In days gone by, rumors could swirl for years about an entertainer's sexual proclivities before there was any official acknowledgement of what the prying press and fearless fans were determined to suss out on their own.
Now, more often, performers lay out all their cards right away.
That's definitely the case with 20-year-old Australian YouTube phenom Troye Sivan. His first full-length studio release, Blue Neighbourhood, is saturated with Lorde-meets-Bieber synth pop that's all but dripping with angst (there are a lot of breakup songs here) and desperately smoldering sensuality.
The lyrics consistently boast all male pronouns, dispelling any ambiguity about what gender Sivan finds affection for. And in interviews, he makes no bones about the plainly homosexual nature of the relationships he sings about. "I think the most important thing to me at this point in my career is being able to be honest in my songwriting—and these songs are about boys," he told the gay and lesbian newsmagazine The Advocate.
He also talked about using his burgeoning success (his videos have been viewed more than 200 million times on YouTube, including his August 2013 "coming out" video, which has been viewed more than 6 million times) to advocate from a gay perspective. "I have a platform, and I should be using it to spread good if I can,” he says. “I know being able to see a gay artist who was living a happy, successful and healthy life is something I would’ve appreciated seeing when I was 13 years old. The thought of being that for someone else is really awesome to me, and it motivates me to keep living my truth openly, honestly and proudly.”
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
"Cool" suggests that a girl's parents have put a higher value on material things than a relationship with her. And Sivan admits that bling or chemical-induced coolness aren't what they're cracked up to be.
"Ease" reminisces about a (better) mother's tender love. The chorus tenderly recalls her care with, "Take me back to the basics and the simple life/ … Your touch, my comfort and my lullaby/Holdin' on tight and sleepin' at night"). "Heaven," meanwhile, hints at painful father issues ("Trying to save face, and a daddy heartbreak") and admits that some "love" isn't real ("Trying to replace the love that I fake").
Emotional and physical intimacy mingle frequently on Blue Neighbourhood. Celebrating a same-sex affair, "For Him" declares, "You don't have to say I love you to say I love you." And guest contributor AllDay adds, "Then I'll squeeze your booty real hard, like I'm kneading dough/Pizza boy, I'm speeding for ya'/We can get married tonight if you really wanna." "Lost Boy" talks about longing for physical intimacy but not being ready to commit emotionally to anything long-term.
"Wild" gets heated as Sivan confesses, "You were trying to wear me down, down/Kissing up on fences/And up on walls/ … There's still too long to the weekend/Too long till I come in your hands/ … I've never wanted to be so bad, oh/It drives me wild/ … But when the light's out/It's me and you now." Deluxe Edition bonus track "Bite" talks of doing that while kissing. Also: "Drape me in your warmth/The rapture in the dark puts me at ease."
Breakup song "The Quiet" (another bonus track) obscenely says that physical pain would be preferable to getting the silent treatment from an ex ("I'd rather be spitting blood/Than have this silence f--- me up/ … I used to be the one you'd come to/When it'd all go to s---"). "DKLA" (yet another bonus track) fondly recalls a former lover's touch. "Talk Me Down" pines for an intimate reunion with a guy who's left ("I wanna sleep next to you/ … And I wanna come home to you/ … I wanna hold hands with you/ … 'Cause your hands and lips still know their way around").
"Fools" talks of drinking with a lover. It also uses deodorant (of all things) as a symbol for how two (dating) men are different ("The little things, you like stick and I like aerosol/I don't give a f---, I'm not giving up, I still want it all"). "Cool" includes a litany of reckless activities: "Drinks in bars and/Boys in cars and/Rooftop sinning/Skinny dipping/Shooting stars/With fat cigars." "Youth" romanticizes and reinforces the lie that there are no boundaries or consequences in life. "Heaven" suggests that such a titular place (possibly thought of in terms of emotional fulfillment in a human relationship) is overrated, especially if it requires giving anything up to get there ("So if I'm losing a piece of me/Maybe I don't want heaven?").
Blue Neighbourhood does occasionally walk around a block that isn't built up with broken romances and sex with other men. More often, though, Troye Sivan's lusty musings are like a peeping Tom staring into the windows of those latter subjects.
That's especially true for a video trilogy devoted to "Wild," "Fools" and "Talk Me Down." The story here evokes the tragic storyline of Brokeback Mountain as it follows the lives of two best-bud boys who grow up together … and then get sexually involved with each other. Nonlinear cinematography juxtaposes their adventures as young boys with images of them passionately kissing and embracing as adolescents. Sivan's lover, of course, has a drunken father who doesn't much care for his son's homosexuality, threatening him. And so that son leaves Sivan for a young woman. After the father's death, it's implied that the boy commits suicide.
In his interview with The Advocate, Sivan said, “I feel like gay relationships are sexualized in the media and I just wanted to show a romantic, adorable, puppy love situation between two little boys because that’s something we never ever see. We usually see stories when the teen is grown up, they’re 18, they’re going out, and maybe they’re promiscuous. That’s a part of gay culture—and it’s a fun part of gay culture—but there’s also those little baby crushes you have when you’re younger. I wanted to show that naiveté, that innocence, and that joy before someone tells you there’s something wrong with you."
He adds, "Unfortunately for me, I always felt in the back of my mind that there was something wrong with me. Even when I was a little kid, I remember suppressing any feelings I had towards other boys. I was just aware I wasn’t supposed to be having those feelings from a very young age. And the boys in the music video, I only wish that I could’ve had that kind … well, let’s just say I guess I’m a little jealous of the kids in the music video because they get to experience that—if only for a brief second, but they get to experience that relationship without any baggage.”
So is it now "just" baggage? Or is it still unbiblical? Is there more to why Troye Sivan always felt there was "something wrong"? Because there's surely more, scripturally, to this story than star-crossed lovers and changing times.