Fresh-faced as a young Luke Skywalker, Sweden's Avicii (aka Tim Bergling) must have The Force behind him, given his meteoric rise to electronic dance music's upper echelon. He began recording in 2009, when he was just 19 years old, and the following year cracked the pop charts across Europe -- including Top 5 positions in Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium -- with his single "Seek Bromance," released as Tim Berg.
Last year, a live bootleg of his song "Levels" racked up 15 million views before the single was even released; in the hands of select superstar-DJ friends like the Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta, the track became one of the year's biggest hits on the back of festival play and word of mouth alone. (Its official video has been viewed over 25 million times in just the three months since the song's official release.)
There's no doubt that Bergling knows his way around the inner workings of big-tent electro-house -- he's got hooks and stabs and swooshes galore, with breakdowns and drops in all the right places -- but what really sets him apart is his pop sensibility. In "Levels," that comes out in the form of an extended sample of Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold on Me." And he put his Scandinavian pop instincts into play more directly with Leona Lewis' "Collide," a song built upon his own Penguin Cafe Orchestra-sampling track "Penguin."
That hall-of-mirrors effect is often prevalent in Avicii's music: consider his 2010 hit "My Feelings for You," a collaboration with Sebastien Drums. It's essentially a cover of Cassius' filter-house classic "Feeling for You," right down to the way it treats the latter's source material, a sample of Gwen McCrae's "All This Love That I'm Giving." "Levels," meanwhile, became the basis for Flo Rida's chart-topping "Good Feeling." (Interestingly, Bergling says that he discovered the Etta James sample via Pretty Lights' "Finally Moving.")
Given Bergling's momentum, you can bet you'll be hearing a lot more from him in the coming months. He already has a Grammy nomination under his belt (for 2011's "Sunshine," with David Guetta); "Levels" enjoyed a cameo in Bud Light Premium's Super Bowl ad. Fortunately, he has decided to use his powers for good: he dedicated his 2012 House for Hunger tour to the nonprofit Feeding America and pledged $1 million to the cause.
Get better acquainted with Avicii's epic sound with this three-hour playlist of his biggest hits and remixes, including reworks for Tiesto, Daft Punk and Bob Sinclar.