From the readings this past week, I had one type of process that kept coming to mind when dealing with the hybridity and intertextual forms of musical expression. If you’re a fan of music, particularly EDM or Electronic Dance Music, you might be familiar with the popular band Avicii. In the past, they have revolutionized the sound of electronic music in clubs, raves, parties, casinos, etc. Who knew that being so talented at making electronic beats would result in being capable of producing much more?
Avicii’s last album, “True,” came out in September of 2013. It features a total of twelve songs of completely different and mixed styles, feels, beats, and compilations of different artists, all produced by Avicii. When Avicii gave the world a preview of this album in March of 2013 at the Ultra Music Festival, it rendered negative results at first. People couldn’t grasp nor did they like the concept of a band incorporating bluegrass, country, jazz, rock, electric, soul, etc. However, with the negative publicity came positive feedback as well. Many artists supported Avicii’s endeavor to revolutionize EDM around the world, using different sounds and styles one might hear in different genres as well as different time periods.
Millions of reviews, comments, opinions, and articles were written about Avicii’s choice to mix genres and time periods. It’s specifically eye-opening because there are a small handful of EDM artists who could successfully make an album that would sell such a wide variety of sounds on one album, appealing to a large number of consumers (whether they are fans of EDM or not). Furthermore, historically, Avicii is known around the world for strictly being electronic and dance music (Such as “Levels”), and was highly rated around the world. But the mastermind behind Avicii’s name, Tim Bergling, seems to think that house music is now becoming relatively the same. A specific sound is being repeated over and over and he wanted to change things up in order to create something controversial and new. “This quest to provoke has led Bergling to work with artists including Nile Rodgers, Adam Lambert and Mike Einziger, guitarist from forgotten surf-metallers Incubus. It’s a motley crew but one that Bergling is proud to be a part of” (Renshaw).
Avicii’s new album clearly interconnects with other works. One could argue that Daft Punk, David Guetta, and other like artists have pop-ish and rock-ish attributes to some of their songs. Avicii takes it to a whole new level using country, bluegrass, and other genres that are stereotypically seen as the complete opposite of each other. Avicii is specific with each song. Some resemble the normal EDM style, others incorporate jazz, soul, bluegrass, etc. “’People’s expectations were just lowered so much. Country and house? This has got to be a joke,’ the DJ-producer said in a recent interview. ‘Once you get over the fact that it’s country and house, just listen to it as music, a lot of people realized it’s pretty good’…’Wake Me Up’ is Avicii’s proof. The upbeat folk tune has topped the charts around the world. It has peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, where the song is platinum” (Makarechi).
(View ‘Wake Me Up’ Here) ‘Wake Me Up’ Official Video
Avicii also took a big risk in the track, ‘Hey Brother,’ “…Which features the keening vocals of Mr. Tyminski. (How much of a risk is it to use the main voice from an album, the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack, that has sold over seven million copies in the United States?)” (Caramanica). ‘Heart Upon My Sleeve’ features a vocal performance from Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons (which is alternative rock), while ‘Shame on Me’ incorporates a solid amount of swing music and that of the jazz genre. ‘Long Road to Hell’ is also a spirited combination of soul, classical, jazz, a little R&B, and EDM.
(View ‘Hey Brother’ Here) ‘Hey Brother’ Official Video
(View ‘Heart Upon My Sleeve’ Here)‘Heart Upon My Sleeve’ Video
(View ‘Shame On Me’ Here) ‘Shame On Me’ Video
(View ‘Long Road to Hell’ Here) ‘Long Road to Hell’ Video Exclusive Mix
Furthermore, because we are so interconnected (thanks to television and the internet) Avicii is able to insert their experiments and music within a wide variety of cultures and countries. The album went gold or platinum in seven countries around the world. Avicii’s work is so monumental because of it’s direction of music. It was rejected at first. But the way this music is ‘new,’ that is, because it incorporates so many genres of opposite taste (especially pertaining to EDM), is why it has reaped success.
In relation to the readings, this new music is a living culture within itself that is growing its roots in the hearts of millions. I think the value of this music is the fact that it’s so hybrid yet a genius combination of compositions that it has intrigued countries and people around the world. It’s a “collage” of music, just as described in Greenberg’s piece on art. A mix of dimensions and new textures that are so opposite that it becomes an oxymoron of appealing art. “By its greater corporeal presence and its greater extraneousness, the affixed paper or cloth serves for a seeming moment to push everything else into a more vivid idea of depth than the simulated printing or simulated textures had ever done” (Clement Greenberg). I feel as though Avicii has done just this, except within the realm of musical phenomena, as well as a mix of time periods and intermingling a nostalgic want for past sounds.
Gunhild’s readings inspired me to focus on the subject that the work is open, quite like the mind, in that individuals like many different sounds even from the past or present. What he calls, “negotiation” is going on all the time in all types of media, including music. The intertextuality is expandable, and for Avicii, this works out perfectly in terms of marketing and sales. Bergling has shaped this text of his album, “True,” with many other texts. Music from music. Singers who are inspired from other singers – in essence, he has created his genre from other genres, an idea that Gunhild recognizes through Bakhtinian concepts. Avicii’s music is also intermedial because of it’s in-between-ness. A hybrid breed.
Genres represent the intertextuality in music frequently. Gunhild states, “Genres perform the function of organizing this heteroglossia and connecting distinctive traits in distinctive genres. The genres tend to assume certain points of view, ways of thinking, and social accents.” So not only do genres represent music but they represent literature, art, time periods, social movements and social views present at a given time in history. Furthermore, the idea of heteroglossia, describes the idea of coexistence of distinct varieties within a single “language” – in this case, the language of music.
Caramanica, Jon. “Global Pop, Now Infused With Country The Swedish D.J. Avicii Releases ‘True’.” The New York Times. NYTimes.com, 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 3 Feb. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/19/arts/music/the-swedish-dj-avicii-releases-true.html?_r=0>.
Clement Greenberg, “Collage” (1959). A classic article on 20th century “collage culture” or the “collage aesthetic,” which carries over into music (jazz and rock) and awareness of popular culture post-1960.
Gunhild Agger, “Intertextuality Revisited: Dialogues and Negotiations in Media Studies.” Canadian Journal of Aesthetics, 4, 1999. [Good overview of theories as they apply to media studies.]
Makarechi, Kia. “‘True’ Review: Avicii Pulls Off An Unlikely Hybrid.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Feb. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/20/true-review-avicii_n_3962459.html>.
Renshaw, David. “Avicii’s Mix of EDM and Country Has given Ravers a Wake-up Call.” Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 25 Oct. 2013. Web. 03 Feb. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/oct/24/avicii-mixes-edm-country-dance-dj-miami>.
“True (Avicii Album).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Mar. 2014. Web. 03 Feb. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_%28Avicii_album%29>.