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5 Country-EDM Songs Inspired by Avicii

From Zac Brown Band’s “Beautiful Drug” to country-EDM collisions, key tracks influenced by the Swedish DJ, who died on Friday at 28

Avicii

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Avicii’s commercial breakthrough had reverberations far beyond the dance clubs where he was accustomed to working. The Swedish DJ and producer, who died at 28 on Friday, envisioned an exciting new mix of styles with his hits “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother,” combining the acoustic instrumentation and melodies of roots music with rhythm-heavy dance music. 

While it never fully caught on with country radio, the idea launched a microtrend that has echoes into the present day with country and EDM collaborations like Maren Morris and Zedd’s “The Middle” or the murky electronic roots music on the recent solo album from bluegrass ace Dan Tyminski, who provided vocals on “Hey Brother.” Here are five of the best collisions of country and EDM inspired by Avicii.

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Gazzo featuring Chase Rice, “Sun Turns Cold”

One of Avicii’s most lasting country music legacies was the cross-collaboration he encouraged between EDM DJs and country/roots vocalists. Two years after “Wake Me Up” became an international hit, L.A.-based DJ Gazzo enlisted country singer Chase Rice to sing vocals on his anthemic house track “Sun Turns Cold.” The song steered clear of country radio, but it became a minor viral hit online, earning more than 500,000 streams. “Working with Chase Rice was an absolute pleasure,” Gazzo said upon the song’s release. “With such raw talent and an absurdly unique voice, it added a crazy new element to the track.” J.B.

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Zac Brown Band, “Beautiful Drug”

A week before Avicii released his 2015 Zac Brown collaboration “Broken Arrows,” Zac Bown Band announced that the latest single off their genre-shifting album Jekyll & Hyde would be “Beautiful Drug,” a dance-leaning arena stomp that marked the ZBB’s most direct dive into the world of country-EDM to date. “I love electronic music,” Brown told Rolling Stone Country in 2015, explaining that he was inspired to record “Beautiful Drug” in the style of Avicii. “I spend a lot of my time listening to [electronic music] and just trying to understand what makes it work.” Despite its strong dance influences, the song became a Number One country hit for the band, topping the Country Airplay charts the following year. J.B.

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Audien featuring Lady Antebellum, “Something Better”

Lady Antebellum were so enamored of Avicii’s progressive mix of dance music and acoustic sounds that they started closing their live shows with a mashup of “Wake Me Up” and Anna Kendrick’s “Cups” from Pitch Perfect. They brought their fascination with EDM to the next level in 2015, performing with Zedd on the CMT Awards and then recording the uplifting “Something Better” with American DJ Audien. Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley repurpose their signature boy-girl vocals here, but the surroundings have distinct traces of Avicii’s work – a pop-savvy, piano-driven melody with build-and-release tension that explodes into emotive instrumental passages. “It was a really good fit. I grew up with [their] music,” Audien told Rolling Stone Country of working with Lady A. The tune never caught on with country radio, but it did make the Top Ten on Billboard‘s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart and reached Number One on the U.S. Dance Club Songs chart. J.F.

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Zedd, Maren Morris, Gray, “The Middle”

Maren Morris had loads of crossover appeal from the moment she self-released her eponymous EP in 2015, but even she probably didn’t see a Number One dance song in her future. Morris became the first country artist to earn that honor earlier this year thanks to “The Middle,” her collaboration with Zedd and production duo Grey, showing just how fully EDM has integrated with Music City in the past half decade. Morris’ voice, a robust, soulful tool that’s proven adaptable to most any pop genre she comes across, doesn’t exactly need the help of a vocoder. Yet on “The Middle” her warm, lilting twang proves a perfect match, with the relatively spare production giving the mechanized harmonies room to smolder and fill the in between space that the song’s title implies. J.G.

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Hailee Steinfeld and Alesso featuring Florida Georgia Line and Watt, “Let Me Go”

Florida Georgia Line are no strangers to the EDM world, having collaborated with the Chainsmokers on their Memories… Do Not Open track “Last Day Alive” in 2017. While that song didn’t make it to radio, their guest spot on the Hailee Steinfeld and Alesso song “Let Me Go” did, landing the duo in the Top 40 at the same time as another of their crossovers, “Meant to Be” with Bebe Rexha. Released in late 2017, “Let Me Go” features a vocal duet from pop artist Steinfeld and FGL, with production and arrangement from Swedish DJ Alesso. There’s not much country to be found in this one, with its blippy synths and trop-pop beats, though Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley manage to sneak a little twang into the second verse with their two-part vocal harmony. B.M.

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