Review: Avicii Expands EDM’s Borders With Debut LP ‘True’


Any preconceived notions the masses may have about Avicii… forget ‘em. The star Swede is dancing to the beat of his own drum machine. On Tim Bergling’s debut album True, out today (Sept 17) on PRMD/Island Records, you can kiss goodbye over-synthesized, highly manufactured, bland EDM ballads. Bergling, along with support from shrewd sonic talents (Chic legend Nile Rodgers, bluegrass baritone Dan Tyminski, American Idol breakout star Adam Lambert, to name just a few)—salt and peppers the music to taste like nothing you’ve ever heard before. And in case we’ve forgotten, this is the point of music.

A mere five years ago, young Tim Bergling was dabbling in sound mixology from his bedroom in Stockholm. Today, the 24-year-old Avicii is not only almost old enough to rent a car, he’s also topped music charts in over 65 countries with the savagely trendy, “Wake Me Up”—a tune that can adequately be described as “country-step.” A hybrid of progressive breaks and twanged vocals, featuring diverse collaborators R&B singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc and Mike Einziger of Incubus. The pandemic popularity of “Wake Me Up” is validation; the Swede doesn’t need a rented whip to render horsepower.

This is not to say Avicii’s token whirlwind synths are missing on the LP. He’s sprinkled the big-room sound methodically onto each track, including “Addicted to You” and “Shame on Me,” two emotive arias starring Oklahoma songstress Audra Mae. Mae’s Adelle-reminiscent power lungs stab at the gut, ripping your heart out in the very best way possible.

The memory of Avicii’s 2011 rampant global sensation and Grammy-nominated anthem “Levels” has been snuffed out—smoked up the chimney of youthful playtime sing-alongs. Enter a mature Bergling who needn’t live in the fumes. He’s lighting a new multi-hued fire with True. It’s shining bright to make way for a new breed of music. And just at a time when many skeptics were worried it was impossible for sonic change.

“I wasn’t into setting any boundaries on this album at all,” Bergling says. “I just wanted to make the most out of all the people I was working with, and I wanted to explore what I could do myself, personally, too. This wasn’t me making music to work in my shows. This was me trying to make music that was emotional, and that you could listen to at your house, or wherever. But the tracks also work on the dance floor and in clubs, too.”

Nile Rodgers, who can be heard shredding on “Shame on Me” and Lay Me Down,” told VIBE recently his reaction to hearing the beginnings of Avicii’s new direction was cut and dry. “I said to [Avicii], ‘Tim, let me tell you something. That shit’s going to be huge.’ What you’re doing is you’re pushing the envelope so when you think about it, what you’ve just done is probably one of the most intelligent. People won’t get it right away. The thing that makes America different, as far as being a fragmented music market, is that we have this thing called “country” that’s so big, it makes a massive impact on pop. It’s really only country that has something like that. Think about this: if a record really connects, your audience is going to expand five-fold.’”

Through fortuitous ingenuity and dogged prowess Avicii becomes entangled in the vast Americas, which are blanketed by country fans, fused with fiendish electronic dance music (EDM) enthusiasts, and subsequently trickling over into jazz, disco and pop waters. Avicii’s debut LP, True, is a 10-track game of genre Double Dutch. Somehow, Bergling doesn’t slip up in the ropes. —Sarah Polonsky

Cop True on iTunes.