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Rock Radio Is ‘Up’ On Dance Superstar Avicii

The EDM format cornerstone is winning over triple A and alternative programmers with his folk-influenced "Wake Me Up!"

For a format whose core sound is a mix of rootsy rock bands and acoustic-driven singer/songwriters, the success of EDM cornerstone Avicii on Billboard’s adult alternative Triple A chart stands out. His new single “Wake Me Up!” (featuring vocals by Aloe Blacc) rockets 19-10 in just its third week on the survey.

Expectedly, the track bullets at No. 2 on Dance/Electronic Songs (and No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100), while charging 19-13 as the Greatest Gainer on Pop Songs. However, triple A programmers say  that the song, which innovatively blends EDM and folk production, is a fit for their stations.

“Yes, this can be considered a surprise song for the format,” says triple A KRVB Boise, Idaho, PD Tim Johnstone. “There’s something unique about this record that fits really well with where we are. The Mumford & Sons-esque vocal is immediately appealing. But, the dichotomy of the EDM touch points in the chorus set this apart from everything else we’re playing.

“For a triple A station that leans heavily female, this is just perfect for us,” Johnstone says. “It’s a terrific bridge between Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men and the more pop- and alternative-flavored songs from OneRepublic, Capital Cities and Atlas Genius.”

KGSR Austin, Texas, assistant PD/music director Kristen Kurtis concurs. “After being serviced and playing acts like Ellie Goulding and Capital Cities, Avicii felt like a no-brainer. I think the guy made a genius move by melding two of the biggest trends in popular music right now. ‘Wake Me Up!’ perfectly encompasses a blurring of formats that radio is currently accepting.

“The early feedback we’ve gotten from listeners indicates that they think that it’s a very cool song that they’re happy we’re playing.”

In addition to its Triple A success, and as Kurtis references, “Wake” is also scaling the Alternative Songs chart, where it lifts 31-27. The song’s alternative support is less surprising, however, than its embrace at triple A, as alternative has historically dipped into dance, from Depeche Mode and Erasure in the ’80s and ’90s to Capital Cities and Daft Punk today.

Still, that a core EDM act is soaring on Triple A and gaining traction at alternative is notable, especially given Avicii’s sparse prior crossover history. Beyond his dance following, he was previously perhaps best known to mainstream audiences for his club anthem “Levels,” which reached No. 60 on the Hot 100 last year. The track also served as the basis for Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling,” which reached No. 3.

“In the past, we played ‘Levels,’ ” says Brad Savage, PD of triple A WCNR Charlottesville, Va. “Not as much as this one, but it got some test plays and specialty airplay around here. Plus, Avicii was a headliner at last year’s Lollapalooza.

“So, I was already keen on hearing this song and hoping it may be playable for us. When it came with the interludes of a Mumford & Sons/Phillip Phillips/Avett Brothers-type folk/stomp-rock feel in the verses, it made it seem less like a club song.”

Ultimately, Savage says, “Wake” sounds “right at home in our mix,” while also noting that the song’s international profile has helped, with the cut currently ranking in the top 10 on multiple charts in Europe and worldwide. “The dance-beat parts of the song spice it up and make it cut through. It’s a great introduction to Avicii’s catalog of music for listeners who may happen to like this song. I think that’s a great factor of what we do every day: introducing fans to new music by focusing on a single track.

“I think it’s great for triple A to embrace these sounds. We got some immediate response when we first played [‘Wake’] from people who were already aware of it and were already fans of Avicii.

“They’ve Tweeted, commented on Facebook or emailed, saying ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m hearing Avicii on the radio!’ “