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The origin of Sentimentshirt: honoring Avicii with data visualization

Reading time: 5 minutes.

The story behind Sentimentshirt has a sad beginning. I remember being at a networking event in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) on April 20, 2018. A colleague walked up to me and said: "Avicii has died". Having just watched the documentary True Stories, which ended on quite a positive note, the news hit me right in the heart.

At first, I could not believe it. A bit later I felt that this was the first time for me that an artist had died, and I truly felt it. A personal legend had died. And not long after the news initially broke, it became known that Avicii had committed suicide...

Analysing Avicii's music

I'm a data analyst by profession. About a week after his death, I decided to see if could use my professional skills to see a development in his music. I ended up applying a sentiment analysis to Avicii's lyrics. The analysis turned each lyric into a data point that contained the sentiment score (is it positive or negative?) and a magnitude (how strong is the emotion?). This gave the following results of his first three releases: True, Stories, and Avici(01):

sentiment data visualization of avicii true album

Sentiment analysis of Avicii's True.

sentiment data visualization of avicii stories album

Sentiment analysis of Avicii's Stories.

sentiment data visualization of avicii avici(01) ep

Sentiment analysis of Avicii's Avici(01).

I discussed the results with friends and colleagues. The result? Most people said that first, music is more than just the lyrics, and second, that if you listen to the lyrics, anyone can interpret them in a different way. And to be honest: I agree. I dropped the initial idea of finding a new meaning in his songs. But what I did really like was the way the results looked. Especially when I listed all the songs in a single plot:

sentiment data visualization of avicii releases true, stories, and avici(01)

Sentiment analysis of Avicii's True, Stories, and Avici(01).

And so I chose a new development direction, a creative one, one that focused on the visual representation. Instead of using colours based on sentiment score, I coloured the dots by album. I used a grey for True, a pink for Stories, and a yellow for Avici(01):

sentiment data visualization of avicii release with album colours

Sentiment analysis of Avicii with album colours.

I liked this visual so much, I decided to have it printed on a t-shirt:

sentimentshirt data visualization t-shirt of avicii releases true stories and avici(01)

Me being happy with my first Avicii t-shirt.

I was really happy with the result. And proud that I used my data analysis skill to create a t-shirt of one of my personal heroes. This was the very first Sentimentshirt.

Finding magic in the posthumous album

On June 6 2019, Avicii's posthumous album TIM was released. I felt like doing something new with this album. I started out with the initial analysis of sentiment:

sentiment data visualization of aviciis tim album

Sentiment analysis of Avicii's TIM.

After that, I took things in a new direction. Instead of applying album colours to the dots, I wrote a program that connected all the dots. The program draws a line from dot to dot, starting with the first song on the album, and ending with the last one. I started with a straight line, but I found the results a bit edgy. Because of that, I tweaked to program to draw a curved line instead:

sentimentshirt process GIF

Animated GIF of Sentimentshirt process.

Here's a static image of the result:

sentiment data visualization of avicii release with album colours

Sentimentshirt visual of Avicii's TIM.

Now that is what I call a beautiful line. To me, it mimics a handwritten signature. And you don't need that much imagination to even see a T in it (if you don't know: Avicii's real name is Tim Bergling). That is what made this result magical to me.

I liked this abstract line even more than the dots of my initial analysis. And of course, I had this one printed on a t-shirt as well:

sentimentshirt data visualization t-shirt of avicii tim

Me being happy with my second Avicii t-shirt.

Thank you Avicii, for your music, and for being an amazing source of inspiration.

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