Avicii’s iconic EDM hit ‘Levels’ turns 8 years old
The latter part of the decade that some infuriatingly annoying people referred to as “the noughties” was not a good time for dance music. Sure, underground scenes across most genres were bubbling along OK, but the wider world kind of lost interest. Dance music hadn’t made it big in the US yet, and in Europe, particularly in the UK, it became something of a dirty word. In 2008 for example, BBC Radio 1 had dropped all dance music coverage from it’s schedule, save for the ever-present Pete Tong tucked away in a graveyard slot. The scene in Ibiza was barely mentioned in the mainstream press, and even major dance music festivals started booking indie bands. For a lot of people, the closest we got to dance music outside of niche clubnights was electro-indie dross like Justice. It was a dark and frightening time, but fortunately, it all changed big time, with a lot of credit to Avicii‘s ‘Levels‘.
By 2011 a whole-host of talent had burst onto the scene. Their genre was variously described as “big room house”, which didn’t really work as it had more DNA from trance than house, or “progressive house”, which infuriatingly ignored the fact there was already a genre called progressive house that sounded nothing like it. In the end, people realised an acronym to describe all “electronic dance music” was hardly ever used by anyone ever, and was looking for a careful owner, so EDM was born.
Take your pick – Nicky Romero, Hardwell, Swedish House Mafia (and before them their individual members), Afrojack, Alesso, Don Diablo. All had their own take on the sound, and even veterans such as David Guetta and Tiësto joined the fray having established themselves already in house and trance respectively. But there was one name who seemed to stand above them all, a man who had an extremely rare talent for not only creating a club-banger, but also making it radio-friendly without the need for a brutal edit or remix. He was known originally as Tim Berg (a shortening of his surname Bergling), but quickly became known to millions as Avicii.
With a wealth of hits under his hat in such a short and tragically shortened career, plenty will have their opinion on what Avicii’s “best” track was. Indeed, many of his fans would be pushed to pick just one. But in terms of impact, few would deny that his 2011 release Levels was a total game-changer. Within months of its release, the track was already a certified classic among EDM fans, and charted highly around the globe. But perhaps most notably it made a serious impact in the US, with plenty of radio play perhaps thanks to the Etta James vocal sample. Either way, it heralded in a golden age for EDM.
So if it came out in 2011, why the 10 year anniversary post? Well, few may know about it, but back before the EDM explosion, the aforementioned Pete Tong, now no longer being made to sit out by the bins behind the BBC Radio 1 studios, invited Avicii to provided a hallowed Essential Mix. Aired in December 2010, Tim’s mix featured an unsigned track that had simply sat on his YouTube channel since the end of October. Little did anyone know at the time, but it was the start of the journey for a track that defined the genre.
Avicii’s journey from ‘Levels‘ was sadly much shorter than ever anticipated, but his legacy and influence will live on for decades more. A catalogue of tracks like no other, his unrivalled quality took the name to a new height, and Avicii’s sound spread far and wide. ‘Levels‘ is widely regarded as the track that really kicked things off for both Avicii and the few years of EDM pandemonium until around 2014, and for that we thank him, 8 years on from the release of this great track.