Troye Sivan Is the Fresh Prince of Pop
L'Hommes

Troye Sivan Is the Fresh Prince of Pop

The bonafide star is trailblazing mainstream music just by being himself, and covers issue 2 of L'Officiel USA. Photographs by Jack Pierson Fashion by Madeline Weeks
Reading time 11 minutes

Troye Sivan started 2018 off with the powerful, anthemic, dance-ready track, “My My My!,” in which every repeated chorus feels like an exuberant exhale. With the release, Sivan said, “Throw all inhibition to the wind, be present in your body, love wholeheartedly, move the way you’ve always wanted to, and dance the way you feel.” 

After recording the song, Sivan recalls “strutting around the room and performing the song the way I would in the video in front of a mirror, and it made me feel so happy and so good.” That late-night hotel room solo show was the seed of inspiration for the song’s accompanying Grant Singer-directed video, which sees Sivan dancing carefree and without shame around a gritty, empty warehouse with shots of sweaty, hunky boys spliced in. It is, in short, his Robyn moment. “I think a lot about the ‘Dancing on My Own’ video and the way that [it] made me feel the first time I watched it. I wanted to try to capture that same electricity.” He certainly succeeds—and more. “A big thing for me as well is that confidence isn’t something that I feel all the time, but when I do it’s like such a euphoric feeling.”  

 

In all its confident, gay glory, “My My My!” could not be further in tone from Sivan’s first music videos, a somber trilogy pegged to 2015’s Blue Neighborhood, his full-length album debut. In an interview in 2016, he told me he wanted to “show an innocent LGBT relationship. I feel like gay relationships are so sexualized. When you see a little boy and a little girl walking down the street, and holding hands it’s like ‘aw cute,’ but you never see it with two boys.”

Blue Neighborhood, as the title suggests, was ripe with references to growing up in suburbia, grappling with coming out to your parents and yourself, and, more lightly, hitting up gay clubs for the first time. At the time, it was strong and assured, but now feels almost naive—and he’s clearly evolved since then (coincidentally, in the interim between then and now, his parents picked up and moved from the suburbs of Perth to Melbourne).

A week after the release of “My My My!,” Sivan followed up with a heartbreaking, Sufjan Stevens-esque ballad, “The Good Side,” all about coming out the victor of an ended relationship. It is the complete antithesis to the first single, but marks a mature shift in focus, a symbolic letting go of the past love that inspired much of Blue Neighborhood. The next day, he played both of those tracks on Saturday Night Live, a coveted landmark performance for any artist, which brought him closer to becoming a household name. His latest appearances on Ellen and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, will probably help, too.   

Those two tracks are the earliest offerings from Sivan’s forthcoming, as-yet-untitled sophomore album, which fans are calling “TS2.” Other previously confirmed tracks include an Ariana Grande feature and “Bloom,” a cheeky, pun-heavy bop about losing your virginity that gives Katy Perry’s “Bon Appétit” a run for its money. Breaking down the album for me, he says, “Some [songs] are really light and airy and fun, some are a little more explicit, some a little darker.” Darker pop? 

“There’s one song called ‘Seventeen’ that I basically wrote about getting a fake ID and Grindr when I was younger and navigating my way through feeling like an adult, but not yet being one, and craving that community and connection and not knowing where to find it,” he says of an all-too-familiar experience for gay men exploring their sexuality. A recent Sundance Award-winning film about gay sexual exploration, Beach Rats, which Sivan has seen, tackles a similar situation — just replace Grindr with webcamming and add a violent resolution. 

“There was an original chorus written for [‘Seventeen’] about hooking up with an older man…it’s real but at the same time it’s uncomfortable and probably will make other people uncomfortable. I’m not condoning this experience, but I also don’t regret this experience.” The track's subject matter will place Sivan into a pop canon including Alanis Morissette’s 2002 confrontational confessional “Hands Clean,” and Aaliyah's unabashed '94 debut album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, but for a different generation with a different perspective.

What Sivan is touching on is a paradox that many of today’s mainstream pop stars face: Authenticity is required, but so is responsibility, and what if they’re at odds?

“It wasn’t like I was glorifying [it]; it’s looking back on that experience with a weird cocktail of emotions like nostalgia and fondness—but also, I’m kinda creeped out by it. There are photos of me when I was that age and I look really young. What was that guy doing?” 

Interestingly, Sivan could easily be describing the plot of 2017’s most buzzed-about and loved indie romance film: Call Me By Your Name, which sees a graduate student and a teenager enter an illicit romance set against the beautiful background of Crema, Italy. The similarities between Sivan and the film’s lead Timothée Chalamet, are too obvious to ignore: They’re lithe, fair-skinned, brown-haired, and light-eyed 22-year-olds. And yet, it’s hard to imagine the Grammy Awards recognizing Sivan’s honesty the same way Chalamet’s role earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination.  

“It’s different with movies: People get to write it off because it’s exploring one perspective and not saying it’s right or wrong. As someone who has to go out and speak about my music and be the face of it—am I glorifying potentially harmful behaviors?” he asks, rhetorically. 

Sivan is no stranger to acting, having appeared as a young Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and as the lead in a South African film trilogy, Spud. This September, he’ll be seen as an ensemble member in the Joel Edgerton-directed film Boy Erased, based off a memoir of the same name. The book follows Jared, played by Lucas Hedges, who is outed to his Baptist pastor father and sent to a gay conversion therapy program. “There’s sort of an ensemble cast of characters who have all been sent to the same camp, and I play one of the boys,” he says. 

“It’s an ideal role in every way possible. It was so exciting to me—and terrifying. The most important thing is that I was a part of a really special movie that is hopefully going to do a lot of good,” he says of the experience. Sivan also contributed a song, “Strawberries & Cigarettes,” for another film doing a lot of good for the LGBTQ community: the recently released Love, Simon, a touching, hilarious, and surprisingly educational film all about being outed in high school. “I love that movie so much,” he laughs recalling seeing it for the first time. “I try to explain to people who haven’t seen it that it’s a teen movie—know that going in. It’s something written for younger people, but so was Mean Girls.” Sivan, though, never had a typical high school experience.  

“At my school there were 30 kids in each grade, so I really only knew 30 kids. I started homeschooling when I was 14, and so how do you meet new people from that? I was always too scared to go out, and I’m sort of like that still,” he reflects. His new partner, a social butterfly, though, is breaking him out of his shell, and that change feels good. “I feel more comfortable in almost every way in almost every place in my life. I feel comfortable staying home and doing nothing because I feel safe and secure in what I have. I feel comfortable going out and meeting new people. It’s really nice when a relationship can genuinely bring out the good in you and you really like the person you become in that experience.” Naturally, that love has inspired the new record.  

The writers for “TS2” include his tight-knit core crew from Blue Neighborhood consisting of Leland, Allie X, and Bram Inscore. Branching out, Sivan was drawn to Ariel Rechtshaid, whose professional credits include Solange’s “Losing You,” Sky Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrassing,” and plenty of work with HAIM.

He also wrangled sessions with power producer Max Martin’s team, who by all measures are almost guaranteed to spawn a radio hit. The coveted collaboration comes with something of an entry exam, and a little bit of speed dating. “The way that the whole Max Martin camp thing sort of worked out was that I went in for a meeting, and there was this huge round table of a bunch of Swedish people that all sort of looked the same and had the same name. It was all kind of a big blur.” In that initial meeting, he explained to them his vision and they decided who among them would work best with Sivan. “Then I went in and I had a week where every day I was with a different producer and top liner from that crew. Four of the days didn’t really work out, but then three of the days really did. And I really, really loved working with those people, so we would organize more sessions. We ended up making some of my favorite moments of my whole album.”

Though big names are attached to his project, Sivan is fully in command. “When I think about artists that I admire, I always think they’re the captains of their own ship. Like Taylor Swift, Charli XCX, or Carly Rae Jepsen — I can hear them writing and I know that beneath the pop star is a real creative. That’s how I want to be perceived to other people. That’s the way that I feel,” he says, adding, “I love making things so much. I love being involved in every part of the process so much. I feel like I’m getting way better at all of [that]. I’m excited to show that off to people. I’m really proud of the music, and I’m really proud of the visuals so far, and I just want to kind of keep going.”

While Sivan has started a new chapter—a sequel in the story of his life, both personally and professionally—he’s clearly capable of recognizing all the different parts that make up who he is as a man and an artist today. “I’ve learned more in the last five years than I collectively have learned up until this point. I grew up really sheltered and comfortable inside Australia, and all that I knew was that I love music. In the last five years, I’ve really gotten to see the world. I’ve met so many people, I’ve been in and out of love, I’ve had a lot of my dreams come true. I’ve had the most formative couple of years that I think will hopefully shape the rest of my life.”

Hair Braydon Nelson (Streeters)

Executive producer Michael Scheidler (CXA)

Production Anna Magriplis (CXA)

Digital technician Tommy Kha

Photo assistant Daren Thomas

Stylist assistant Allan Kent

Tailor Carlos (Lars Nord)

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