Many of those who heard that Avicii released a new album this week probably had two immediate questions. How did the late singer release new music after passing away last year? And was his name really Tim? To answer the first question, several close collaborators finalized the dozen songs Avicii sent them before he left for Muscat, Oman to meet up with friends. It was during this trip that the music producer passed away. Tim Bergling, more popularly known as Avicii, was buried on June 8, 2018. With permission from Tim’s father, Avicii’s third studio album was released one year from the anniversary of his burial under the late artist’s name Tim with all proceeds benefiting the Tim Bergling Foundation.
Avicii’s talent as an artist shines through in his ability to blend different musical genres into his own unique composition. As can be seen in the documentary True Stories, available on Netflix, Avicii was a combination of a workaholic and a perfectionist, only satisfied when the recordings matched the symphony going on inside his head. Avicii was very particular about what he wanted his songs to sound like, and when choosing vocalists, Avicii’s collaborators followed notes the artist left behind and sought vocalists who had worked with Avicii in the past rather than other high-profile celebrity artists who did not have the same experience with Tim.
Two of those collaborators are the Swedish songwriters and producers Vincent Pontare and Salem Al Fakir, who go by Vargas & Lagola and are featured on three songs of the album. To finalize their contributions, they focused on the months of conversations and correspondence they had with Avicii before his passing. They still had the final demos Avicii had sent them and worked to create an album as close as possible to the demos to avoid veering from Avicii’s intention. The opening track, “Peace of Mind,” smoothly introduces the longing for rest and recovery. It was likely inspired from Avicii’s multiyear chaotic touring schedule he retired from to focus on studio time producing new music. The opening track alternates between calm synthesized instrumental and quickly paced lyrics that imitate the rush of stardom. The dance beats Avicii became famous for build and build before rolling back to calmer reflections that let the listener appreciate the exciting sprint that came before. Avicii musical talent grew along with his audience’s age, creating an album with electronic-dance elements that can be appreciated outside of the confines of a dance tent.
Aloe Blacc, recognizable as the voice behind another Avicii breakout hit, “Wake Me Up,” was mentioned in Avicii’s notes for the song, “S.O.S.” and lent his soulful voice to the album. “S.O.S.” has all of the makings of another dance hit without milling about with long sections of party-synthesized beats so popular in EDM. “S.O.S.” continues returning to the same chorus, as Blacc’s vocals sing longingly for a part-time relationship to become more permanent to finalize a move away from drugs, alcohol, and feeling downright low. Blending a breakup song for drugs with a love song for an unresponsive partner plays on Avicii’s ability to combine what most people think is impossible. “S.O.S.” is both upbeat and sobering with the rest of the album being full of beautiful contradictions. While the Internet is likely to see a constant stream of sped-up remixes of Avicii’s work in the near future, Avicii’s latest work defies easy categorization as he experiments and succeeds to push electronic music to the next level.
Each collaboration takes on its own mood inspired by the vocalists contributing to the song. “Heaven” with help from Chris Martin of Coldplay, sounds like a reprieve of “Sky Full of Stars,” an earlier collaboration of theirs as the two artists chase a dream-like ambiance. “Ain’t A Thing” combines tropical instrumentals almost drowning out Bonn’s voice until his solo allows Bonn to hit the emotional apex of the song. Similar tropical vibes accompany Bonn’s other collaboration on the album, “Freak,” showcasing Avicii’s overall plan when considering his collaboration with the vocalist.
A R I Z O N A and Imagine Dragons both deliver unrequited love songs, one about waiting for love to form and the other darn near desperate to be seen by the person being pined after. “Hold The Line” featuring A R I Z O N A lets the vocals carry the majority of the song while “Heart Upon My Sleeve” featuring Imagine Dragons contains the epic beats geared for movie trailers they have become famous for. Despite their differences, both songs find their own space on the same album without moving away from what fans love about both bands.
The closing track of the album, “Fades Away,” sounds the most reminiscent of Avicii’s earlier work on “Levels,” the party dance anthem that skyrocketed Avicii to his international success. Avicii’s talents have grown over the course of his three studio albums and “Fades Away” is the highly polished evolution of the EDM genre, allowing plenty of instrumentals to dance away the night to while allotting an equal amount of time for introspective vocals that dare the listener to sit back and appreciate the softer moments of the album along with the loud.
It is possible more music will be unearthed on Tim Bergling’s hard drive, but any excavated songs will lack Avicii’s ever-present input to finalize his art. Tim is the final work by Avicii, a genre-redefining artist never satisfied with playing more of the same material that got him recognized. To the very end, Tim Bergling continued to elevate the genre of electronic music. His work will be the basis for many musical innovations to come from tomorrow’s artists inspired by Avicii’s work.