Some singles perform well, some perform exceptionally well, and some, in rare cases, become global hit phenomena. Avicii’s Wake Me Up is one of those rare songs. Released as the lead single from his debut album, True, Avicii took a huge risk by breaking away from the successful EDM “formula” that he was known for and instead opted to team up with R&B/Soul singer extraordinaire Aloe Blacc to compose a song that pushed Pop Fusion boundaries in a direction not seen before within the mainstream.
The gamble would yield one of two results. It would either implode his already successful career by alienating and not connecting with his core fan base, or his new innovative sound would connect on a scale far beyond what he could have ever imagined.
Luckily for Avicii the latter was true. At the time of writing, Wake Me Up has hit #1 on 27 charts in 23 countries throughout the world.
In this article we’re going to take a look at one of the song’s core strengths that helped turn it into a global blockbuster- the effective fusion of multiple sub-genres under 1 roof.
Not only did this significantly widen the demographic reach of the song, but it also provided it with a unique nature that enabled it to stand out and resonate amongst all of the other songs in the mainstream.
Wake Me Up’s Sub-Genre Types
There are 2 distinct primary sub-genres that are influencing the vibe and sound of Wake Me Up:
• EDM/ Electropop
The Country/Folk vibe is brought about via the following elements:
• The nature of the acoustic guitar (Primary influence)
• The nature of the lead vocal (Primary influence)
• The “four-on-the-floor” “foot stomping” beat (Primary & Secondary influence depending on the nature of the kick)
• The nature of the lead synth melody (Secondary influence)
The EDM/Electropop vibe is brought about via the following elements:
• The overall nature of all the synths within the song (Primary influence)
• The nature of the drums and percussion (Primary influence)
• The “bells and whistles” (EQ sweep, synth/cymbal swells, etc…) (Primary influence)
Fusion Methods – Section By Section
Here we’re going to take a look at how each section within the song is influenced by Country/Folk, EDM, or both.
Notice that some sections lean heavier toward one specific sub-genre, while other sections give close to equal weight to both. Here’s how it was done:
Intro (Primarily Country/Folk)
The intro’s Country/Folk nature is elicited via the nature of the acoustic guitars EXCEPT at the tail end of the section where the EQ sweep is employed, providing an Electropop element within the mix.
Verse-1 (Primarily Country/Folk)
The first verse is primarily Country/Folk in nature as well, except for the Electropop EQ effect that’s present during the first stanza of the section. Notice that this is the same effect that was employed at the tail end of the intro.
Chorus-1 (Country/Folk AND Dance)
Here in the first chorus we have a fusion of Country/Folk and Dance (primarily non-Electro). The four-on-the-floor beat provides the section with its Dance nature (though its “footstomping” rhythm is also indicative of Country/Folk), while the nature of the acoustic guitars and the lead vocal keep the Country/Folk vibe that was established during the preceding sections in effect.
Notice that during the second half of the section a synth pad is introduced at a low level within the mix, providing the balance of the section with just a hint of Electro.
Additionally, notice the synth/cymbal sweep that occurs at the tail end of the section coupled with a brief shift in EQ that provides the final transition into the primarily EDM nature of the instrumental break that follows.
Instrumental Break-1 (Primarily EDM with a Secondary Country/Folk Influence)
The first third of the section fuses both sub-genres together, while the balance of the section is primarily full-on EDM in nature. Notice, however, that the nature of the lead synth melody has a Folk natured vibe about it (read the full report for details).
Verse-2 (Primarily Country/Folk)
The entire section is primarily Country/Folk in nature.
Chorus-2 (Country/Folk & Dance)
It’s basically the same story as the first chorus occurrence within the song (See above).
Bridge (Country/Folk & Electro)
Here again the 2 sub-genres fuse with one another. The nature of the vocal is primarily Country/Folk, as are the acoustic guitars. On the other hand, the EQ effect is prominent, and as the section progresses the synth becomes more prominent within the mix coupled with the swell/sweep at the tail end.
Instrumental Break-2 (Primarily EDM)
It’s basically the same story as the first instrumental break occurrence within the song except for the fact that it’s primarily full on EDM right out of the gate.
As you can see, not only did specific elements within specific sections possess 1 particular sub-genre influence, but at times both sub-genres were fused together at the very same time. This is the mark of highly effective songwriting which helped to put the song over the top.
As a songwriter, fusing multiple sub-genres under one roof is a surefire way to push the boundaries of what has been done before and will enable you to stand out from the pack and get noticed. Just make sure you’re employing best craft practices to effectively pull it off!
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Cover image courtesy of Mark Runyon ConcertTour.org