A career as big, bold and bright as Avicii‘s is difficult to put in context. It’s a presence so omnipotent, it feels familiar to us all. His success was our joy, his music the soundtrack to so many late nights and sunny days. It’s sad to think his catalog is now complete. There won’t be more of his melodies in summers to come, but we have a grand selection already with which to remember his spirit.
He retired from touring in 2016, though dance floors were blessed with almost a decade of his performances. We honor his memory and his contributions to the scene by looking back at some of his biggest and brightest shining moments.
In 2010, when the producer debuted as Tim Berg, he burst onto the scene with this absolute house anthem. The world instantly fell in love with the uplifting melodies and punchy style that would become his signature. The ode to friendship feels inspiring, despite it being written in a minor chord. It charted in 20 countries worldwide and reached No. 4 on the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart. Today, it remains a cult classic and fan favorite.
Rare are the generational anthems that transcend genres, movements and class, but “Le7els” is one of those inescapable songs. Though his first entry on the Hot 100 peaked at no. 60, it’s immediately recognizable and decidedly timeless. It’s so ubiquitous, it became its own joke, the most obvious song to call on when talking about electronic dance music’s meteoric popular explosion. It shot Avicii to the top of the world’s stage, playing festivals around the globe and sparking the non-stop touring schedule that caused him to retreat from the road forever. It’s on par with ’90s classics “Sandstorm” and “Better Off Alone,” and its genius sample of Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” lights a fire in your soul.
Madonna Introduces Avicii at Ultra 2012
You know you’re a big shot when Madonna gives you an introduction. She’s one of the most prolific and well-known artists and performers in history, and she had recently collaborated with Avicii on her song “Girls Gone Wild.” She made her Ultra debut to hit the Main Stage in Miami and made a grand stand, infamously asking the crowd who had seen Molly while revving the audience for Avicii’s headline set. He opened with “Girls Gone Wild” and went on to collaborate with other pop stars, from Coldplay to Lenny Kravitz.
Avicii Becomes the First DJ to Headline an Arena Tour in 2012
When Madonna hits the road, she plays arenas. Avicii figured if he could sell so many tickets, why wouldn’t he? In 2012, Avicii made history as the first DJ to headline an arena tour, masterminding a new path for the stars he influenced to follow in his wake. His team crafted a giant head for a booth, and at the end fo the show, Avicii and the forehead disengaged from the skull, floating above the audience in thrilling display.
“Wake Me Up!” Makes a Wild Debut at Ultra 2013
How do you top Madonna? Why not debut what will go on to be your most successful single to a crowd of thousands in the heart of downtown Miami? Avicii returned to the Ultra stage in 2013 with live musicians and vocalists to perform some of his most beloved songs as fans had never heard them before, and he dropped a bunch of new tunes on them too. It was strange for people in the audience when he debuted “Wake Me Up!” with a full bluegrass band, but a few months later, it peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100. It even landed on Billboard‘s Latin charts with its worldwide appeal. By the time he performed his last Ultra set, the crowd knew exactly what to do.
Avicii Expands His Talents as a Music Video Director
In case you thought Avicii was only great in the studio, he showcased his brilliance behind the camera as the director of his own music videos for singles “Pure Grinding” and “For a Better Day.” His videos had always been captivating stories, but he upped the ante on these gritty tales of hard times and the indestructible will of humanity to make ends meat and conquer hardships. They are not fairy tales with saccharine cliches. They are awesome and harsh windows into reality, and they set quite the scene for a man whose music is almost exclusively upbeat.
Avicii’s Final Performance in 2016
It was a sad day when Avicii announced he would retire from touring, but it was also a moment that fans and peers respected. He’d publicly struggled with health problems and anxieties surrounding his busy performance schedule for years, and he had more than earned his chance to sit back and relax. The announcement did light a fire in fans’ bellies to get out and hit the pavement for his last string of dates, and the final set at Ushuaïa in Ibiza was a moment in dance music history.
Avicii: True Stories Documentary
Avicii was an elusive creature, and fans thirsted for a chance to peek inside his world. The documentary Avicii: True Stories chronicled the epic journey he took with friends and collaborators across the United States, culminating in his final triumphant set at Ultra Music Festival and his decision to walk away from the road forever. It’s an intimate portrait of the artist, and one fans will relish for years to come, especially in the wake of his unfortunate passing.