"This is a real, true experience, and true experiences are not always perfect..."

Troye Sivan is pleased to say that he’s been working on his pop star walk. “I’ve basically been doing it since the day I was born,” he jokes, “but recently I’ve been giving it a real go. Literally nothing makes me feel more unstoppable than pretending I am unstoppable and just going for it.”

Watching the 22-year-old’s career over the last six months, you can see how buoyant this mentality has made him. In January he released ‘My My My!’, the debut single from his upcoming second album ‘Bloom’, which is due in August. It’s an effusive and unreserved banger that most pop stars would kill for, effortlessly exuberant and captivatingly passionate. Then you have the song’s video, which is the sort of pop video that young gays and girls - Sivan included - would have lusted over when they were teenagers; all strobe lights, wind machines and sweaty male models. In performances, too, he’s been strutting around with a new parade of confidence.

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To label Sivan a wallflower before this campaign, however, would do him a disservice. As a young teen living in Perth, Australia, he reached the finals of Star Search in 2007. He also started uploading angelic musical covers on YouTube before, aged 17, he started making vlogs. It was this that stuck, and he soon amassed four million subscribers and over 243 million views. In 2015, he abdicated from his position as YouTube royalty to release his debut album, ‘Blue Neighbourhood’, an accomplished and introspective 15-track record filled with pensive and vulnerable pop songs about being gay, growing up and figuring out your identity.

If ‘Blue Neighbourhood’ was Sivan’s bildungsroman, then new album ‘Bloom’ is what happens when you’ve found the first outfit for life that fits. “The main difference for me has been my mental state,” Sivan says to Clash over the phone from Los Angeles. “Going into writing my first album, I was really new to all of this. I still am. But learning things like there really are no rules, that it’s about what feels right and being able to embrace and trust what I wanted to do was a scary thing for me. It took a second.”

He was able to approach album number two, he says, once he realised that he just needed to have fun. “That’s exactly what we did,” he recalls. “I wrote the album with some of my best friends, with some producers that I've dreamed of working with for a long time. I realised that I just couldn’t throw away this opportunity by getting in my own way. So I just decided to let myself go for it.”

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The campaign, however, was forced to kick off earlier than anticipated after Sivan was approached to perform on Saturday Night Live in January. At the time, he had two songs ready: ‘My My My!’ and ‘The Good Side’, a cinematic and soft Sufjan Stevens-style ballad about the end of his last relationship. It would be four months until he released his next single, the title track ‘Bloom’ - a light wink of a song about gay sex (in particular the joys of being on the bottom). Still, by today’s pop standards, this prolonged gap between singles ahead of an album’s release is unusual, while an eight-month album campaign is nearly unheard of.

“I sort of knew what I was getting myself into because I remembered from my first album that once you start you kinda can't stop. So I was prepared for that to a certain extent,” he explains. “But also there was a moment where I was like, ‘We need to slow down a little bit.’ For me, this album is the dream album; it’s the record that I’ve always wanted to make. I didn’t want to rush anything; I wanted to take my time. In a couple of years, I’m not going to remember the few weeks that I wanted to take to really get everything perfect. But I am going to live with the album for the rest of my life. I’m just so proud of it that I felt like it deserved that time, effort and care.”

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For me, this album is the dream album...

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Things now, though, are back in full swing. Sivan has recently announced a tour and has shared the video for ‘Bloom’, which, if you can believe it following the video for ‘My My My!’, is probably the most liberated version of himself that he’s presented thus far. The clip sees him dolled up, face beat for the gods, as he cavorts around in androgynous clothing, including a blue feather hat and a deliciously floral cropped jacket and skirt two-piece, which wouldn’t look out of place at the Met Gala. The outfit even has an accompanying floral gimp mask.

But during filming of the video, Sivan found himself questioning whether he really could go through with expressing himself so fully. “For that video I allowed myself to explore any little dream that I’ve had or wanted to do, whether that was throwing away societal pressure that I’ve felt my entire life, letting myself wear make-up, letting myself wear whatever clothes I wanted to wear and just having a good time,” he says. “So I got all glammed up and looked in the mirror and suddenly I was 15 again and had this thing where I thought, shit, am I really about to do this? Am I okay with this?”

While he eventually reached the conclusion that he could “do whatever I want,” Sivan says that the experience of revisiting the shame surrounding his sexuality and the expression of his queerness was sobering. “I thought I was past that,” he sighs, before becoming resolute. “Coming out for me didn’t end when I came out to my family and friends; it’s a journey that I’m still on. And it’s so much more than my sexuality. It’s an experience that everyone goes through where you’re fully realising the person that you are. It’s about not taking yourself too seriously and about letting yourself do what’s right for you. It’s a scary journey, and like I said, I thought I was further along than I guess I am.”

Sivan has always been this candid when it comes to discussing his sexuality. In a 2013 YouTube video titled ‘Coming Out’, he shared that he was gay with his subscribers (the video now has nearly eight million views). ‘Blue Neighbourhood’, too, was a record where he not only explored love lost and found, but also coming to terms with his sexuality. On the song ‘Heaven’, a tender duet with fellow Aussie pop star Betty Who, Sivan explores questions of faith, sexuality and the struggles that LGBTQ people face as they attempt to marry their differences with society’s expectations and prejudices.

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On his new record there’s certainly more celebration of his queerness, but Sivan is also excavating troubling moments from his past. On ‘Seventeen’, the album’s opener, he discusses frankly venturing on to the gay scene when he was underage. “I approached [‘Seventeen’] with great hesitance,” he says. “I’d had this true life experience of craving community and craving connection with people like me when I was still underage. I didn’t know where to turn for that sense of connection. So I ended up going out before I was supposed to and meeting people. I found myself in a couple of situations. At the time they weren’t uncomfortable, but I was pushing myself to try and find what I was looking for. In the end I found it in these places that I don’t regret finding it in, but I definitely didn’t want to condone to everyone else.”

While he can look back now and realise that he was putting himself in potentially dangerous and morally ambiguous situations - as he says, “I was 16 or 17 and I looked like a literal child!” - Sivan also felt that this was an experience that deserved to be shared, especially because it’s a common scenario that young gay men find themselves in. “This topic is maybe uncomfortable and easily misconstrued, and I really didn’t want to be misinterpreted,” he adds. “But at the same time, this is a real, true experience, and true experiences are not always perfect and they’re not always comfortable to talk about. I really wanted to talk about it to show people that I had been there and that I understand, without taking a stance of whether that’s the correct of incorrect thing to do.”

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I didn’t know where to turn for that sense of connection...

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Being so sexually explicit in his music presents fresh problems, largely whether mainstream audiences are ready to get behind songs about gay sex. “I’m not sure if we’re completely there yet,” Sivan concedes. “But the goal, as it was last time, was to just make music that was honest. I hope someone hears me being real about what’s going on in my life and can be like, ‘Oh, I understand that. That was written for me.’ I don't feel like there’s enough of that, or there definitely wasn’t enough of it when I was growing up. So I’m just trying to be that for someone else now.”

He sees putting out explicitly gay music also as his response to the conservative political upheaval the world has undergone since his last album. “Part of my response is anger and part of it is action and trying to do the most that I possibly can to help people by using the position that I’m in to its maximum,” he promises. “Other than that, a real valid way to try and process some of that is to go out and enjoy yourself and be louder and celebrate who you are.”

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Sivan and his team are keeping information about ‘Bloom’ fairly guarded, but early on in the campaign the singer did let slip that pop darling Ariana Grande would feature on a song. That track, titled ‘Dance To This’, is probably the strongest of the selection of songs from the album that Clash has heard; it’s a mellow and breezy bop that’s giddily romantic. Seemingly minute flirtations, like longing glances across a kitchen or the drag of a pair of jeans as they furtively scoot closer so that your legs are touching, are magnified until the yearning and tension becomes overwhelming.

Sivan’s melancholic vocal tilt contrasts well, too, with Grande’s effortless breathy timbre. “Her voice is literally one of the most gorgeous voices in the entire world,” Sivan says like a true stan. “For her to give me the gift of that voice on one of my songs, on a song that I wrote, is just the craziest thing in the entire world.”

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When I heard her sing that line, I cracked up. I think it’s the cutest, sexiest lyric...

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But even with Grande involved, Sivan still managed to include a wink to his sex life. “My favourite lyric in the song is “Do that thing we never do sober”,” he says, although he won’t divulge what “that thing” is. “I wrote it and sang it, and I thought it was awesome, cheeky, funny and cute. I said to Ariana when she was recording the vocal that she could re-write her verse. I got back the exact same song with just her vocal. When I heard her sing that line, I cracked up. I think it’s the cutest, sexiest lyric.”

Standing at just 10 tracks, ‘Bloom’ is a short record in comparison to industry-wide 20-track behemoths produced by his contemporaries. It’s a purposeful move from the pop star; just like how Lorde distilled her anguish and hedonism on ‘Melodrama’, Sivan hopes to cultivate a world for his fans and present a “direct perspective that I want to communicate with nothing to water that down.” Because ultimately that’s why he’s creating the music that he is. “I hope people will listen to this album when they’re falling in love for the first time or if they’re on some road trip. I want someone to listen to it again in the future and for it to take them right back to that place,” he says earnestly.

And for him?

“I want to be able to look back on it and know that I did everything in my power to use this opportunity well,” he finishes. “I want to be able to look back and say, ‘That was really cool what I did.’”

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Words: Alim Kheraj
Photography: Scott West
Fashion: Sean Knight
Creative Direction: Rob Meyers

Troye Sivan’s ‘Bloom’ is released on August 31st via Polydor.

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