By JENIBELLE HSU
Wearing a backward baseball cap and headphones around his neck, he emerged on stage in front of an endless sea of screaming fans and dropped the beat.
The person on stage was none other than Avicii, the superstar DJ who took the world and the electronic dance music (EDM) industry by storm with his 2011 hit “Levels” and 2013 hit “Wake Me Up.” In his prolific career, the two-time Grammy-nominated artist scored five hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and collaborated with music icons, such as Green Day’s frontrunner Billie Joe Armstrong, Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin and Madonna.
However, behind the flashing lights and thundering music, he was Tim Bergling, an introverted Swedish native who struggled with alcoholism, health problems and stress, as he toured around the globe and embraced the EDM community’s notorious rave culture.
Last Friday, his lifestyle finally caught up with him, and Avicii passed away at just 28 years old.
Undoubtedly, he will be immortalized as a revolutionary musician who turned EDM into a global phenomenon, but his story will serve as a cautionary tale that explores the downside of fame and pervasive party culture.
First, performing more than 800 shows in less a decade clearly took a toll on Avicii. As his career gained steam, his managers and agents concentrated more on his profitability and less on his health or wellbeing. Yes, he earned about $19 million a year, making him the world’s sixth-highest-paid DJ. Yet, the ceaseless pressure of continuing his business only worsened his already-crippling health conditions and hindered him from exploring his passion for music.
For example, to escape from the stress that came with the job, Avicii drank heavily and became attached to partying from a young age. In fact, his toxic lifestyle convinced him to retire from touring in 2016 to manage his health, just five years after his breakthrough in 2011. Ironically, the same community that paved the way for his success was the one that threw his dreams and hopes down the drain. Amidst today’s dance-music craze, managers must reform their aggressive business tactics to avoid another tragic death of a blossoming artist.
Although Avicii may be the first star from the modern EDM era who has died, many other musicians have suffered a similar fate. From 1969 to 1971, six prominent rock-and-roll musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, all died at the age of 27. The latest high-profile artist who joined the so-called “27 club” was Amy Winehouse, who passed away in 2011 due to alcohol poisoning.
According to Howard Sounes, the author of 27: History of the 27 Club, most members of the club experienced childhood trauma, which lingered with them throughout their lives. However, Avicii ’s early death stemmed from the pressure of being the face of the EDM industry. For aspiring DJs determined to achieve their dreams, Avicii’s story teaches them to be aware of their limit and prioritize their health over success.
Despite all the challenges he faced in his career, Avicii never lost his passion for music and has inspired countless young artists to embrace their passion for the rising EDM genre. In the end, even Avicii admitted, “it was the best journey of my life.”