“Levels” is one of the defining tracks of this generation of house music, or “EDM”, as the kids call it. It was a breakthrough track that took Tim Berg from being the niche producer behind tracks like “Bromance”, “Malo”, and “My Feeling For You” to the internationally known, DJ superstar, Avicii. The Etta James sampled track was taken even further by Flo-Rida, whom, after Avicii turned him down for a collaborative pop-rap version, utilized the same sample for his own track, “Good Feeling”. But Avicii’s original almost became the staple song for the average person to describe “the new EDM genre”, and became a running joke amongst DJ’s as it slowly lost it’s cool, popping up in various commercials and in clips of Paris Hilton’s DJ set. But all jokes aside, “Levels” is still an incredible track, and will never be looked at the cheesy “What Is Love” of this generation; that honor is reserved for “Gangnam Style” or any number of tracks by, well, Flo-Rida.
So with the rapid rise in popularity of “EDM” (we hate that term, by the way), the genre had quickly moved away from it’s progressive house origins, literally morphing into a bastardized, pop version of a once true artform. Hits became bigger, pockets got fatter, and inevitably the art was lost, with several artists conforming to the big room sound, rushing to create the next infectious melody or sickest drop. Like anything, this begged the question, “When will the EDM bubble burst?”. Well, the fact that we as an industry are using the term “EDM bubble” regularly, almost means that it already has.
Kurt Cobain’s suicide was the shot heard ’round the world, ultimately leading to the death of Grunge rock as a genre, and a similar thing has happened to “EDM”. Two events have dramatically altered the state of the genre, the first being the break-up of Swedish House Mafia during the prime of their careers. The second was Daft Punk’s shunning of the genre, whom went severely against the grain with their Random Access Memories album, stating in interviews that the genre was filled with rookie laptop producers and offered little in originality. The robots spoke, the people listened.
Yet we aren’t seeing the long-term effects of these two events quite yet. The festivals still pack in the crowds, and the Kaskade, Tiesto, Calvin Harris-level artists still churn out hits and fill up nightclubs each weekend. The party is far from over, even if the writing on the wall suggests otherwise. So this begs the question, what does an artist like Avicii do, to avoid the wrath of the forthcoming disco-is-dead party? Simple, he releases an album like True.
Avicii first previewed True at this year’s Ultra Miami festival, and to a stunned audience. He employed live musicians – some of them, *gasp*, unattractive and old (!) – whom played folk music over his DJ set. The move was a bold one, one that certainly had everyone talking, with many clueless 20-somethings scratching their heads and, well, wondering when he would play “Levels”. The outcry was so massive, that Avicii released a statement after the weekend was over, asking fans to simply wait for the album, at which point everything would make sense.
With the arrival of True, things definitely begin to make sense. It’s clear that Avicii had some clairvoyance about EDM’s impending doom, and is keen to the prospect of being branded a “one-hit wonder” after “Levels”. So rather than trying to make an album of disposable crossover singles, or even 10 clones of “Levels”, Avicii has branched out in several different directions, creating one of the most unique and listenable records of the year. As previewed with it’s Aloe Blacc featured lead single, “Wake Me Up”, he has seamlessly fused folk music sounds into his own, resulting an unbelievably catchy track that resonates with just about everyone. The folk influence also comes through – albeit much heavier – on “Hey Brother”, but quickly flows back into his signature sound. First listen you won’t like it, fourth listen you’ll be singing right along.
But folk is only one of the genres Avicii has drawn from for True, as this record is literally all over the place, experimenting with several sounds and styles. Usually this kind of description would be a red flag, but Avicii has made it work. He’s crafted a series of ten unique sounding tracks – all of which bear his signature sound, yet nothing sounds the same. “You Make Me” is a piano driven banger, led by the distinct voice of Salem Al Fakir, who helps him carve out another potential hit, yet seemingly without even trying. Later on “Shame On Me”, we find an almost Drop The Lime-esque rockabilly driven house track, but with added Roger Troutman-esque vocoder, sure to inspire swing dancing for the first time at a summer dance music festival. “Lay Me Down” pays homage to 80′s R&B acts, while “Dear Boy” employs breathy vocals from Karen Marie Ørsted, sure to resonate with “Summertime Sadness” crowd. He’s managed to prove us all wrong, with a tightly produced, unpredictable album that gets better with each listen.
In it’s concise ten tracks, Avicii’s True is all over the map, defying expectations and stepping comfortably outside of the genre that he helped thrust into the stratosphere. Whether the scene is threatened by unoriginality and carbon-copy artists is irrelevant in the case of Avicii, as it’s clear he will be here for years to come. And that’s the truth.
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