I’ve had a lot of time to sit down and listen to music recently. Music keeps my work days flowing and with a pace that makes it easy to write to. My taste in music hasn’t changed much over the years, I still listen to a lot of EDM and techno. But with my recent transition away from Google Play Music to Youtube Music, a botched transition to say the least, has given me access to a pretty intuitive endless radio stream based on my tastes and artists I already like and have listened to.
And while that means exposing me to plenty of new music like that of Porter Robinson and more Zedd than I like admitting it’s also given me access to a discography of an artist that I thought I knew but apparently I had much more to learn.
I still remember the day I found out Avicii died. I was driving with some coworkers to a work function in another city none of us wanted to go to. We blasted Wake Me Up while driving too fast down the highway and lamented the loss of a human being while badly dancing in a car too small for all of us to fit in on a journey none of us asked to be part of. It didn’t matter to us why Avicii died; just that he was gone. And while many spent a lot of time discussing his mental health and the factors that led up to such a bright and young shining star dying; I mostly just processed the loss as I would have the death of any celebrity: sad for the loss of human life but that this was clearly more complicated beyond my comprehension with factors that would perpetually remain to be seen and with demons that were not privy to anyone; yet alone a nameless mass of fans. That’s the nature of DJs, really. Many obscure their faces, few use their real names. There is the DJ and the man. Madeon may be Hugo but they are not the same person. There’s a perpetual wall built between DJs and their fans built physically by their equipment and metaphorically by their oftentimes larger than life personas that make them almost more like characters in a pantheon rather than men and women like the rest of us.
His death wasn’t as personal to me as Anthony Bourdain, who I looked up to and admired in a way that felt so intimate so his death resulted in friends checking in on me in the same they had after my mother died. I felt like I knew Tony, I felt like I lost a friend with Tony. That’s just who Anthony Bourdain was. He wasn’t an edifice or a persona, he was authentic; painfully so. He was always him and we were able to, as fans, believe that he was right there with us; sharing a meal, telling an off-color joke, being vulnerable to discuss his mental health or addictions and of course, making us smile and more importantly, think.
Avicii wasn’t a close friend or mentor; he was a DJ. A DJ I liked, sure. A DJ I wouldn’t pass over if I got one of his songs on an endless shuffle mix. Hell, I may even pay to see him in concert if given the opportunity. And one I didn’t think I’d miss so much.
The endless mix of songs that’s given rhythm and life to my blended together days has given me a lot of Avicii; a DJ I mentioned to Youtube’s algorithm that I liked because of a few songs I had saved on my old Google Play Music Player and in a stroke of genius and the algorithm for once getting something right, almost every song I’ve gotten from the DJ has been a new and unexpected hit that I had never heard before. I thought that I was a fan by knowing literally 3 or 4 songs but there are so many tracks I just hadn’t heard before and each one just showed more and more skill and diversity that I just didn’t expect from the young DJ. I didn’t think Trouble would hit so hard or that Dear Boy would nearly bring me to tears. I didn’t think that Broken Arrows or Heaven would be so easy to dance to. I thought I knew Avicii but I was so so wrong. I’m glad now, for once, to have been corrected.
But a theme emerged as I continued to listen deeper into his discography, a feeling of emptiness and loss. I suddenly found myself mourning all over again: not just for the young life snuffed out too soon but also for the loss of talent that he took with him to his eternal rest.
It’s a complicated relationship that fans have with creators that have passed on. Many of us lament the time taken from us as fans as if we are owed creation. Many of us wish for just one more book, just one more song, just one more when really; that’s usually far from what we want. We selfishly wish for more time that death has so cruelly taken from us as avid fans and dedicated listeners while willfully shunning the fact that more time does not always lead to genius. We had many years with Harper Lee, only to be bitterly disappointed by the treasure that time can bring. But with Avicii as I continue to listen to each song he crafted, I can’t help but feel that familiar pang in my chest of “what if”.
What if he was given more time? What if he had one more set? One more studio album. One more single. What would he be making now? What would his style be? Would he dabble in tropical house again? Would he partner with DJs that I also admire? Whose vocals would he use next? What would his sound be like as he gained skill and matured? What songs that are out now or ones out before would he sample or experiment with?
What would Avicii be doing now?
I lament the loss of potential now, with Avicii’s death. And while of course, I mourn Tim as a person, I just wonder what we could have now if he was still with us.