Why "Silhouettes" Is The One Avicii Song That Fans Should Play To Understand The Late Musician's Influence On Pop Music
According to Billboard, Avicii has passed away at the age of 28, but the DJ's effect on the world of music will be felt for years to come. For example, the one Avicii song that fans should listen to to remember the artist is "Silhouettes." The song captured his ability to combine EDM influences with pop structure, a technique which changed how musicians approached song structure and redefined what makes a good chorus for the 21st century.
In 2011, Avicii entered himself into the canon of great EDM with his single "Levels," a song that didn't do much to challenge the structure of Electronic Dance Music, but proved that he was capable of creating a high-quality single. Then, in 2013, the artist managed to combine American country and a soulful vocal performance from Aloe Blacc with the defining beat and chirpy synths of EDM in the song "Wake Me Up," shattering expectations to what an EDM song could sound like. The missing link in this transformation is on full display in the 2012 single "Silhouettes," which failed to have the impact of his larger hits like "Wake Me Up" or "Hey Brother," but is a perfect encapsulation of an artist striving to push the limits of their own genre.
In 2012, the year that Avicii released "Silhouettes," pop music was starting to more readily incorporate EDM elements into their music — specifically dubstep. The influence of Skrillex and his mechanical, whirring dubstep hits like "Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites" and "Bangarang," started turning up in songs from by Katy Perry and Taylor Swift as they were incorporating dubstep "drops" into their music. The EDM drop was characterized by a build-up in a song taking a sudden, propulsive shift — and effectively served as a chorus for a wordless song.
Avicii's "Silhouettes" is more akin to the pop tracks that were borrowing from EDM than EDM itself. The singer Salem Al Fakir performs the vocals on the song's verses, celebrating that "we've come a long way since that day / and we will never look back at the faded silhouette." Fakir is likely singing about something personal, but the lyrics could just as easily refer to Avicii's evolution in the world of music.
When the verse does drop, it's not the garbled wobbles and metallic clang of dubstep drops or the whirring dance-fuel fodder of Avicii's contemporary David Guetta, in his singles "Titanium" and and "Who's That Chick?" Avicii's drop feels bright and celebratory, providing the same emotional catharsis that an ideal pop chorus strives for without any words. Avicii's forebears made the drop effective, but Avicii helped make the drop emotional.
"Silhouettes" pre-dates the modern phenomena of what Billboard labeled as the "Pop Drop." In the years that would followed, several notable EDM artists would release songs indebted to Avicii's more vulnerable approach to EDM including Dillon Francis' "Without You," Calvin Harris' "Sweet Nothing," and pretty much everything that The Chainsmokers have done since they released the song "Closer." Avicii's legacy will remember him as one of many people that brought EDM to the forefront, and helping create the electronic music festival culture of the 2010's, but for a brief period of time he also left a mark on how EDM and pop music interacted.
Avicii's most popular songs helped cross the barriers electronic dance music and expanding the entire genre, all the while managing to become a recognizable figure in the world of pop and assist in turning EDM into a global phenomenon. "Silhouettes" may not be Avicii's most popular song, but it's the song that gets to the core of how Avicii altered the shape of pop music in the 21st century.