2015 should’ve been Swedish House Mafia’s biggest year ever. In not becoming #1 artists in America–a goal that was well within their reach with one more recording and tour–Swedish House Mafia fell short of their ultimate success.
What if the trio was able to salvage the group for one (more) last tour, one (more) last song and hang on for the most epic of last hurrahs? There are those who’d say that the group ended on an incredible high note in 2013–two platinum-selling global albums, six top-ten global singles, and a completely sold-out final run of tour dates is impressive. However, there was an obvious final destination point that, had they conquered it, would have made them not just dance titans, but create a space for them in the tier that exists for pop, rock, and hip-hop icons into which EDM has ascended, especially in the United States.
In the Leave The World Behind documentary, the importance of Daft Punk’s 1997 album Homework in creating the musical connection between rap lover Steve Angello and acid rave aficionado Sebastian Ingrosso is discussed. When one considers the recent success of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories in America, an established act that could’ve closely mirrored that climb from a marketing and branding standpoint are Swedish House Mafia. Given that Pharrell Williams (of Get Lucky and Lose Yourself to Dance fame) is an artist with history between both acts, his now iconic cosign would’ve been huge in the branding of the act as a much bigger deal.
Also, consider the idea that Don’t You Worry Child rested at #6 on America’s Billboard Pop Charts. That single sold 20-plus million copies worldwide, and Until Now, the artist album of which it was a part, reached #14 (a spike of 125 spots from the #139 placement of 2010 “debut” compilation Until One) on the American Billboard album charts, too. This data shows that both a #1 single and album were possible from Swedish House Mafia in 2015.
To get a sense of what could’ve been for Swedish House Mafia, let’s look at Jack U and Major Lazer, the Diplo-affiliated tandems who, for the purposes of studying dance’s top hits on the Billboard charts in 2015, are arguably SHM’s American EDM-as-pop replacements.
Jack U’s rise is very comparable to the US album-releasing era of Swedish House Mafia from 2010-2013. Similar to SHM’s 2010 hit, One, Jack U’s 2014 hit Take U There did not chart on the American Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Also, comparatively, Swedish House Mafia’s Don’t You Worry Child hit #6, while Jack U’s Justin Bieber duet Where Are U Now reached #8. As well, Diplo’s other project Major Lazer compares to Swedish House Mafia in that Hold the Line did not chart in 2009 while Lean On has recently peaked at #4 on the Hot 100 chart. The idea that Swedish House Mafia was due to be the act to break the “#1 on the American Billboard chart” glass ceiling for iconic global EDM acts makes sense, and when seeing how incredibly close they were, it’s a shame that at this point, it’s never going to happen.
One of the keys to reaching another level as pop stars is being a dominant live act. The idea that the American live market has dramatically shifted to being controlled by festivals would actually be quite beneficial to one of EDM’s favorite festival acts. Add in that their last release made them dominant pop artists, and the sky was the limit. In taking a page from iconic rap duo Outkast’s 2014 festival run of 40 headlining gigs, imagine what 2015 could’ve looked like for Swedish House Mafia?
Did you find Drake and Madonna’s makeout session at Coachella uncomfortable? What about Electric Zoo being on the rebound and completely retooling their event for 2015? Even globally, were you angry about Kanye West being chosen to headline Glastonbury? Well, let’s imagine that Swedish House Mafia was still together, and at this point, the most globally dominant pop act in the world. It’s feasible that they could’ve headlined all three of those events, plus TomorrowLand and TomorrowWorld, EDC, Ultra, and heck, even Lollapalooza, too.
And what about the singles on a hypothetical Swedish House Mafia album? Justin Bieber wants to be relevant in EDM, and Where Are U Now certainly achieves that goal. However, compare that to a modern take on One, maybe even as a duet with Pharrell or even Bieber’s mentor Usher? On paper, that’s a huge hit. What about heading into pop-country territory and getting in the studio with Taylor Swift or Kacey Musgraves for something similar to Don’t You Worry Child? That’s a smash. As well, for whatever reason, Diplo can’t seem to get Rihanna into the studio. Would she have a go with the Swedes? Again, in theory, another massive hit. Also, a Miami 2 Ibiza update with Drake? These are all things that, given the level of excellence Swedish House Mafia had reached at their 2013 close, would’ve been likely incredibly simple to do and all potential Hot 100 chart-toppers. When you hit #6 in America with an unproven vocal commodity in the States like John Martin, one can only presume that a #1 with a name like, say, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, or Drake, is entirely possible.
EDM continues to soldier on to the tune of big crowds and bigger bucks without Swedish House Mafia. But how much bigger would this all be if three of the key forefathers of this boom were still together to be at the forefront? While #6 is nice, #1 would’ve been an ultimate point and would have made possible even larger success for the likes of Major Lazer, Jack U, Avicii, Zedd, and so many more to come. Sadly, Swedish House Mafia missed out on the ultimate success that would’ve benefitted not just them, but dance music and culture’s mainstream American progression altogether.