Avicii: The Kid in His Bedroom

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It’s 2013 at Ultra Music Festival in Miami. You’re ready for a great time.

Here comes one of the most popular DJ’s in the world. He starts with one of his biggest hits, “Levels.” You’re in for a crazy set.

All of a sudden the music stops, and the stage goes dark. No way the set is over, so what’s up?

It’s all good, you think, he’ll probably be back in a second.

55 excruciating seconds later, some other dude walks on stage and starts singing.

He sounds a little more folksy than you expected, but you go with it.

Wait, is that a banjo? Guitars? Is this an acoustic concert?

You’re supposed to be at Ultra, not a Mumford & Sons campfire.

It doesn’t seem like the crowd is feeling it. People are starting to sit down. This seems like a misfire.

“Avicii rolls the dice at Ultra 2013; too advanced for dance,” the headlines read.

Such was the audacity of Avicii.

Bringing Worlds Together

What at first seemed to be an out-of-place experiment ultimately became Avicii’s greatest hit.

“Wake Me Up” has been streamed over a billion times on both YouTube and Spotify, and was the most Shazamed song of all time by August 2018.

In line with the numbers, the song got a much warmer reception at Tomorrowland in 2015.

Quite a turnaround.

How’s that possible?

Avicii gave music fans what we wanted before we knew we wanted it.

It’s like Uber showing us we wanted strangers to drive us places in their personal cars, or Apple showing us we wanted little rectangles to hold all our music.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Henry Ford (Allegedly)

EDM fans probably wanted more intense drops and melodies, but Avicii went in the opposite direction. In doing so, he brought EDM into the American mainstream while cementing his place in music history.

How did he do this? By staying true to his artistic process.

A Kid In His Bedroom

I’m obsessed with the thought of young artists making hit songs in their bedrooms. It’s like others fawning over the idea of companies like Google and Amazon starting in garages.

Tim Bergling started producing music at sixteen. He began posting his remixes on music forums shortly after. Before he was Avicii he was just a kid named Tim asking for feedback on his work.

Avicii's 2007 post on a Swedish music forum
Link to image. Link to original post.

Becoming Avicii wasn’t part of some master marketing plan, either. In reality, he just did what every kid does when they find out their ideal username is already taken on a social media service. With both his real name and “Avici” unavailable on MySpace, Tim threw an extra “i” on “Avici” and called it a day.

Tim, Avici, Avicii, whatever — when you’re a kid in your room, there are no expectations. Whatever your craft, you put out your best attempts and create the opportunity for good things to happen for you.

In Avicii’s case, the opportunities came quick. He signed a record deal in 2007, made some waves in the EDM community for a few years, and then blew up with “Levels” in 2011. Despite being music’s new star, Tim maintained the spirit of a kid in his bedroom.

On one of the biggest stages of his genre, Avicii didn’t pander to the crowd and stick to his hits. He put his best foot forward. When it was met with mixed reactions, he said:

“My music is open to anyone who wants to listen to it and I will always stay true to my sound. Love you all who listen with open hearts and open minds.”

It’s no surprise that people came around soon enough.

One Day You’ll Leave This World Behind

Beyond making catchy music, Avicii aimed to leave behind a model for living life.

The Nights,” my favorite Avicii song, is the perfect summation of this model.

The intro concludes with:

”That’s when I decided when I die, I want to be remembered for the life I lived, not the money I made.”

While the chorus goes:

“One day you’ll leave this world behind, so live a life you will remember.”

We all know it’s true, but a reminder in a beautiful song is always welcome.

So, that’s how he operated. When the demands of touring became too much to bear, he left millions of dollars on the table and stopped touring to focus on his music and his health.

Just as he was becoming famous for a specific sound, he introduced an entirely different style that nobody had heard before.

Of his artistic goals, Tim said:

“It’s about how to incorporate acoustic instruments from different styles and influences you wouldn’t expect and still stay true to your own sound and musicality, which for me has always been about the melodies and positive energy.”

True to his goal, Avicii’s music makes me happy above all else.

Creating even one thing that makes a few people happy is a significant accomplishment. Making dozens of songs that bring positivity to millions of people around the world is incredible.

Just check out any Avicii comment section on YouTube to see what I mean.

There are many metrics by which one can track success, but ‘happiness created’ is a particularly useful one. One Avicii excelled in.

The Confines of COVID

Today, we’re all just people in our rooms. Some of us are kids, some adults, but bedroom dwellers nonetheless.

From his bedroom in Sweden, Tim touched the entire world. We have no idea what the next thing we create — be it a song, article, podcast, or program — could do for others.

It’s tragic that Avicii left us so soon, but he lived more life in 28 years than many people do in 68.

He lived a life I will always remember, and I hope all the people working in their bedrooms right now do the same.

Where to Start

If you haven’t listened to Avicii’s music, here are my recommendations in chronological order:

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