What do Avicii Songs 'Wake Me Up' and 'Hey Brother' Mean?

Avicii, a Swedish music producer and DJ who became one of the biggest artists in electronic dance music, left his fans and the world with dozens of chart-topping songs and hits, some ­­­­of which ­­­­curiously centered on life’s fleeting nature and the relationships that give it meaning.

Tim Bergling, better known as Avicii, was found dead in Oman on Friday at the age of 28, just shy of two years after he stopped performing live due to health problems. The young musician, who had returned to the studio, drew acclaim in his early 20s within the EDM community for several singles, but songs in his debut studio album True in 2013 are what propelled him into fame across music genres.

His lead song off that album, “Wake Me Up,” has somewhat dark lyrics, but innovatively blends EDM with country and bluegrass elements to create an uplifting tune that became a summer anthem.

“Feeling my way through the darkness, Guided by a beating heart, I can't tell where the journey will end, But I know where to start,” the song begins. “They tell me I'm too young to understand, They say I'm caught up in a dream, Well life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes, Well that's fine by me.”

The chorus, hence the title of the song, goes, “So wake me up when it's all over, When I'm wiser and I'm older, All this time I was finding myself, And I didn't know I was lost.”

Avicii considered the track “a fun experiment,” and looked to American soul singer Aloe Blacc to come up with lyrics. They came to Blacc when he had the realization, “My life is such a dream. Wake me up when it's all over.”

In his third single off the album, “Hey Brother,” Avicii similarly mixed EDM and bluegrass and at the time said he sought out a vocalist in that genre, Dan Tyminski, because he has “this earthy tone to his voice.”

“I think music is about melody,” Avicii said. “Music is a universal language—it doesn’t matter if it’s a synth or a banjo.”

Like “Wake Me Up,” which ended up being Avicii’s biggest chart success in America, “Hey Brother” has lyrics that touch on the uncertainties of life and where it leads, but settles on the importance of being there for a brother, a sister, and by extension, other human beings.

“Hey brother, do you still believe in one another? Hey sister, do you still believe in love I wonder?” the chorus goes. “Oh, if the sky comes falling down, For you, There's nothing in this world I wouldn't do.”

Asked what his favorite track on True was, Avicii that year did not respond with the one that made it highest in the charts.

“I’d have to say ‘Hey Brother,’” he said. “The bluegrass elements just have a really cool and alluring sound.”

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