After a top-10 debut two years ago with his last album, “Blue Neighborhood,” Troye Sivan is conquering alt-pop with his sophomore creation, “Bloom.” A personal testament to his budding sexuality, the well-rounded album shows Sivan enhancing his storytelling.
He wrote the opening track, “Seventeen,” about using a fake ID and sneaking onto Grindr, a dating app geared toward gay and bisexual men, for the first time as a teenager. The song’s slow-rolling beat mimics a heart thumping, as the song takes an almost sinister turn. Sivan said he wrote about his experience after he heard that most of his queer friends have had similar encounters.
“It seemed more important to talk about it than pretend it wasn’t happening,” Sivan told Project U’s Nathan Jake in a podcast interview. “I think we settled on this middle ground where we can feel the curious(ity) and awe. But then, as well, I did want it to feel creepy and menacing, because that’s kind of how it feels now.”
The title track for this album features an ‘80s vibe, complete with synthesizers and an up-tempo dance rhythm. Even the music video takes us back 30 years, with grainy videography and bright colors that rival any of the dramatics Madonna put on MTV.
If “Blue Neighborhood” was caterpillar-to-chrysalis, “Bloom” is definitely Sivan’s wings shattering the cocoon. He particularly excels on “Animal,” a wavy jam that succeeds as the album’s most romantic track. Halfway through the song, the groove slides to a more modern sound that’s both sweet and aching at the same time.
Though it’s apparent Sivan plays it safe musically — the album stays away from an outrageous number of vocal runs, key changes or genre shifts — he does push the envelope lyrically. Sivan introduces himself in shades of vulnerability and fragility, which is something rarely heard from a male artist.
In “Plum,” Sivan sing,: “There’s a chill in the air and a sinking feeling / Coming over me / Like bitter tangerine / Like sirens in the streets.”
Unlike recent popular releases, where track order has become a painstaking art and major focal point for portraying the album’s message, “Bloom” does struggle with its organization. For example, smack in-between upbeat tunes “My! My! My!” and “Bloom” is an indie ballad, “The Good Side.” Listeners get the same effect by hearing the album on shuffle as listening to it chronologically.
Before appearing on the pop music scene and before YouTube became the clickbait minefield it is today, Sivan was a prominent YouTube personality. As his online covers became increasingly popular, the Australian teen quickly gained a cult following of internet fans.
From the outside, Sivan has the qualifications for any stereotypical gay icon that we see in the media: dainty features, an outgoing personality and a general aura of stylishness and finesse. However, Sivan has emphasized the point that he and his music don’t represent the majority of LGBT culture.
“I come from a middle-class white family in Australia, and all of my dreams have come true by 22,” Sivan said in an interview with “Another Man” magazine. “I had the easiest coming-out in the world … There are plenty of other people who need to be heard first.”
Overall, “Bloom” is a story of the power struggle in relationships. Many of Sivan’s lyrics feature teasing and flirting, only to be followed by nervous rambling. It’s refreshing to hear him embrace breakability, and “Bloom” feels more like listening to someone’s diary than a synopsis of past relationships. Rather than handing us an essay, Sivan composes a love letter.
Though Sivan has broken the barrier of the post-Lorde pop scene with “Bloom,” this young artist still has room to grow, and we will definitely see him blossom.