Everyday there seems to be something new about the South African-born, Australian-raised YouTube star turned musical sensation Troye Sivan. Before mid-2014, if you knew who Troye Sivan was it’s probably because you subscribed to his YouTube channel like over three and a half million other people did. His fans overlap with the fans of other YouTube personalities like Tyler Oakley, Conner Franta and Zoella. He can be hilarious performing the outrageous challenges that swarm the internet and having fun in collaborations (like this face painting video with Tyler Oakley) to giving out serious and thoughtful advice (like his recent Awkward Conversations with Troye series where he talks about safe sex, identity/coming out and the like). Sivan received a Teen Choice Award in 2014 alongside Oakley for the “Choice Web Collaboration” category. Sivan has dabbled in the acting biz as well, starring as young James Howlett (aka Logan aka Wolverine) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and as the title character in the South African film series Spud (2010). Aside from his YouTube and acting fame, Sivan released his first major-label EP, TRXYE, in August 2014. The major single from that release, “Happy Little Pill,” quickly rose to Number 10 on the Australian charts. Technically, his first EP ever was in 2007 (he was only 12!), Dare to Dream, before he had signed on to a label. He also released another EP without a label, June Haverly, in 2012. His second major-label EP, Wild, was released almost a year after TRXYE in September 2015. The songs on that album would later be featured in his first full album, Blue Neighbourhood, released a week ago on December 4.
Even though Sivan created his YouTube channel in 2007 as an outlet for viewers everywhere to hear his voice, he became a bit self-conscious and made singing more of a private hobby for himself (Sivan explains this more in a recent video). It wasn’t until he wrote a song after reading The Fault in Our Stars and made a music video for it that he considered his life goal of being a singer again. After publishing that video, a music label reached out to him and everything took off from there.
At the time of its release, TRXYE, reached Number 5 on the Billboard 200. Sivan signed with EMI Australia, a Universal Music Australia label. There’s no doubt why “Happy Little Pill” was the number one single from the 2014 EP. It has a catchy hook and a beat that draws every listener in. The chorus has a light atmospheric feel to it before diving into some quick techno rhythms. The rest of the EP is just as alluring. The song he wrote for TFIOS is featured last, and it’s almost as emotional as the book. Even in Blue Neighbourhood, the listeners can still observe Sivan’s love for the more electronic pop songs. Sivan writes all of his songs, sometimes with help from other writers. Knowing that, when the listener hears the emotion in Sivan’s voice when he sings, they aren’t imagining it, he feels what he is singing.
Debuting at Number 5 in the U.S. selling over 50,000 units, Wild was a giant leap forward from his previous EP. It sold nearly double that worldwide by the end of the month. In just a year’s time, it’s obvious how much Sivan has grown as a person and a musician. In support of the EP, Sivan went on his first U.S. tour, “Troye Sivan Live,” which ended up becoming a world tour after the release of his first full album. Wild is actually an introduction to Blue Neighbourhood – the six songs on the EP are the first six songs on the album.
The title track of the EP was the first single, a song that emphasizes Sivan’s talent and shows that he can still string words together in a way that has everyone singing along. A kids’ choir enters during the chorus to add to the theatrical feel of the song.
“Bite” features a maturity that seems beyond Sivan’s mere 20 years. In fact, that maturity is carried throughout the EP and into the album. “Bite” appears simplistic in production, but not within the writing with lyrics like I can be the subject of your dreams / Your sickening desire. Sivan posted short video explanations on Twitter, providing his own input on some of the background of the songs. In the video for “Bite,” Sivan shared that he got the inspiration for the song after going to a gay club, and it’s one of his favorite songs to perform live.
The calming piano notes from “Bite” introduce the next song (and second single), “Fools.” It’s plain to see that Sivan has endured his fair share of heartbreak, but he’s able to translate that pain and emotion into song. And my hopes, they are high, I must keep them small / Though I try to resist I still want it all. His voice is strong in this song, not holding back in the slightest. It’s not hard to hear the increase in confidence.
“Ease,” featuring Broods, begins a bit louder with a strong beat that moves the song along. The chorus feels whispered even though it’s not, like Sivan is telling the listener a secret desire. Within the lyrics, he’s asking to be taken back to when times were simpler. Broods’ vocals contrast well against Sivan, creating almost a back-and-forth dialogue between the two.
We have all felt the power of the silent treatment at one point. Troye discusses the frustration of no words being said in “The Quiet.” His weariness is heard, begging for some kind of relief from the torture that is the quiet. Now you’ve muffled your voice / I’d rather have broken bones / Than feel myself turn to stone.
The EP finishes with “DKLA,” featuring Tkay Maidza. The acronym stands for Don’t Keep Love Around, a phrase that Sivan repeats in the chorus. It’s a slow song, possibly the slowest on the EP, but it doesn’t lack feeling. The beat isn’t as catchy and the chorus can feel long at times, but Tkay Maidza comes in with quick rhymes that change the pace.
Blue Neighbourhood‘s maturity is shocking, but it still carries a youthful curiosity to reflect the fact that the artist is continually learning and growing. The album was widely accepted among critics; but, unfortunately, it didn’t receive the same kind of praise within the charts. Chart numbers, however, don’t always reflect the amount of talent and hard work put into an album. Sivan’s fanbase is constantly on the rise, once a new listener gets a peak at one song, they’ll be wanting to hear more.
Three months ago, Sivan posted his first of three Blue Neighborhood music videos for the song “Wild.” He named the series before revealing the name of the album. The story of the three videos revolve around two boys who have been in love with each other since childhood and the struggles of being in a same-sex relationship (Sivan plays one of the boys in the story). “Wild” was followed by “Fools” – both released in September this year – then “Talk Me Down” came out in October. It’s a heartbreaking story that will make the viewer both smile and cry. The videos are another indicator of how comfortable and confident Sivan has become in being himself since publishing his coming out video a few years back.
The first song featured in the album that was not on the EP is “Talk Me Down.” It begins with Sivan’s vocals, raw and filled with emotion. If you watch the music video, the song adopts a new level of sadness that you wouldn’t have imagined before. The production of the song is simpler than others, placing more focus on Sivan himself and the words. An orchestra comes in during the chorus that has a beautiful sweeping effect. According to Sivan on Twitter, the song is about not knowing where you stand romantically with someone.
Some of that boyish innocence and charisma comes through during “Cool.” I was just trying to be cool / I was just trying to be like you / I’m a spark and you’re a boom / What am I supposed to do? The chorus is light, wishing to impress that person who catches your eye. The verses are a bit more sophisticated when Sivan sings a bit deeper and goes more into detail about that weekend up in the islands.
Betty Who joins Sivan in the next song, “Heaven.” The construction of the songs are similar in the way they begin quiet with mostly just Sivan’s vocals and little instrumentation, yet they vary in the approach. This song is the perfect example of how Sivan sounds years beyond his actual age. The more you think about the lyrics, the more it hits you. Sivan shared that the repetition of So I’m counting to 15 is a reference to how he counts when he becomes anxious and the number 15 is a nod to the fact that he came out when he was that age. It’s definitely possible that the chorus – Without losing a piece of me / How do I get to Heaven? – is dealing with the homophobic claim that “God doesn’t like gays” and that they won’t go to Heaven. Sivan’s honesty in this song is both heartbreaking and breathtaking.
The final single from the album, “Youth,” was released on November 13. The chorus features a small choir backing him when he sings My youth (is yours) and a beat that makes the listener want to get on their feet. This will without a doubt be a huge hit during a live set. In fact, Sivan recently made his first TV debut on Jimmy Fallon earlier this week and performed this song. Considering the fact that it was his first TV performance, he did a great job, showing little nervousness and just moving with the music.
I’m just a lost boy / Not ready to be found. Sivan’s vocals are layered on top of each other during the chorus, making “Lost Boy” stand out. His airy voice is paired with this bubble popping noise is catchy and fits perfectly with the groove of the song. The title of the song is self-explanatory. The contrast between wanting to settle down and wanting to be lost is interesting and something I haven’t heard in a song before.
Sivan lets his romantic side show in “for him.” It’s a sweet love song, detailing those precious moments of falling in love. You don’t have to say I love you to say I love you. The artist AllDay comes in about two thirds into the song with a rap that goes with the theme of the song. The first time listening to the song, that part seems out of place, but eventually it grows on you.
A taste of nostalgia can be found in “Suburbia.” Looking back on mama’s good eats and longer sunsets, Sivan remembers a time that seems long ago. It might not have been the best of places (Where I am from / Where dreams go to die), but Sivan admits that he’s not letting that part of his history go. Listening to the song, I can picture Sivan walking down his old street, thinking about the memories; however, as he tells in the lyrics, he’s got the people he wants in his life and he’s playing music, so what more could he ask for?
A quiet piano introduces the next song, “Too Good.” It’s another romantic kind of song, but not like the cutesy song “for him.” Sivan’s vocals are slow, like he’s holding back an emotion. Have I mentioned that Sivan seems to be too young for writing an album that comes across as this mature? Well, I’m saying it again.
Strings open the next song featuring Alex Hope, “Blue.” Their vocals side by side are a perfect match, adding a different (good kind of different) quality to the song. Hope played a huge role in the making of this album – from singing in this song to songwriting and production. The track doesn’t lack in color metaphors – I know you’re seeing black and white / So I’ll paint you a clear blue sky / Without you I’m colorblind. The instrumentation of the song isn’t overdone, and waits until the last chorus to make a louder entrance.
The album ends with a XXYYXX remix of “Wild.” No where near as great as the original, but it’s a different pace and flow if you need something new to listen to.
Target released their own special version of the album featuring the song “Swimming Pools” and a live recording of “Happy Little Pill.” “Swimming Pools” has an easy vibe. It’s something calm to listen to and just lay back.
I feel confident in saying that the music world will be seeing much more from this young artist. Feel free to let me know if you checked out any of Sivan’s music and tell me what you thought.
Thanks for reading,