Getting to the Bottom of Avicii and the 'GQ' Douchebag Debate

Dodging bras and jets of bubbly, EDM superstar cries foul at allegations his fans are not all serious music listeners

Avicii / Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Avicii / Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Philip Sherburne WRITTEN BY
Philip Sherburne

Last week, GQ magazine published a fascinating, not entirely flattering, but also weirdly sympathetic profile of Avicii. Key takeaways include the suggestion that he's not much of a technical DJ, women like to throw their bras at him, the champagne flows freely in Vegas, and, damn, becoming a megastar at 23 years old is actually kind of hard, on both the liver and the spirit.

Avicii was not amused, and he utilized Facebook to air his grievances: "Reporter Jessica Pressler BEGINS by describing my fans as 'douchebags' - not as a quote - but as an (her) obvious impression in the introduction to the text. The preamble to that describes people attending to my shows as drug addicts!"

Avicii's fans, predictably, have taken to social media and GQ's comments section to support their hero. A substantial number of them, like Avicii himself, seem to have fixed upon the use of the term "douchebag" as proof of Pressler's perfidy. That's understandable; it's a charged, punchy word. Even if you think it's sexist, juvenile, or just ugly, it's also kind of hard to stop saying. But let's do a little bit of close reading.

First of all, as to that "preamble" that Avicii mentions: "Four years ago, he was just some Swedish kid named Tim who liked messing around on his laptop at home. One iTunes-dominating dance hit ('Levels') later, he's Avicii, world's hottest DJ, making $250,000 a night to keep the Ecstasy-dosed, champagne-soaked masses moving." Sure, the description, "Ecstasy-dosed, champagne-soaked," might err on the side of color over hard statistical research, but let's get real. A lot of bottles of Dom get popped during the course of the feature. And, come on: MDMA, Molly, ecstasy — call it what you will, there's a lot of it out there right now. Not just in dance music, but in pop culture, full-stop.

But on to the "douchebag" portion of our book club. Avicii is upset that the writer portrays his fans as douchebags. But is she really? Let's break down the douchiness:

Instance #1: In the first paragraph, we ride with Avicii between Anaheim and Las Vegas, as he races to get from one New Year's Eve booking to the next. He is late to his gig at Vegas' XS club. Pressler writes, "'@Avicii better get to XS soon!!' some douchebag is saying on Twitter." Is she not defending Avicii against the insensitive and discourteous members of the public who don't understand the travails of a professional DJ and can't just hold their damn horses? Sounds like she's clearly in Avicii's corner. Let the artist do his job!

Instance #2: Shortly after we learn that Avicii has never taken MDMA, a member of his entourage proposes doing some "showers" — that is, a water fight with 10 bottles of champagne. "But Tim is having second thoughts," writes Pressler. "'It's a bit douchey,' he says. 'It's very douchey.'" His friend promises to take the fall. "'Just blame it on me,' Felix offers magnanimously. 'I'll be a douche.'" This is clearly a case of auto-douchicide, and one that spares Avicii from any possible charges of douchiness, in any case. Point: Pressler.

Instance #3: Avicii is surprised by the passion of the crowd at Anaheim's White Wonderland festival. "'Swedish people would be too cool for this kind of thing,'" he is quoted as saying. "'We're, um...what do you call it? Emily, do you know which word I use?'" His girlfriend answers, "'Douchey?'" Here, it's the apparently stylish and repressed Swedes who get branded with the tag of 'baggery — quite the opposite from effusive American ravers, whose free spirits we celebrate via Avicii's obviously awed and humbled reaction. (It also would appear that Avicii says "douchebag" a lot. So much, in fact, that it's the first word his girlfriend thinks of when he asks, "Do you know which word I use?")

Instance #4: As Avicii DJs, an XS promoter sprays a bottle of Dom Perignon across the booth, leaving a member of his entourage "batting foam out of his eyes, rivulets of $900 champagne streaming down his bald head." Pressler writes, "One hand on his headphones, the other on the fader, Tim is too focused on keeping the crowd jumping in front of him to notice the douchiness going on behind him." Once again, it would seem, the writer is actually coming to Avicii's defense, calling out the shenanigans around him that would make this thing called "EDM" appear anything less than the passionate, focused celebration of music and togetherness that its supporters believe it to be.

"Douche" count: Six, and none of them directed at Avicii's fans. Overall, it appears that Pressler, in her eagle-eyed way, actually has Avicii's back. But for wary DJs currently considering canceling their upcoming interviews, here's a pro tip: If you don't want a journalist to call your fans "douchebags," don't invite them to your party at a Vegas superclub. And if you do, keep a cork in the Dom.

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