Arts and Entertainment

Troye Sivan’s Contribution to Gay Culture

“Bloom” is fleshed out with cosmically romantic anthems that serve as guidance for gay teens, though some tracks fall flat.

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By Serena Chan

“I want you all to myself / Don’t leave none for nobody else / I am an animal with you," Troye Sivan sings in a mourning, transient echo that rings of youth and naïveté—a stark contrast to the lyrics. Troye Sivan, who broke in the music industry with his Polaroid-perfect debut effort, “Blue Neighbourhood,” quickly became known as a torchbearer for the LGBTQ cultural movement, particularly for gay teens like me who often find their perspective underrepresented. Sivan’s sophomore studio album, “Bloom,” plays like a Tumblr-inspired gay fanfiction with somewhat abrupt imagery and allusions, as the title track suggests, but we’re not complaining. It’s rare enough for gay teenage boys to have a taste of romantic pop culture material (albeit highly idealized), and Sivan carves such a niche for us.

The album is a medley of beautifully inspired ballads that explore that niche, but some songs just fall completely flat. “My, My, My!” is an uninspired synth pop song with terribly clichéd lyrics; it screams Sivan’s intention for pop radio material but lacks substantive lyrics that separate it from the myriad of existing pop songs on airplay. The bridge has an awkward build to the chorus, and when you finally do reach the chorus, there is an irritating deep voice rasping in the background. On the other hand, “Bloom,” the title track, is lyrically beautiful. It would really be an enjoyable poem. The bridges build nicely, immediately urging listeners to feel vulnerable with lyrics like “Promise me you’ll hold my hand if I get scared now” and “Cause it’s true baby / I’ve been saving this for you baby” while simultaneously paying homage to the romantic experiences that gay teens have to explore with often no guidance from someone trusted. But the chorus is ultimately anticlimactic, as it doesn’t sound particularly intriguing or even logical, making it feel like a producer choice.

A major flaw in Sivan’s albums, both “Blue Neighbourhood” and “Bloom,” is the awkward production. Sivan’s album is achingly textured and perfectly suited for some of the ballads he writes, but there is often an oddly produced bridge that corrupts the flow of aforementioned ballads, with a key change and tempo change that is unnecessary. For example, in “FOOLS” from “Blue Neighbourhood,” the last 30 seconds are distorted to the point that it is bothering and interrupting the flow of the song that would otherwise be a nice ballad. Of course, many of these decisions are made by the producer, who is likely integrating highly edited portions into the songs to appeal to mainstream airplay that favors EDM and dance pop. But it doesn’t work with Sivan’s voice nor does it appeal to Sivan’s main audience, which mainly consumes indie music, known for not being overproduced.

There are three tracks that are the saving grace of what would be the remnants of a pop-washed pile of songs that are more or less indistinguishable from one another. The opening track, “Seventeen,” feels celestial in composition, while addressing his romantic experience that many gay teens share. Sivan, in the gripping ballad, retells how he dated much older men in the exploration of his own sexuality. Unlike many of the other songs, the production in this song definitely works, as the finished product sounds very glossy and otherworldly. “What a Heavenly Way to Die” also definitely works in terms of production. The song lets you sit back, if you want, to imagine soft wisps of ocean water nipping at your toes, sunkissed and in love. “Animal,” the closing track, diverges completely from its feral implications. Emotional, articulate (“No angels could beckon me back”), and vulnerable, the song is a nice reminder of what Troye Sivan is capable of.