Troye Sivan • Blue Neighbourhood • Capitol • Release Date: 12.4.15
When a fascinating new artist comes along, they deserve coverage to match their artistry. For Australian alt-pop, YouTube sensation Troye Sivan, he easily backs up the hype. Sivan has a lovely voice. When he performs, he retains considerable poise. While his poise lacks the histrionics of many pop singers, this nonconformist, more minimalist approach actually amplifies the emotion. Basically, Sivan doesn’t need runs to deliver a complete, nuanced performance. Throughout his debut album Blue Neighbourhood, Sivan shows off indisputable talent as well as an authentic peek into his world.
“Wild” sets the tone for Blue Neighbourhood. On this standout, Sivan paints a portrait of innocent love that’s complicated by societal views, specifically from the ‘blue neighbourhood.’ Openly gay himself, Sivan seems to use “Wild” as means of showcasing the hardships of being gay in a small community or a society where such isn’t the norm or is scrutinized. “Wild” hence is applicable worldwide.
“Fools” continues the sentiments of “Wild,” first focusing on the neighbourhood: “I am tired of this place, I hope people change / I need time to replace what I gave away…” This sentiment of escapism ties in with the traditional broken relationship, a very relatable topic: “I see swimming pools and living rooms and aeroplanes / I see a little house on the hill and children’s name…but everything is shattering and it’s my mistake…Only fools fall for you….”
On “Ease” (featuring Broods), escapism dominates Sivan’s thoughts once more: “Take me back to the basics and the simple life / tell me all of the things that make you feel at ease…” The big picture of “Ease” is a return to the simpler times. Sivan uses it in regards to fame (“And my mommy, she can’t put down the phone”), but in a broader sense, it’s a return to the confortable – the familiar.
“Talk Me Down” is simply stunning – but then again, has Sivan missed yet? A sad song, here, Sivan seems to yearn for his ex. A common emotion, the accompanying video for “Talk Me Down” amplifies the sadness; it’s truly a complicated relationship. Sivan’s ex-boyfriend/friend now has a girlfriend because his father (who’s funeral is being held in the video) didn’t accept his homosexuality. Ultimately, Sivan’s ex commits suicide by jumping, a reference to the literal and figurative ‘blue neighbourhood.’ Perhaps the song is a wee bit more enthusiastic sans the tear jerking video, but still, the sadness is evident through Sivan’s pipes.
“Cool” is from a happier place – or at least a temporary happiness. Irresponsibility seems to be the M.O. for Sivan, but even so, there’s the sense that Sivan is pointing or waving his finger in discouraging fashion, particularly when he sings, “I’m a spark and you’re a boom / what am I supposed to do?” This suggests dysfunction, which Sivan goes on to illustrate with lyrics like, “Absent father / pays his daughter / and her mama withdrew / from the life they once knew / she had a heart / but she sold it off.”
“Heaven” featuring Betty Who is among the deepest songs from Blue Neighbourhood. It reeks of vulnerability, finding Sivan questioning his sexuality and salvation. “Without losing a piece of me / how do I get to heaven,” he sings on the chorus, continuing, “Without changing a part of me / how do I get to heaven?” Thematically, this is something of a grey area in music – how many songs have been written about this emotion or issue? It’s often discussed, but to be portrayed musically, it’s fresh and definitely piques both brain and heart.
Perhaps the best way to characterize “Youth” is by its open-endedness. On yet another electrifying song, Sivan seems to be referencing any number of things. Youthfulness is obvious, but also the repression of youthfulness by the blue neighbourhood also seems like an avenue of thought. From the jump there is escapism once more, as Sivan sings, “What if, what if we run away? / What if, what if we left today?” A relationship also plays a notable role as well – hey it’s better to enjoy the ride with someone you like/love, right?
On “Lost Boy,” Sivan proclaims himself to be “a lost boy / not ready to be found.” Basically, he says it best himself on the first verse: “I’m just some dumb kid / trying to kid myself / that I got my shit together.” Penultimate cut “for him.” Featuring rapper All Day continues the consistency and enjoyableness of Blue Neighbourhood, delivering one of few unquestionably upbeat songs.
As good as “for him.” is, “Suburbia” is a crowning achievement rivaling the likes of “Talk Me Down” and “Heaven.” For once, the blue neighbourhood seems to have an optimistic spin, something that couldn’t be said earlier. “Yeah, there’s so much history in these streets…there’s so much history in my head / the people I’ve left / the ones I’ve kept…can’t replace my blood / yeah, it seems I’m never letting go of suburbia.”
Amazingly, that’s just the standard version of the album! The deluxe edition includes all of the songs from the Wild EP, including cant-miss gem “Bite” which British pop singer Sam Smith raved about. It’s nothing short of a stimulating experience, based upon Sivan’s first experience at a gay club. In addition to “The Quiet” and “DKLA” (featuring Tkay Maidza), three other tracks grace the expanded edition: “Too Good,” “Blue” (featuring Alex Hope), and a remix of “Wild.”
So, just how good is Troye Sivan’s debut album Blue Neighbourhood? It’s damn good, and there’s really no other way to describe it. YouTube sensations don’t always deliver a ‘bullet’ when it comes to musical output (despite their talents and no shade), but Sivan has delivered one of the best albums of 2015. Is this surprising? Of course not, following two fine EPs. This one’s definitely a winner!
Favorites: “Wild,” “Fools,” “Talk Me Down,” “Heaven,” “Suburbia” and “Bite” (Deluxe only)