud enough in the club and you had drank a bit.
Then came Levels.
Or rather: Le7els. You’re not entirely sure when you first listened to this Avicii song, the inter webs seem to say it was officially released on July 28, 2011, but you’re positive you knew it before then. Before it was Le7els, it was called ID because that’s what songs in EDM are called when they’re not released and you listen to them online before their release date. And Le7els rocked your world.
If optimism had and has a sound, you like to think it would sound a whole lot like this song.
Le7els was a phenomenon, by which you mean that it was your phenomenon. It has an instantly recognizable Etta Jones sample, this good feeling that the singer professes she sometimes had, but it’s the synth that spoke to you first. The song’s rise seemed to hint at a better tomorrow, this central synth seemingly rising and rising and rising and still rising forever and ever before it exploded into a thousand smiling pieces, this rise spoke to you.
Suddenly, you had your first anchor, your first foot inside the door to the world of EDM and you never let the door shut fully. Suddenly, this ebullience of joy made sense to you. Suddenly you always had a good feeling when you listened to EDM. Suddenly, you loved electronic music.
Or rather, you loved Avicii. Through Avicii, you now had a podcast to listen to as you walked to and from class. Through Avicii, you ventured out and discovered other similar acts, DJs who toured the world and who the fuck cares if they just pressed play or actually performed live during their shows, how good was the music? You just needed to stop, close your eyes and listen to the pooooom tsk poooo tsik and wait for a synth and a bass lines to be added to the melody, and then it rose and it would drop always. Through Avicii, you discovered acts like Steve Aoki, Swedish House Mafia, Above & Beyond and a bunch of others.
All commercial acts, for sure, but let’s not frown someone who's successful at their job. Avicii, in his short time on earth, was so important to the scene and so influential that he had become one of the genre’s biggest celebrities by his untimely passing. He brought electronic music to the mainstream, but why would this be a bad thing? He expanded the horizon of the genre, being certainly not the first nor the last to do so but certainly one of its most successful financially in its efforts.
He was only 21 when Le7els took over the world, so he missed out on numerous steps a teenager takes on the road to adulthood, like a first apartment, going to college, your first heartbreak and a whole bunch of other things including but not limited to the right to fuck up in anonymity. Tim Bergling never had that, because Avicii had it all and had gained it all seemingly overnight. The world never knew Tim Bergling because we could never get enough of Avicii. He suffered for that reason, and probably countless others, with drinking abuse and needed to stop touring altogether in 2016 because of the toll it had taken on his health after he had his gallbladder removed and needed emergency appendectomy.
All because he decided to share his gifts with the world, the rest of us. All because he wanted to make music to make us smile. All because he wanted us to have stories to tell each other.