Recordings | January 2016
By Cait Brennan, January 2016 Issue.
At age 20, Troye Sivan has already led several different lives. He originally found fame as a teen actor in such movies as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, before becoming a hugely successful YouTube star (nearly four million subscribers and over 200 million views). That fame translated into a major label record deal in short order, and Blue Neighbourhood is the result, a warm and agreeable debut which finds the gay Australian pop star’s winning voice (mostly) carrying the day.
“Wild” kicks off the Blue Neighbourhood suite with a smooth neo-soul/electro vibe and tender lyrics talking about forbidden love and sublimated desire. The production, though, kind of sabotages itself, with a weird, shrill children’s chorus in the background (but by no means far enough in the background). The world is ready for many things, but a super-sexy song with a children’s chorus is not one of them. Try to imagine the Kidz Bop kids singing Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” only please, please don’t do that. If somebody could just get in there and remix that choir right on out of there, that’d be great. Thanks.
“Bite,” on the other hand, is just right. Subdued, tense, with an urgent lyric and some sweet vocal harmonics, and no kiddie choir in sight. Songs like “Ease” and “Fools” are equally rewarding, rhythmic and catchy and intimate. Sivan’s voice lends itself to a sense of intimacy, unpretentious and warm and very at ease. He tends toward straightforward, gently confessional lyrics that occasionally drop a few f-bombs in the service of his point. All this is served over lush electropop soul sounds that are very of the moment. The casual acceptance of his sexuality is a plus, too; in Sivan’s world, same-sex love is not anthemic, it’s just life. Cheers to that.