It’s been more than 13 months since the world lost Avicii, but his posthumous legacy is only just beginning. On Thursday, June 6, the Swedish DJ’s family treated fans to Tim, his first full-length album in three and a half years. Perhaps more notably, it is the first release since his April 2018 death by suicide.
Posthumous releases have a long and tricky history in the music industry. Michael Jackson’s 2010 album, Michael, released 17 months after his death at age 50, was widely panned by critics, longtime fans and even members of the famed Jackson family, many of whom accused the King of Pop’s record label of using a soundalike to complete the unfinished tracks. Similarly, the estates of Amy Winehouse and The Beatles’ John Lennon and George Harrison have been fiercely protective of what (if any) unreleased material sees the light of day.
But Tim is different. Avicii’s loved ones told The New York Times earlier this year that he stressed the importance of his work being released. After all, the EDM hitmaker quit touring (which is unheard of in the streaming age) to solely make music in the recording studio. It was his attempt at slowing down after years of hard partying, which led to a slew of health scares including an 11-day hospitalization for pancreatitis in 2012.
Music producer Carl Falk worked tirelessly over the past several months to piece together what are believed to be the final songs that Avicii (born Tim Bergling) wrote and produced to near-completion in the final months of his short 28 years on Earth. For the finishing touches, Falk turned to detailed notes that his late friend left behind on his computer and cellphone.
The beautiful end result is quite possibly the eeriest posthumous album of all time. The majority of Tim’s 12 tracks are centered around death, whether it be the fear surrounding it or the imminence. Take the lead single, “SOS,” for example: The opening lines find soul singer Aloe Blacc, who previously collaborated with Avicii on their 2013 megahit “Wake Me Up,” crying out, “Can you hear me? SOS / Help me put my mind to rest.”
Even the song titles are nothing short of haunting, from “Never Leave Me” to “Fade Away.” But the darkest of all is the Chris Martin-assisted “Heaven,” which the Coldplay frontman recorded with Avicii in 2014 during the same session that yielded their smash collaboration “A Sky Full of Stars.” Various renditions of “Heaven” have been circulating on the Internet ever since, including one featuring the vocals of lesser-known singer Simon Aldred, but it was never officially released until now. The final product showcases Avicii at his best (Martin too, frankly) with a crescendoing, dance floor-ready melody. But, given the producer’s tragic fate, the lyrics once again strike a chord, particularly when Martin croons on the chorus, “I think I just died and went to heaven.”
Elsewhere on the record — which, somber as it is, has its optimistic moments too — Avicii explores more genres than he ever had before, ranging from tropical house on “Bad Reputation” with Joe Janiak to orchestral dance-rock on “Heart Upon My Sleeve” with Imagine Dragons.
In all, Tim is a true testament to Avicii’s creative mind and the innovative ways that he made each and every song his own. And though he ultimately succumbed to his demons, his music will have us dancing until the end of time.
3 stars (out of 4)
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If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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