Swedish House Mafia reunion: an analysis of the trio’s 2019
Since the epic performance at the 2018 edition of Ultra Miami, fans were on their edge of their seats to see what Swedish House Mafia would follow up with. For months, the only thing they offered was silence as they seemed to dip back into the shadows straight after that closing set and the world was left wondering what was truly going to happen, if anything. But that silence was finally broken on 22 October 2018 with a Facebook live video. Premiering the live video almost two and half hours before any action, everyone knew they had to be building up to something huge and that was exactly what they did. With a minimalistic setup – which would become a key branding for their new era – they finally showed their faces. At this point, the entire world was watching and waiting for what in the world they were about to do and it was pretty simple. To some international fans’ disappointment, they spoke in swedish the entire time but thanks to the help of some translators in the rapidfire comments section, information was being pieced together. It was the news everyone had wanted: they would be touring and playing shows again. In may of 2019, Swedish House Mafia would play one of the biggest hometown shows an artist has ever done in Stockholm at the Tele2 Arena. In fact, it would be so big that they would announce two more shows after the first show’s tickets had been snatched up faster than you could even say their name.
The Sweden shows
Let’s fast forward to those shows. People from all over the world flocked out to Stockholm that week (with some even coming from as far as Japan and Australia) and the music world was ablaze with the excitement of it all. Most of all though, we all had questions. What would the setup be like? What tracks would they play? Would we get new music? and more. On May 2 – the first night of shows – we finally had our answers. First thing fans noticed was an impressive stage setup consisting of three huge circles that would later move, shoot lasers and light up during the show, a table that appeared to be floating on the stage and also three other circles that would lit on fire. To say they didn’t go all out for this production would be a lie. The setlist was similar to that of an Axwell/\Ingrosso show with a lot more Steve Angello influence: darker, with all the iconic elements still there. Although not too much was different with each of the three nights, they didn’t drop the ball on performing the roof off of the arena and giving fans a show worth travelling for. As well as the show, they had their own photography exhibit and pop-up store in Stockholm during the week of the shows, featuring stunning portraits captured by Swedish artist and photographer Alexander Wessely which chronicled their challenging process from death to rebirth.
Something that some people were expecting were new releases from the trio before the reunion kicked off again. When this didn’t happen, people wondered when/if we would get any (especially since nothing new from them specifically was played out at Ultra Miami) but then the Sweden shows gave us two sneak peeks of new tracks. The first one was one that was used for their intro track for all upcoming performances was much darker and tech influenced, showcasing a different side to the Swedes that previous tracks hadn’t given us. Named ‘It Gets Better‘, it blew minds and showed fan that they were ready to explore new avenues on the second chapter of their story. The next one played out was ‘Underneath It All’. Getting back in touch with their classic vibes, this one is much more emotional and progressive. If anything, these two tracks show us that they can still work beautifully as a unit and still have the ability to produce breathtaking music. After the shows, it was dead silence on the new music front until a few months later when the collaboration with A$AP Rocky titled ‘Frankenstein’ was played out in Germany. At the time of writing, the trio show no signs of hinting towards releases soon, and the world is still waiting on news as to whether these will all be separate singles or be part of something much bigger like an album.
More merchandise than music?
There is big money to be made in merchandise and is a huge part of where artists source their money from nowadays, but how much is too much? After their Ultra Miami performance, they dropped an online pop-up store featuring a hoodie and a shirt with a minimalistic three dot design with the performance date on it. Although the price was extortionate at £45 ($63) for the shirt and £90 ($126) for the hoodie, it was quickly snatched up. Following on from this, they then had a whole collection especially for the Sweden shows. This was less expensive and was later made available online for a limited time just like all of their other merch items. Fans didn’t complain, but it all came to a head when they released yet another limited item. The heavy metal inspired ‘Save The World’ shirt went on sale, and was met with heavy criticism online. With some people strongly claiming they are just back for the money, others complained about the ratio of new merchandise to new released music. Despite all this, Swedish House Mafia still have the undeniable power to sell anything that has their name tied to it.
Trouble in the water: cancellations and more
It wasn’t all going to be plain sailing for this trio as they embarked on one of the biggest years of their careers so far, in fact it was far from it. In addition to the three Tele2 Arena shows back in May, Swedish House Mafia began to announce a lot more festival appearances thanks to the help of a countdown that would appear on their website and then reveal a show date. All of the dates were as follows:
May 18 – Mexico City, Mexico – Foro Sol
June 9 – Seoul, South Korea – Ultra Korea
June 29 – Odense, Denmark – Tinderbox
July 7 – Poland – Gdynia-Kosakowo Airport
July 12 – Larvik Golfklubb, Norway – Stavernfestivalen
July 14 – Split, Croatia – Ultra Europe
July 19 – Helsinki, Finland – Weekend Festival
July 26 – Ibiza, Spain – Ushuaïa
August 16 – St Pölten, Austria – Frequency Festival
August 23 – Zurich, Switzerland – Openair Festival
August 25 – Daresbury, United Kingdom – Creamfields
September 7 – Berlin, Germany – Lollapalooza Berlin
September 20 – Marina Bay, Singapore – F1 Singapore Grand Prix
Packing out their schedule to try and ensure that as many worldwide fans would get to see them play, Swedish House Mafia had a big year ahead of them, or so it was set out to look like. Troubles soon began when they cancelled their closing headline performance at Ultra Korea at the last second due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ that were never fully explained. Not long after this, DJ Mag Germany made a report claiming that the trio have signed a deal with Live Nation for 2020 shows and will be forced to cancel any shows that do not directly or indirectly benefit the company but all was relatively silent on the trio and team’s front. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only show they would cancel and Weekend Festival in Finland was axed off their schedule. This time, fans got a little bit more insight as to why thanks to Instagram direct messages shared by ‘shmworldwide’ (an Instagram fan page) with Steve Angello. Steve explained that their backline equipment broke in Poland and could not be repaired in such short notice. Although it was a legitimate reason, some fans were still upset about the lack of communication between them and their fanbase. In between all this, all three members were still playing solo sets but even cancelled some of those with Sebastian Ingrosso facing visa issues before his B2B with Steve in America and Axwell pulling out of his Electric Love set due to ‘unforeseen circumstances at the last minute. Moving on from cancellations, the epic 15th anniversary edition of Tomorrowland happened this july, and when the full timetable was released the most notable thing is that the mainstage closing slot on the sunday of both weekends was left blank. To most, this meant an obvious appearance by Swedish House Mafia on either both weekends or at least weekend two but that was not to be. No one knows why they did not perform but there was a lot of hearsay which suggested that they were scheduled to perform but dropped out (with Gareth Emery straight up captioning on an Instagram post ‘SHM cancelled.’) but a reddit user posted screenshots talking to Steve who claimed that Tomorrowland had never asked them to play, which was later debunked as fake. The other situation worth mentioning is the Creamfields performance that was the UK’s most anticipated set of the entire year. Closing out the Arc stage (one of two of the festival’s main outdoor stages), they shut off the entire stage for a whole day so they could build their production which was met with anger from some Creamfields attendees expressing that they were expecting a stellar lineup throughout the day to go hand-in-hand with the Swedes. To make up for this, Creamfields stated that they would be performing an exclusive and special extended set, but that never happened either with them arriving late and never playing for the advertised extended time. Despite this, they still managed to become of the most talked about sets of the entire weekend and pleased a lot of people.
Despite the bumps in the road, they got through one of the biggest years for all three members and made a lot of fans extremely happy at the end of it. So what’s next? If DJ Mag Germany are correct, we could be seeing them embark on a full stadium tour worldwide in 2020 and hopefully hitting the countries of the places they cancelled shows at and if this happens they can make up for it in a big way. We can also hopefully expect new releases of the tracks that have been hotly anticipated for a while now. No matter what happens, the Swedish House Mafia hype is very much still in action and won’t be dying down any time soon.