Four years ago, the dance music scene lost one of its greatest DJs: Avicii died unexpectedly in 2018 aged only 28. He had taken his own life during a vacation in Oman.
The news of the untimely death of the Swedish star DJ, whose real name was Tim Bergling, shook the music world. His legacy, however, continues to reverberate to this day.
‘Avicii Experience’: an interactive insight
Starting February 26, the interactive museum “Avicii Experience” in Stockholm will offer an insight into his life and artistic work. Visitors can not only see his pictures, videos and private possessions, but also listen to unreleased music of the star DJ and relive intimate moments of his life. His childhood bedroom, for example, where he started making music as a teenager, has been faithfully recreated.
In an interview with DW, Per Sundin, co-founder of “Avicii Experience,” emphasizes the exhibition’s interactivity. “You can go into the studio where he recorded all his big songs and into his house in Los Angeles with virtual reality glasses.”
In the virtual studio, for example, visitors can even record a version of the song “Wake Me Up.” “There are also videos and interviews with Tim. We have a couple of songs from demos and you can hear how they sounded before the producers finished them,” added Sundin.
Avicii’s musical legacy
Although it’s been four years since his passing, Avicii’s musical legacy is still felt today. His fans celebrate the discography he left behind, and his influence remains strong in the music industry as well.
In fact in 2019, just over a year after his death, Avicii’s third studio album “TIM,” was posthumously released. Its twelve tracks were completed and recorded with the help of notes and messages from the DJ.
Shortly thereafter, video game developers Hello There Games, in collaboration with Avicii’s father Klas Bergling, immortalized the exceptional DJ’s vision of experiencing his music in a novel game called “AVICII Invector.”
A previous version had already existed during Avicii’s lifetime — and the game makers took their cue from it. With the “Encore Edition” of the game, a sequel hit the market in January 2022 that made fans’ hearts beat faster. In it, players can immerse themselves in the world of the Swedish DJ and navigate through various Avicii music tracks — with the task of hitting the “musical beat.”
There are numerous other projects that pay posthumous tribute to this DJ of electronic dance music or EDM: a wax figure at Madame Tussauds in New York, a biography released in 2021, and in Stockholm even a well-known event hall has been renamed Avicii Arena. There are also plans to erect a statue in his honour in Östermalm — the Stockholm neighbourhood where the DJ grew up. Yet, what made him so popular?
Revolutionising dance music
Avicii had long demonstrated through his music that the opinions of others bore no impact on his creativity.
This was evident in 2013 at the Ultra Music Festival, for example, says Avicii biographer Mans Mosesson in an interview with DW. The then 23-year-old played several tracks from his debut album “True” in Miami. Among them was one of the biggest hits of his career — “Wake Me Up” — a melange of electronic dance music (EDM) beats, soul and country music, also known as folktronica.
“When he first played his song “Wake Me Up” in Miami in 2013, people were surprised by it,” Mosesson looks back. “The crowd thought he would just play a normal set — possibly with a few new tracks. But he was playing with a full live band, with acoustic guitars, violins and banjos.”
It was too much for the audience, who were just expecting normal house music from the DJ booth, the biographer continued. “People were confused by it, even angry. Many started tweeting: ‘What kind of s**t is this?’ To their ears, the music sounded strange at the time — even though Avicii played many of the tracks at the concert that later became legendary.”
When the album came out in September of the same year, people reacted differently to it. “Wake Me Up” climbed to the top of the charts in more than 60 countries. Within six months, “Avicii went from beeing booed to becoming a global pop star, which is crazy,” Mans Mosesson elaborates. “And that’s what makes him so special. He was really at the forefront of making house music something that went from the club scene to something that was played on radio stations globally.”
Creating waves long after his death
His discography contains enduring earworms: “Wake Me Up”, “Hey Brother”, “Waiting For Love” or “The Nights” are hits that are difficult to forget once you’ve heard them. “Wake Me Up” remains one of the most streamed songs of all time on Spotify.
There has been frequent speculation about Avicii’s remaining unreleased music. Per Sundin, who has worked closely with Avicii for a long time, says that on Avicii’s private laptop there are “over 100 song drafts, demo versions, ideas and half-finished songs. All these, unfortunately, will not be heard in the ‘Avicii Experience’ exhibition.”
His creative collaborators, like Aloe Blacc, insist that more of Avicii’s work should see the light of day. Fans can expect that to come true. A documentary commissioned by Swedish National Television about Avicii is scheduled for release in 2023, featuring previously unreleased material. So it’s highly likely that we’ll be hearing more from Avicii’s legacy in the years to come.
Helping other artists with mental health issues
After Avicii’s tragic death because of persistent mental health problems, his family acted quickly. They sought to talk to artists in need and continue to offer help today through the Tim Bergling Foundation.
In a 2019 interview with CNN, Avicii’s father Klas Bergling commented on his son’s death, saying a strenuous and exhausting touring schedule was one reason for the deterioration of his mental health that eventually led to his suicide. “Our theory is that he didn’t plan the suicide. It was more like a traffic accident,” Klas Bergling said.
On tour, Avicii could not have received adequate care because of a lack of resources to adequately address these issues.
That is why his family established the Tim Bergling Foundation, which has made it its mission to at least help other artists recognize early signs of deteriorating mental health so they can seek treatment.
Commemorating a national idol
“Tim’s psychological problems are also addressed in the ‘Avicii Experience’ exhibition,” Per Sundin says. “We have set up a room where you can understand the stress in Tim’s life. There you can relate to how it feels to be constantly flying and going on stages.”
Sundin added that at the end of the exhibit, there is a church of sorts where visitors can “sit and reflect on what you’ve seen in the exhibit.” Next to it, he said, is a wall, a prop from the Tim Bergling Foundation, with information on organisations that can help with mental health issues.
Avicii’s father Klas helped in conceptualising the exhibition. “We discussed everything with him,” Sundin says. “Today, just before lunch, we gave the whole family a special tour. They were very touched, but also happy, and said to me, ‘That was Tim.’ They had tears of joy and sorrow in their eyes.”
The exhibition is also a way of coping with grief — for a father and for an entire nation. Because in Sweden today, Avicii “is very much regarded as one of the greats now — in the same light as ABBA or Roxette,” emphasises Mans Mosesson.
Featured image: The studio album “TIM” was released posthumously in 2019