Avicii took a lot of fans by surprise this weekend at the Ultra Music Festival when he introduced some brand-new music instead of only playing his tried and true hits. The superstar DJ/producer had announced earlier in the week that he would use the massive UMF mainstage to premiere tracks from his much-anticipated debut album.
After kicking off his set with fan faves (including that ubiquitous "Levels"), Avicii paused for a couple of minutes and invited Aloe Blacc ("I Need A Dollar") on stage to perform a dance-infused folk song. Genre-pushing collaborations with people like Audra Mae and Joakim Berg followed that showcased an exciting, dancefloor-savvy sound perfectly uniting Avicii's keen (and Swedish) sense of melody with live instrumentation. It's a sharp departure from tracks like "Levels" and "Silhouettes" that have defined his career up until now.
Sadly, some fans were less than pleased and blasted Avicii on social media for being entirely out of touch. 'Well to sum up the night ill just say that Avicii totally destroyed his career," wrote one individual on Twitter. That criticism is quite frankly disappointing and terribly unfounded. There's absolutely nothing wrong with stepping out of the box to challenge the status quo. That's how innovation happens and art gets made.
In response to the controversy, Avicii sent out a thoughtful tweet to clue people in on his artistic motivations. "This album is about experimentation and about showing the endless possibilities of house and electronic music," he wrote.
Wow. Looks like I stirred up some controversy with my set friday night at UMF. Seeing alot of people (cont) tl.gd/n_1rje239
I spoke with Aloe Blacc for Beats TV the day after he performed with Avicii at Ultra. He explained to me that a great deal of thinking and preparation had gone into the set. He also confided how inspiring it was to work with Avicii and write with him side by side on new music. "He's a fantastic songwriter," Blacc noted. (Check out this photo of Avicii and Aloe working together.)
What I find truly exciting about Avicii's new direction is that he challenged himself creatively and pushed the mainstream EDM frontier forward in the process. Instead of serving up the same old combo of bassline, synth and drop, Avicii set out to take people a journey and introduce an adventerous new sound to his legion of fans. His new music also emphasized his songwriting talent, which is way too often overlooked.
Avicii's new tunes also demonstrate his lasershap point of view when it comes to his craft. "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," he added. "For me it has always been about the melodies and positive energy.”
Producer Steven Siegel poignantly noted on Twitter that Avicii's bold performance at Ultra showed smilarities to Bob Dylan's controversial appearance at the Newport Festival in 1965. The iconic folk singer caused a stir when he decided to play with, yes, a full-amplified band. Up until then, fans were used to seeing Dylan play acoustically with just a guitar and harmonica.
So the @avicii set last night was the house music equivalent of Dylan going electric at newport. Stay strong Tim, don't let them get to u
Avicii's set Ultra was by far one of the best of the entire weekend. I applaud him for being bold and pushing the EDM frontier into exciting new territory. Now that EDM and dance music is developing into a fully-accepted genre and art form in America, I hope dance music fans will be able to go beyond their beloved bassline and synth drop to embrace experimentation and innovation.