Album Review: Troye Sivan’s ‘Bloom’
Troye Sivan cements his status of one of pop’s most reliable up-and-comers with the release of his sophomore LP, Bloom. A true crossover success, the rising star got his start in the early days of YouTube. After dropping a series of very good EPs, the 23-year-old established himself as One To Watch with 2015’s critically acclaimed Blue Neighbourhood. Today (August 31), he highlights his artistry and creative growth with another moving collection. And the “Wild” hitmaker has certainly evolved since dropping his full-length debut three years ago.
Blue Neighbourhood was about a gay youth on the cusp of adulthood. It offered a chance to move beyond the safety and restrictions of suburbia and embrace new experiences with a sense of childlike innocence. His latest effort benefits from those explorations. A little more world-weary but just as optimistic, he tackles topics including love and loss with a surprisingly vulnerable honesty and ease. Reuniting with frequent collaborators such as Allie X, Leland, Bram Inscore and Alex Hope, Troye also introduces some new faces on Bloom. Linking up with the likes of Oscar Holter, Ariel Rechtshaid and Oscar Görres, he takes the next step on his path to superstardom.
Opening with “Seventeen” bridges the gap between the two projects. On it, he reflects on his earliest experiences searching for love in the arms of older men. “Got something here I want to lose that I know you wanna take,” he coyly announces over moody beats courtesy of Inscore. Looking back, he doesn’t shy away from his decisions. “I went out looking for love when I was seventeen. Maybe a little too young, but it was real to me,” he coos on the sweeping chorus. The track offers an accurate portrayal of the tensions queer youths face while searching for fulfillment and self-acceptance.
However, it also provides a reference point for how the crooner’s perceptions of lust and sexuality have shifted over time. These shifts provide the framework for the remainder of the LP. Clocking in under 40 minutes, the standard edition of Bloom is honed to a scant 10 songs. Five of those arrived in the month’s leading up to the final release. Bouncing from euphoric synth pop to melodic ballads, they showcase Troye’s ability to explore a variety of sub-genres.
Lead single “My My My!” remains one of the best songs of the year. A jubilant and lusty synth-laden explosion, it bottles the irresistible passion he shares with a partner. “Oh my, my, my, I die every night with you. Oh my, my, my, living for your every move,” he belts on the chorus. Boasting one of his most fervid vocal performances yet, the track vibrates with the sheer strength of his feelings. It’s the sort of masterpiece that should have dominated radio-waves when it dropped back in January, and the later-released acoustic take is equally gorgeous. The double entendre-laden title track captures another moment of passion.
A clear #BopBoutBottoming, it details the anticipation, anxiety and eventual bliss of getting intimate with a partner. If you needed any more evidence that 20gayteen is alive and well, look no further. “I need you to tell me right before it goes down. Promise me you’ll hold my hand if I get scared now,” the hitmaker pleads. But on the chorus he rides a wave of pleasure. “Yeah I bloom, I bloom just for you.” However lascivious the lyrics may seem, he delivers them with a doe-eyed ingenuity that makes it all the more appealing. Boasting a frenzied production courtesy of Holter and a writing assist from Leland and Peter Svensson, it is another bold love song that seems tailored for major dominance.
Pop princess Ariana Grande contributes a verse and some lush harmonies to “Dance To This.” Inspired by Janet Jackson’s “All Nite (Don’t Stop),” the slow-burning anthem proves that lovers can find affection in any environment. Here, instead of going out for another night on the town, they enjoy a quiet moment at home. “Under the kitchen lights, you still look like dynamite. And I wanna end up on you,” the duo sing in unison. Landing a co-sign from the Sweetener diva is no small feat, and the pair find an easy chemistry as they flit over the beats. After dropping a campy video, I am still holding out hope that they can link up for a performance. It may be enough to turn the single into a sleeper hit.
Meanwhile “The Good Side” and “Animal” strip back some of the excesses to explore more reserved moments with lovers past and present. The former offers an earnest apology to an ex. “I sympathize, and I recognize. And baby, I apologize that I got the good side, the good side of things,” he admits over sparse strings. Drawing comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, it is an undeniably beautiful and mature exploration. However, the production feels slightly out of place. In comparison, the latter highlights the depth of Troye’s feelings for a lover over ’80s-inspired atmospheric synths. “An ode to the boy I love. Boy, I’ll die to care for you. You’re mine, mine, mine. Tell me who do I owe that to?” A sensual torch song, it shimmers with desire.
The remaining tracks explore the soaring highs and aching lows present in any relationship. After contributing behind the scenes on the bulk of Blue Neighbourhood, Hope returns on “Lucky Strike.” Built around an infectious refrain – “tell me all the ways to love you” – it is a heady midtempo aimed at an idyllic relationship. “Oh, I want to know just how to love you, the jewel of California. Oh, I want to skip stones on your skin, boy. And drown me in your water,” Troye sings. Here his bliss is on full display as he gets caught up in the high of his romance.
“What A Heavenly Way To Die” earns the distinction of being one of the most earnest and innovative love songs of 2018. A tender ballad, it looks forward into the infinite future he hopes to share with his beloved. “When our prime has come and gone. And our youth is all but melted, melted, we can listen to this song,” he vows. Forecasting forever side-by-side, he encapsulates devotion and optimism. The end result reminds me of Kesha’s “Finding You,” which should be the undisputed highlight of last year’s Rainbow. Although sonically different, both gems allude to the eternal qualities of love and tackle the subject matter with an otherworldly beauty.
However, “Postcard” makes it clear that there will be a few bumps along the way to forever. A duet with Aussie vocalist Gordi, it forces the hitmakers to realize that their lovers are not without flaws. “I sent you a postcard from Tokyo, baby. You never picked it up,” Troye sings to his boyfriend Jacob Bixenman. “I even wrote it in Japanese, baby. You didn’t give a fuck.” However, instead of giving up on the budding romance, he requests more effort. “You’re still picking me up. Don’t put me back down like it’s nothing.” Laying down their vocals over twinkling keys, it is a strikingly vulnerable moment marred only by some balance issues with Gordi’s voice on her verse.
In comparison, “Plum” qualifies as the album’s emo banger. In the current landscape, pop stars tend to shield darker emotions behind deceptively uplifting productions. Unsurprisingly, Troye excels at the art. A second contribution from Görres (the first being “My My My!”), it faces the end of a relationship with a stark acceptance. “Maybe our time has come. Maybe we’re overgrown. Even the sweetest plum has only got so long,” he croons over the bittersweet beats. An allusion to peaches will inevitably speak to fans of Call Me By Your Name and adds additional depth to the queer breakup anthem. Offering another moment ofp perfection, this practically begs for an eventual single treatment.
Bloom makes it clear that Troye Sivan is the sort of pop star we need in 2018. His clever wit and brilliant sensibilities are on full display across every track. In particular, he writes about love with a surprising grace and wisdom that belies his relatively young age. Floating across the soundscape, it is clear that the rising star is on the cusp of something once again. Before, he moved from boyhood to adulthood. Now, he is poised to take the world by a storm as a household name. And his latest collection is likely to help him do just that.