2014-15 has seen a revolution in pop music. The main thing is, it’s cool again. Taylor Swift broke records with her ‘first proper pop album’ 1989; Justin Bieber has shocked the world with his island-chill comeback; and new comers like Halsey with her ‘angry pop’ Badlands are changing the face of the genre. Now we have a new star; spat straight from the confusing realms of YouTube comes 20-year-old Australian, Troye Sivan.
As soon as I heard his WILD EP released in September of this year, I was obsessed. Considering that the EP makes up the first half of his debut album Blue Neighbourhood, I knew this record was going to be amazing. I was right.
The album opens with the the incredible WILD. Clean-cut production and relatable lyrics set the tone for the rest of the record. Laced with children’s voices, clicks and synth-beats, the song has a captivatingly modern style reminiscent of fellow synth-pop artists Years & Years. Sivan’s milky vocals drip off the music with a vulnerable nakedness that makes you fall in love more and more with each song.
BITE, THE QUIET and DKLA give the first half of the album a darker tone. “Kiss me on the mouth and set me free but please don’t bite” Sivan sings on BITE, a bass-heavy slow number which Sivan claims to have written about his first time in a gay night club. The pulsing James Blake-esque DKLA (standing for Don’t Keep Love Around) depicts a sombre character sworn off love due to a broken heart. The song features a verse from the amazing Tkay Maidza, fellow Australian hip-hop/rap artist, one of several talented new faces seen on this album. This broodier side to Sivan’s character is perhaps unexpected from the chirpy big-blue-eyed person on YouTube, but the quality in which these particular songs are executed shows there is no limit to this guy’s talent. It is no wonder he’s already topping charts and taking over the Internet.
On Sivan’s YouTube account there is a forty-second video in which he introduces us to Blue Neighbourhood. “I think to a certain extent everyone is from a blue neighbourhood” he says, “mine is where all of these stories took place”. Throughout the album this comes across. In songs like FOOLS, EASE, YOUTH and SUBURBIA there is a sense of small-town suburban isolation, in which individual stories take place suffocated by the confines of home life. “What if? What if we run away? / What if we left today? / What if we say goodbye to safe and sound?” he sings on YOUTH. This recurring theme is matched by the coherent sound of the album. Blue Neighbourhood is a collection of carefully stylised, clever and original pop songs. Sivan is exactly the kind of young new artist that is showing people to stop being so afraid of pop music.
My favourite tracks on the album are probably the saddest. TALK ME DOWN, HEAVEN and LOST BOY. The Guardian’s review of Blue Neighbourhood found the only flaw to be that most of the songs are about relationships and broken hearts. But what’s wrong with that? When it’s done as well as Sivan does it, it can be forgiven. TALK ME DOWN, a song which hopes to generate suicide awareness, boasts some of the album’s best production, merging simple drums with strings. It’s a tear jerker. HEAVEN is a collaboration with yet more Australian talent, Betty Who, who’s soft vocals remind me of Dido. The combination of Sivan and Who’s voices allow no moments of forgiveness - prepare to sob the entire way through. LOST BOY is simply devastating. “As the smile fell from your face, I fell with it” Sivan sings before some Bieber panpipes kick in; a feeble attempt to mend your broken heart.
Blue Neighbourhood is, in my opinion, as close to perfect as an album can get. There is no weak song. Not one stumbling block. It feels like trickling, sparkly water and sunsets but also violence under dark skies and starry nights. Troye Sivan is oozing with talent, intelligence and charm. I have had this album on repeat for the last four days and you would be quite frankly, stupid, not to give it a listen.