‘Levels’, Avicii, and the legacy dance music didn’t know has been left behind
If you were asked to choose the darkest year for dance music since its inception in the 1980s, you couldn’t go wrong with 2008. Clubs were closing day by day, major dance music festivals had to. diversify, book independent headlining groups, and even BBC Radio 1, normally the barometer of dance music in the United Kingdom, has undertaken a brutal elimination of everything electronic in its program. Almost every dance music DJ at the station felt the cold steel of a BBC service revolver, leaving at one point the ubiquitous Pete Tong as the station’s only dance DJ, pushed back into the cemetery slot on Saturday morning, when for the first time since the mid-90s Radio 1 offered no coverage of Ibiza. It all seemed a little hopeless for a while, but as we now know, things have changed. The man made a difference.
Of course, the worldwide dominance of dance music over the past decade can be attributed to many things, many people, many producers, tracks, and taste makers. It’s a group effort we can all be proud of – the fact that America suddenly remembered that it invented dance music some 25 years after it was released to mature in Europe has certainly helped a lot. . But even the most hardcore, underground, and dare we say the pretentious dance music fan probably won’t fight too hard if you kick a good deal of the credit out of Mr. Tim bergling, better known as Avicii.
It was also in 2008 that Avicii made its appearance for the first time. I say burst, it was, like most dance music producers, a little more sober start. It was also a fairly low key piece. ‘Sound now‘was a frozen progressive house record – of the “good” genre – released on the Australian label Vicious grooves with little attention to fanfare, and radically different from the sound we’ve all come to know.
By the end of 2010, however, something was about to change. Dark nights were replaced by the scorching light of a new dawn peeping through the kitchen window at a house party that had lost its glow. A new energy began to reveal itself, a new sound began to emerge. Dance music was getting cool again.
It was subtle at first, the small clubs that had experienced a few difficult years, not helped by the Great Recession, were starting to refuel. Indie music was no longer the cool kid in the class – “EDM” had just entered and was trying and succeeding to grab attention. Initially, and wrongly called “progressive house”, this style of dance music is inspired by electro, euro dance and even trance. It was daring, brash, loud, and like so many genres of dance music before it, the Dutch were the champions of its production. People like Hardwell, Afrojack, and Nicky romero dominated the scene, but as for ABBA and Max Martin before them, it was the Swedes who were really at the top. Of Eric Prydz, To Axwell, To Steve angello, To Sebastien Ingrosso (all initially forming the imitable Swedish house mafia, although Prydz quickly left, but with major success since), the exit from a Scandinavian country once again put the rest of Europe to shame. But for all their success, all their success on the scene then and since, Avicii was arguably the cream of the crop, knocking out pieces that not only had some traction in the clubs, but were also picked up by the big one. public. Those who had dismissed dance music as a ’90s fad now relegated to a handful of disparate underground scenes and supermarket compilation albums also realized their mistake. By the time Avicii released his groundbreaking hit ‘LevelsOn this day of 2011, the entire industry suddenly realized that something major was brewing and took action to capitalize on dance music in a way that would have seemed completely insane even 18 months earlier. âLevelsâ quickly became a top 10 hit and went platinum in countless countries around the world, most notably the United States.
It would seem remiss to promote too much the success of dance music on Avicii. You could also cite the rise of people like deadmau5, Skrillex, David Guetta, and Calvin harris as successfully bridging the gap between the underground and the mainstream. But it should not be forgotten that while Avicii’s music was often despised with disgust by those who listened to nothing but a limited edition white label pressing essay released by an unknown German techno label, the boom Mainstream dance music has had far-reaching effects that go far beyond the acts that hit the main stages. This is the age-old trickle-down effect – those who initially heard âLevelsâ in a club just like dance music and the craze for âEDMâ began to reach its zenith, also began to search for music. line dancing, then in a few years they’d listened to nothing but rushed white-label essays from unknown German techno labels. We all know someone, or maybe we are someone who has come the exact same way. From an industry perspective, too, groundbreaking mainstream successes draw people to festivals and, in the case of Ibiza, to entire islands. And yet, while the sales figures can easily be counted, the reach cannot – we’ll never know how many people made this trip for the first time. Ultra, EDC, Fields of cream, or first set foot on the sacred rocks of Ibiza, simply because they heard a pop-tinged dance record on the radio on a road trip on a Tuesday afternoon in February.
Of course, Avicii’s story took a turn when he decided to retire from touring in 2016, and then, a few years later, became a devastating imprint on the EDM saga when he committed suicide in April 2018. Indeed, this article is loosely based on an unpublished play written when he decided to retire, before his death made waves on the stage. Yet the basic lesson remains unchanged. This is what his legacy left behind – like his music or not, the impact of his career, “Levels” and other pieces of his creation on the stage is still felt to this day.
As dance music enters a phase of recovery from the events of 2021 and the world returns to a stable normalcy, it is worth remembering, whatever your allegiance, whatever your specific tastes, the massive popularity of our scene is due to a little shower of sparks that happened a decade ago. One of those sparks was the release of “Levels” ten years ago to date, and while it might not be to your average techno artist’s liking, the fact that they are in the lead. shows on the main stages and command record numbers for bookings, and rightly so, a lot of it is thanks to tracks like âLevelsâ that suddenly raise the ante. Whether someone likes it or not, no matter the combination of what, where and how, the facts remain – even if you think it’s deeply uncool and brash electronic music with riffs and vocals. adapted to the radio exactly like “Levels” is the reason why dance music reigns over the world again.
Of course, Avicii wasn’t the only factor, but it would be remiss of us to rule out that his radio-friendly sound has a serious impact. So whether you’re an EDM fan who got into dance music in this golden age, whether you’re an old school dance music fan who experienced another rebirth when it all seemed over, or whether you’re a techno DJ commanding some serious cash for something you barely could have filled a 100 seat club in Shoreditch in 2008, raise a drink to Tim tonight. You might not agree with this article, you might not think EDM is cool, but remember that dark days could easily return, quite suddenly and without warning, and that it might take a touch of commercial genius to find us again.
Image credit: press