From the moment that Tim Bergling first appeared on the EDM scene, it was clear that the young Swedish producer stood out even among so many talented countrymen. Early singles—2009’s “Alcoholic,” 2010’s “My Feelings for You”—juggled melodic sparks with an upstart’s swagger, and it didn’t take him long to hit his stride. In 2011, “Levels” caught the world’s ear with a clever Etta James sample-flip and an unforgettable chord progression; no song better captures dance music’s optimism at the dawn of the decade. But Bergling had his eye on something bigger than even rave culture. With his debut album, 2013’s True, he veered unexpectedly into a jubilant fusion of house music, soul, and bluegrass, and if songs like “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother” initially puzzled fans, they quickly reset the terms of what was possible in dance music—and pop. Two years later, Stories continued to play fast and loose with Bergling’s inspirations, dipping into disco (“Talk to Myself”), ’70s rock (“Ten More Days”), and even acoustic reggae (“Can’t Catch Me”), tapping guests like Wyclef Jean and Chris Martin along the way. Perhaps his restlessness behind the boards was a way of trying to encompass a broader range of emotions than is common in dance music. Having struggled with life in the spotlight, Bergling died in April 2018 of an apparent suicide. He was just 28 years old. For all the giddy joy of a song like “Levels,” it’s the tension between yearning and doubt that makes songs like “Trouble” so powerful—and it’s that depth of feeling that will be his legacy.
BORNSeptember 8, 1989