Thanks to the Internet, the careers of many young artists such as Lorde, Halsey, and The Weeknd have been catapulted from anonymity to pop stardom. Troye Sivan is no exception in the social media / pop culture revolution. The 20-year-old Aussie actor-turned-YouTube sensation-turned-electropop star has received shoutouts from pop superstars Taylor Swift and Adele following the recent release of his debut album Blue Neighbourhood, which presents a satisfying venture into a new age of teenage alt pop that brilliantly synthesizes youthful lyricism, R&B, and the future beats electronic genre.
Sivan’s velvety vocals brilliantly complement and contrast the album’s overall soundscape, which ranges from shimmering electronic production to sharp yet minimalist ambience. With their dazzling synths and glitchy vocal samples, tracks like “Fools” and “Youth” are reminiscent of Flume, SOHN, or ODESZA, all of whom have carved a niche in the EDM genre through their experimental yet infectious sounds. Furthermore, the many features by fellow Oceanic artists like Broods, Betty Who, Tkay Maizda, and Alex Hope help the album truly capture the unique qualities of the rising Australian pop landscape.
Though parts of the album deal with stereotypical love-torn croons a la Sam Smith, many of Sivan’s lyrics echo the self-aware teenage musings of fellow young pop sensation Lorde, striking a perfect balance between radio-friendly pop anthems and dark, distorted R&B. On “Suburbia,” Sivan embraces the nostalgia and mourns the suburban malaise that are inevitable parts of growing up in the “blue neighborhoods” of Perth.
Songs like “Heaven (ft. Betty Who)” and “Talk Me Down” are infused with Sivan’s autobiographical details about being an LGBT teenager and sing about homophobia, religion, and teenage suicide. As one of few publicly gay pop stars, he has no hesitation about using male pronouns in his songs.
Much of Sivan’s success can be traced to his popular YouTube following, which generated enough social media buzz to propel his WILD EP (2015) to the top of iTunes charts in over 41 countries even before the announcement of Blue Neighbourhood. But to discredit Sivan’s musical and songwriting talents for this reason would be foolish – his position at the top of the charts is certainly well-deserved. Ultimately, it is the pristine sound production and mature, authentic lyricism that carry the album, making the tracks far more intriguing. Sivan ultimately sets the gold standard for other aspiring YouTube pop stars by crafting an impressive body of work with humility and intimacy.
Blue Neighbourhood is available now via EMI/Capitol; stream it below.
Article by Kenneth Zhang