Things continue to look good for queer wunderkind Troye Sivan. The 23-year-old pop star is out with his second full-length album, “Bloom,” the follow-up to his successful first album,“Blue Neighbourhood,” which debuted at no. 7 in 2015.
The new record traces much the same lines as the previous. His characteristic chill dance pop returns in full vigor — or rather, mellowness — on “Bloom,” but this time in bleach blond. It’s a good sound and look for the perennially boyish Australian.
Sivan first came to notoriety as a YouTuber, where he collaborated regularly with Tyler Oakley. His coming-out video, posted five years ago, has been viewed more than eight million times. Sivan makes no bones about his queerness, evidenced no less by the title of the new album. As was much commented on in the mainstream press, the song “Bloom” is a not-so-subtle reference to bottoming. It’s a bold choice of title for an album that is musically less so. Nonetheless, Sivan once again works his dream pop magic, playing it safe without becoming redundant.
Much like the previous album, “Bloom” is a mesh of loverboy lyrics and warm, ethereal synth sounds — it’s less a break from “Blue Neighbourhood” than a companion album, a slightly more energetic side B. This is not a criticism; in fact his sound is somewhat unique among his pop music contemporaries. Drawing attention to the deeply similar character of the album might say more about our expectation that artists continually do something new and unexpected than it does about Sivan’s music.
The album opens with “Seventeen,” a song chronicling Sivan’s early sexual encounters with older men. (For the record, the age of consent in Australia is 16.) The lyrics, like those of many of his songs, have a spoken quality, giving them a relatively natural flow: “And he said age is just a number, just like any other.” Or, to take an example from the song “Postcard,” one of the most subdued and compelling tracks on the album: “I sent you a postcard from Tokyo baby/You never picked it up/I even wrote it in Japanese, baby/You didn’t give a fuck.”
The lyrics have the weight of regular speech but without sacrificing musicality. Nor are they short on wit. This is one of the more remarkable things about Sivan’s music, and it gives the impression that Sivan is telling a single, continuous story over the course of an album. But songs also buzz with sexual yearning. “Lucky Strike,” an almost enchantingly catchy tune, is a good example. With the bass thumping, he sings in his whispery tenor: “‘Cause you taste like Lucky Strikes/You drag, I light.” Sivan is, of course, no stranger to innuendo or to lyrics about smoking.
The new album certainly hasn’t been short on singles: Five have been released to date, including lead single “My My My!,” “The Good Side,” “Bloom,” “Dance to This” (featuring Ariana Grande) and “Animal.” “My My My!” has already enjoyed a fair amount of radio play and is likely destined for a long afterlife of remixes. The same can be said, though to a lesser degree, for “Bloom” and “Dance to This.” The song “The Good Side” is largely acoustic break-up song and a refreshing break from synth-heavy sounds.
The music video for “Bloom,” however, is a point of interest on its own. In bright red lipstick, Sivan wears a variety of androgynous flower-inspired gowns that look like they were taken from a J.W. Anderson runway show. It’s a fun, provocative celebration of queer identity.
The Frank Ocean-inspired “Animal”strays the farthest from the herd. If anything, it indicates a drive toward more effect-heavy, quasi-psychedelic sounds. It’s by far the most adventurous track. But the joy of this album is not in shuffling through the singles — it’s in listening start to finish. With good albums, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. This one is no different.