Troye Sivan: Blue Neighbourhood

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Had you asked me 4 days ago whether or not I would write a blog post about Troye Sivan my answer would not have been yes. But things happen. I get curious, then I fall down the rabbit hole and come out again with all of these thoughts in my head. So here are some of them. For the record, 90% of this post was written on my phone in bed at 2:30am, so it is what it is.

I have seen Troye Sivan around the internet for ages. A couple of my friends are really into YouTubers so I heard about and listened to Happy Little Pill when it came out. At the time, for whatever reason, it didn’t do anything for me. When Youth came out I got really obsessed with it and I remember appreciating the video for how casually and matter of fact it portrayed a youthful romance between two boys. I caught a couple of interviews Troye did on the radio by chance and thought he seemed like a cool guy but I didn’t look into it much further. I watched the new music video when the version of Wild with Alessia Cara came out because I love her and I really liked it. I kept hearing about how much good he was doing for LGBT+ representation so I checked out the Blue Neighbourhood videos and I remember being pleasantly surprised by them but not interested enough in the music to keep listening. Then when Heaven dropped, for some reason it just really clicked for me and I suddenly wanted to know more. So I started watching YouTube videos.

A few additional factors went into making this happen:

 

  1. I have way too much time on my hands now that I’m unemployed and applying for jobs.
  2. The purposeful timing of the Heaven video to coincide with the political goings on in America made me really appreciate his artistic vision and integrity in a new way.
  3. I don’t really get the YouTube blogging thing, but I completely respect both the people who do it and people who watch it. Personally, I’ve only ever once started watching a YouTuber, and while that was fun at the time, only a few weeks after binge watching all their YouTube videos I became so tired of the person that I went off the whole thing again. The format just doesn’t really work for me. So I think I needed to be at a point where I was curious enough to look past my scepticism towards the format, if that makes sense. Either way, I did really enjoy browsing through Troye’s YouTube page.

 

But anyway, let’s focus on the music. For the past couple of days as I have been acquainting myself with Troye Sivan I have been saying to people that I’m not really a fan of his music; that the songs are a bit hit or miss for me, but that I really like him as a person and an artist. Some of that has changed after I took the time to properly listen to the music. Actually, listening has made me completely change my mind in some regards, because I really like the way he writes, almost bordering on too emotionally honest at times (kidding, there’s no such thing). But melodically some songs appeal to me more than others.

Because of how he originated as a self-promoted artist via YouTube, I think it’s easy for people who listen to his music to both assume that they know him and that they know what he’s singing about. I have watched a lot of YouTube videos this last week, and when talking to friends I’ve found myself referring back to facts I’ve learned from watching them and then feeling funny about it because I sound as if I know stuff when I really don’t. The YouTube platform thrives on giving you the illusion that you’re seeing all of someone when in fact what you see are carefully curated snapshots of the life of the person who is making it. That doesn’t mean it’s fake, but it is still only a part of who they are as a person. It’s one of the purest examples of self-branding, but not always recognised as such.

The point I’m trying to make that with artists who make their brand their personality as much as their product, who get their start by making their audience familiar with them as people before the music, it’s a lot easier to try to draw lines between lyrics and the artist’s real life. In some ways, I’m a very curious person, and I have definitely caught myself trying to apply lyrics to things I know about a singer’s personal life from media coverage and fandom. Which is why I find it so interesting that when I listen to Blue Neighbourhood I can feel really emotionally invested in the narratives of the songs without feeling any need to apply them to something or someone real. I said that the songs border on being too emotionally honest, by which I mean to say that it’s as if he’s putting all his secrets and insecurities out there for everyone to see and to judge, which I think is incredibly brave.

My favourite song is probably Ease. I can’t tell you why exactly, but the fact that the melody makes it permanently glue itself to the inside of my head and makes me hum it all day without minding it is a good indicator. Lyrically as well, as a person who really enjoys contemplating fame and how it affects people, this song ticks a lot of boxes for me. That bitter sweetness of success, of doing something that you really want to do while simultaneously being confronted with the negative sides of that and how you cope with it. It’s like lyrical catnip to me.

Another recurring theme I really like on this album is that feeling of wanting something and knowing it’s not good for you; that it’s not going to end well. It’s not revolutionary by any means, but I respect that there are multiple songs about this where Troye to me appears to position himself as the one to blame for not seeing reason; himself as the person who isn’t willing to commit but who still can’t let go; himself as the person who just wants regardless of the fact that he knows he shouldn’t.

When it comes to art, I really don’t think everything should always be narrowed down to representation. However, it is important and I think it’s really nice to see an openly gay artist write songs about his personal experiences with love and life. Not all the songs have male pronouns or gender specific words, but some do. As far as I can remember all of the music videos with the exception of one feature a male love interest, and Troye has repeatedly spoken about his songs and how they’re written from a personal point of view. More and more artists do this now, but it’s still not as common as I hope it someday will be, and I really appreciate his integrity in not compromising his beliefs for a (perhaps) faster road to success. There is definitely something to be said for the importance of straight artists being allies, but I still feel that there’s more impact behind a video like Heaven by an openly gay artist than for example a LGBT+ driven interpretation in the video for Take Me to Church.

I already mentioned that Heaven had a lot to do with why I’m now at a point where I’m writing this instead of sleeping at 2am, so I guess I’ll say a little bit more about it before I end this post. What I like about this video – and all of Sivan’s other videos honestly – is that it portrays intimacy between two men in such a tender and soft way. Troye has said so himself in interviews that one if his goals with some of his videos has been to show a different side of gay relationships, moving away from the oft over-sexualised portrayals that lack nuance. In multiple parts of this video Troye is kneeling in front of a shirtless partner and to me it never feels like it’s particularly sexual, but rather a depiction of comfort. I really appreciate how the video parallels the personal moments between the two men with footage of historical events that have helped pave the way to make videos like this one possible. However, my favourite part of the entire video is still all the way at the end when Troye looks up and starts smiling right before it cuts to black. It’s so very lovely, and really hopeful.

Other songs that I really like are Wild, Blue, Suburbia and Bite, to name a few. Wild manages to capture the whirlwind experience of infatuation in an incredibly authentic way. I was listening to it while reading the lyrics earlier today and I feel like it really captures those emotions perfectly. I haven’t really worked out what Blue is telling me yet, but it sounds so beautiful, and I love how the two voices blend together. To me, Suburbia has a similar vibe to Ease thematically in that it contemplates that feeling of belonging somewhere even though you’ve moved on, and how easy it is to feel like you’re missing out on some things by pursuing others. And Bite really fascinates me. Even though I don’t I have a complete grasp on it, knowing that it’s written about going to a gay club for the first time really makes it work for me because it feels almost like a siren song, daring someone to completely turn your life around, to free you.

So yeah, I am now officially a Troye Sivan fan. And because I have the worst luck I became a fan just as he is finishing up a year of touring and going on break for the foreseeable future. I’m a little bit bummed out about that, but I think and hope there will be opportunities to see one of his shows sometime in the future.

I’ll leave you now with a few of my favourite lyrics:

 

‘White noise in my mind, won’t calm down, you’re all I can think about’ – Wild

*

‘Let’s go for a walk down Easy Street, where you can be reborn’ – Bite

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‘Take me back to the basics and the simple life, tell me all of the things that make you feel at ease’ – Ease

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‘This separation, time and space between us, for some revelation, you didn’t care to discuss’ – Quiet

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‘And I know I like to draw that line, when it starts to get too real, but the less time that I spend with you, the less you need to heal’ – Talk Me Down

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‘This voice inside has been eating art me, trying to replace the love that I fake with what we both need’ – Heaven

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‘I say I wanna settle down, build your hopes up like a tower, I’m giving you the run around, I’m just a lost boy’ – Lost Boy

*

‘Swallow nostalgia, chase it with lime, better than dwelling and chasing time. Missing occasions, I can’t rewind, can’t help but feel I’ve lost what’s mine’ – Suburbia

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‘I want you, I’ll colour me blue, anything it takes to make you stay. Only seeing myself when I’m looking up at you’ – Blue

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