The story of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” is true dance world mythology.
Before releasing the song on June 17, 2013, the Swedish producer debuted the track three months prior at Ultra Music Festival 2013. Famously, the audience was so confused by the music that they booed.
“When we performed at Ultra, it was just awkward,” the track’s vocalist Aloe Blacc told SPIN last year. “I don’t think even the sound people knew what they were doing. Everybody else at the festival had air cannons and pyro and half-naked girls dancing onstage. Then here comes Tim with drums, banjo, fiddle, guitar and three singers.”
When Blacc and the song’s co-writer Mike Einzinger got offstage that night, they asked the artist born Tim Bergling if the performance had been bad. Bergling told them not to worry, because audiences would understand later.
He was right. “Wake Me Up” become not only a defining hit of the Avicii catalog, but a defining anthem of the EDM era, with its influences blurring the lines between dance, pop and country like no other song before it. The track peaked at No. 4 and finished at No. 13 on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 songs in 2013. “Wake Me Up” also held the record for most weeks at No.1 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart (with 26 weeks) until that record was broken by The Chainsmokers’ “Closer,” featuring Halsey, which logged 27 weeks at No. 1.
As the song was dominating the charts in the fall of 2013, Avicii and Chic’s Nile Rodgers sat down for an interview with Billboard for a discussion about making music, their friendship and “Wake Me Up.”
“I always thought it was good,” Bergling says of the song in that interview. “I always kind of trusted my own judgment in the music and knew that once people do hear it, at least when my fans hear it and stuff, when they get over the fact that it’s country…I trust in the music, because I thought it was the best work I’ve done.”
“To have a dance record that could possibly impact the country market,” follows Rodgers, “to me I was just thinking statistically, not only is this artistically bold, but if this connects, you’re doing some next level dance music.”
Next level it was. Seven years after the release of “Wake Me Up” — and just more than two years after Avicii’s tragic suicide on April 20, 2018 — the song remains a dance world classic. Watch the complete interview with Bergling and Rodgers below.