In the wake of March’s Ultra Music Festival, one clear point of controversy emerged: Avicii’s new album. In the course of his 75-minute set at the festival Avicii decided, in advance, to unveil his not-yet-released album using a mix of DJing and live performances that included the guests who will appear on the album.
“It’s just been, for me, very interesting [as a] learning experience,” Avicii said in an interview with Radio.com. “I’ve been working with — instead of DJs, I’ve been working with musicians that come from completely different upbringings. Like, they’ve learned music differently and different ways of looking at music. Like [Chic leader/legendary producer] Nile Rodgers or Aloe Blacc or — I’ve been working a lot with [Incubus guitarist] Mike Einziger.”
Although he’d spoken to Rolling Stone in February and revealed most of the decidedly mixed guest list, which also includes vocalists Dan Tyminski and Audra Mae as well as legendary songwriter Mac Davis, hearing that new portion of his Ultra set open with nothing but banjos and Aloe Blacc’s vocals with nary a beat to be found sparked mixed reactions in the media.
Since his single “Levels” took off internationally this year, Avicii has been focused on bringing a mass audience to dance music. His use of Etta James’ vocal in the track was the first demonstration of his soulful side, which the DJ says continues to be an influence on the new record and manifests in vocals from Aloe Blacc, best known for his single (and How To Make It In America theme song) “I Need A Dollar.” Soul, rhythmic, hip-hop and R&B samples have long found their way into house music but the question is, will hardcore EDM audiences be willing to broaden their horizons enough to accept bluegrass in a club banger?
Radio.com caught up with Avicii, whose proper name is Tim Bergling, on the set of a photo shoot in Brooklyn for Ralph Lauren (he has been the face of campaigns for the company’s Denim & Supply arm for over a year). It was only four days after his Ultra Music set and one day after a bruising New York Times review.