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Troye Sivan - Bloom Music Album Reviews

The Australian singer’s second album exudes a chic kind of vulnerability. It is a warm and delicate pop album about life as a young gay man.

I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that Troye Sivan gets it. The Australian YouTuber-turned-pop star has all the qualifications you’d look for in a modern-day gay icon—a devoted army of long-time fans, elfin features, celebrities and designers on speed dial—and the good sense to recognize how meaningless and outmoded that kind of title is. “I just don’t represent everybody, because I’m extraordinarily lucky,” Sivan told British style magazine Another Man in May. “I come from a middle-class white family in Australia, and all of my dreams have come true by 22. I had the easiest coming out in the world… There are plenty of other people who need to be heard first.”

Give him an opportunity, and he’ll happily rattle off the names of other musicians at the vanguard of queer representation: Sam Smith, Halsey, Kehlani, Perfume Genius, Kevin Abstract, Hayley Kiyoko. He invited Kim Petras on tour as an opening act and deftly handled the ensuing backlash over her work with Dr. Luke, making donations to the Ally Coalition and RAINN. His humility would feel performative and cynical if it weren’t so thorough. Blink and you might forget why Sivan is holding court on these topics in the first place: He’s an evolutionary artist, one whose existence and career is the product of decades of baby steps and boundary-pushing. Being gay is an integral and visible part of Sivan’s art, just as much as his voice or his choice of collaborators.

Bloom, Sivan’s second studio album, is best described in terms you rarely see associated with male pop stars: delicacy, transparency, and vulnerability. He sings about experiences that are commonplace for young gay men in 2018 but feel totally transgressive in a broader pop context. He wrote opener “Seventeen” about sneaking onto Grindr with a fake ID and hooking up with older men, and the title track captures bottoming for the first time in all of its agony and ecstasy.

The subject matter draws headlines, but it’s less revelatory than what’s between the lines. You can feel the power dynamics underpinning each of these songs shifting in unpredictable ways. Sivan starts both “Seventeen” and “Bloom” in a playful mood, teasing his partner, flirting, issuing commands. He’s an object of desire, and that puts him in control. “I got these beliefs that I think you wanna break,” he taunts on “Seventeen.” “Got something here to lose that I think you wanna take from me.” Just a few seconds later, he’s lost his footing: the older man he’s sought out for a virgin fling might not be so easy to manipulate in the heat of the moment. The “Bloom” pre-chorus is a nervous whimper—“I need you to tell me right before it goes down/Promise me you’ll hold my hand if I get scared now”—just before Sivan relaxes and enjoys the ride.

There’s a remarkable amount of tension in those moments, and Bloom would feel exhausting if every song was built around those kinds of formative experiences. It also offers less complicated pleasures, songs that are simpler yet still breathtakingly tender. Sivan is comfortable with desperation. He knows how it can feel like life and death hinge on scheduling a second date or sending a postcard. Lead single “My My My!” feels euphoric because of the interplay between its growled verses and pulse-pounding chorus; it feels uniquely Sivan’s because of the stakes. He’s found a guy who makes him feel like he’ll “die every night,” and when he reaches the bridge, he dares to dream of a life spent that satisfied. (He calls his lover a “treasure” and inhales sharply through clenched teeth, and it feels like the most consequential breath he’s ever taken.) Sivan also has a knack for gorgeous, concise imagery. On “Plum,” a relationship that’s nearing its end is “like bitter tangerine/like sirens in the streets.” He wants to “skip stones on [the] skin” of a boy who tastes like Lucky Strikes.

Bloom’s fragility makes for an interesting contrast with its surprisingly conservative sound. Sivan largely works with the same team and palette that defined his 2015 debut Blue Neighborhood: mid-tempo, richly hued post-Lorde pop. And while there are some welcome flourishes from unexpected sources—Ariel Rechtshaid and cult fave Jam City add celestial sparkle to regretful ballad “The Good Side,” and massive closer “Animal” swerves from a menacing rumble (courtesy of Rechtshaid, Jam City, and the Haxan Cloak) to a bridge clearly inspired by Frank Ocean’s Blonde—too much of Bloom congeals into a tasteful, muted lump. Beyond “My My My!” and the title track, its melodies and arrangements lack the urgency that defines its writing.

You can draw an interesting comparison between Sivan and his friend and collaborator Ariana Grande. They duet on “Dance to This,” an understated celebration of the pleasures of domesticity: Why go out on the town when you could stay in and have a party for two? Sivan and Grande have both made albums about how love and sex can make you feel: safe, secure, and joyous in one moment, nervous but thrilled in the next. Bloom isn’t as consistent or engaging a musical experience as Sweetener, but it still feels meaningful. If Sivan is the product of baby steps, then maybe this is one of his: bonding with one of the planet’s biggest pop stars over quiet moments with the men they love, with absolutely nothing to hide.



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