For his fans, the release of the first posthumous Avicii record is a welcome celebration of his globally recognised talents but also, rather inevitably, a painful reminder of his tragic death. The Swedish DJ, real name Tim Bergling, was found dead in his Oman hotel room in April 2018, aged just 28. News of his passing shocked and saddened the music world, as his grieving family eulogised “a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions… He really struggled with thoughts about meaning, life, happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace.”
The Bergling family’s quest for a remedy for their immense grief has already led them to establishing the mental health-focused Tim Bergling Foundation, while they’ve also moved swiftly to preserve Avicii’s memory through music. They haven’t had to look far to achieve the latter: the DJ had actually been readying a collection of new tracks in the weeks and months leading up to his death, accompanying the unfinished demos with detailed notes, email conversations and text messages to help his team execute his next project.
The end result is the posthumous ‘TIM’; net proceeds from which will go directly towards funding the important work already being done by the Tim Bergling Foundation. Marking the first full Avicii release since 2015’s ‘Stories’, ‘TIM’ boasts some big-name collaborations (Chris Martin, Imagine Dragons) and reunions of previously successful team-ups (Aloe Blacc, Vargas and Lagola) as the archetypal Avicii songwriting formula – upbeat piano chord builds, Instagram quote-worthy lyrical ruminations on life, love and death, and, of course, big ol’ crowd-slaying EDM drops that almost always announce themselves about 65 seconds in – remains the unswerving guiding light.
The Martin-featuring ‘Heaven’, which has been floating around in various forms since 2014, follows this unmistakably Avicii-trademarked song structure to a tee. You’ll also find it almost impossible to not notice the very pronounced shift in poignancy that this track in particular, which sees the Coldplay frontman boldly singing, “I think I just died and went to heaven“, has taken on in the wake of Avicii’s passing. It’s unclear just how much direction Avicii gave in regards to the vast majority of the lyrics we hear on ‘TIM’, though. While Blacc recently confirmed that the DJ did indeed pen the concerning words heard on the otherwise sunshiny synth of ‘SOS’ (“Can you hear me? S.O.S. / Help me put my mind to rest“), Avicii himself admitted back in 2013 that writing lyrics wasn’t exactly his forte. “I’m not that good at writing lyrics,” he told TIME. “I bounce those back and forth with songwriters or someone who can sing.”
The late DJ’s speciality instead lay in crafting the kind of chirpy melodies which could drive any one of his EDM-laced bangers into the warm embrace of mainstream radio stations and streaming playlists the world over. But, over the course of the dozen tracks which comprise ‘TIM’, the overwhelming impression you get is one that ultimately preaches to the converted – and, if you’re not already keenly part of that Avicii-worshipping flock, then you’re unlikely to be influenced to sneak in at this late stage. When the record does ever-so-slightly veer from its creator’s tried-and-tested structure, such as on the Middle Eastern-inspired breeze heard on ‘Tough Love’ or the tolerable soft-rock approach adopted on ‘Excuse Me Mr. Sir’, it’s then almost instantly forgotten as normal service resumes with the arrival on the Avicii conveyor belt of yet another sparkling dance-pop ditty.
While ‘TIM’ is unlikely to win any existing EDM-deniers over, its addition to Avicii’s back catalogue will come as great comfort to both the fans and family of the late DJ – and who could deny them that small lift in what’s been an otherwise extremely difficult 14 months?