Avicii may not be EDM's first crossover artist, but he may be the biggest.
Sure, it doesn't hurt that the 24-year-old Swedish DJ with the Italian-sounding name has model-looks, and a Ralph Lauren contract to boot. However, it's his ability to bring a variety of styles together on his debut "True" (PRMD/Island Def Jam) that will likely catapult him over competitors like David Guetta and Calvin Harris.
Avicii's songs sound distinctive. Whether it's the weird combination of Mumford & Sons-styled folk and dance beats on the first single "Wake Me Up," which is already doing battle with Katy Perry and Jay Z atop the pop charts, or the gorgeous reworking of Antony & The Johnsons' haunting ballad "Hope There's Someone" into a rousing dance floor anthem, Avicii approaches the songs on "True" more like a songwriter than a DJ. The beat isn't his focus -- it's only part of the package.
For "Lay Me Down," Avicii assembles a formidable crew to combine funk with EDM, using an impressive Nile Rodgers guitar groove and Adam Lambert's potent vocals to build a crazy, cross-generational dance jam that's somehow both current and timeless. He uses Dan Tyminski (of "O Brother, Where Art Thou's" soundtrack) to bring country-tinged drama to "Hey Brother," while Audra Mae helps turn "Dear Boy" into a super-catchy mix of Lana Del Rey and Zedd's "Clarity."
Avicii rolls out one surprise after another on "True," but the biggest one may be how well he makes EDM work with nearly every genre.
THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Bringing EDM to new musical frontiers