Troye Sivan: ‘I’m becoming more comfortable with my body and accepting it for what it is’

For the first time, Troye Sivan is letting it all hang out – he’s an artist reborn on his new album. The pop star and actor has worked hard to figure out who he is

For the first time in his life, Troye Sivan is letting it all hang out. In the video for his latest single, Got Me Started, he bares almost everything: arms, legs, torso. It is quite a change from his early years in music, when the naturally slender pop star suffered body-confidence issues and worried he was “disgustingly thin”. Today Sivan is “becoming more comfortable with my body and accepting it for what it is a little bit”, he says. “And still allowing myself to enjoy it and then feel hot.”

This radical shift didn’t happen overnight. Sivan’s new album, Something to Give Each Other, arrives five years after its acclaimed predecessor, Bloom. (“It’s easy to feel charmed by Troye Sivan,” Rolling Stone said in its review.) Half a decade is an eternity in pop: Taylor Swift has put out four albums in the same span. During that time Sivan feels he has grown artistically and spiritually.

The 28-year-old has quit Twitter, recorded the hit duet 1999 with Charli XCX and returned to acting – he previously dipped a toe opposite Ian McKellen in an Australian touring production of Waiting for Godot; you may even have seen him alongside the Weeknd in The Idol, the great chip-pan fire of the summer. From the outside he could, therefore, be perceived as an artist reborn: a new, second Troye arriving like a bolt from the beyond. Sivan has a different perspective.

“Maybe because it’s me and it’s been a gradual change of this growth in confidence, it doesn’t feel as sudden to me, this change. There wasn’t a moment where suddenly I was, like, ‘Oh, I feel way more confident than I did before’,” he says.


That is “partly what the record is about”, he explains. “This slow process I’m going through. Working through a bunch of stuff and figuring out life and who I am and what I enjoy. And what I want for myself. How beautiful people are. The many, many different ways a relationship can look with someone, whether it’s someone you’ve just met or someone you’ve known for five years. I’ve been learning a lot. For me it’s felt gradual. But I understand – coming back after five years without releasing an album … I can imagine it’s a bigger change for everyone else.”

Got Me Started is one of those tender-tough boppers at which Sivan excels. Heart-on-sleeve lyrics meld with pop-star dazzle, topped off with a stealthy groove. (The track is built on a sample by the Australian electro duo Bag Raiders.) There is lots more of the same on Something to Give Each Other. Written in the shadow of his split in 2020 from the model Jacob Bixenman, the project functions as a deft deconstruction of heartache. It acknowledges that break-ups are also a chance to start over and find new love.

He spells out his intentions on Got Me Started, pointing his attention at a potential paramour. “He’s got the personality. Not even gravity could ever hold him down / He’s got the sexuality of a man who can take a room and drown it out.”

Sivan didn’t enjoy having his heart broken. Nonetheless, during the making of the new LP, meticulously assembled over a span of years in Los Angeles and his native Australia, he realised these were feelings with which he could do something.

“When I’m songwriting, every now and then there’s a song where you feel like you’ve captured a feeling,” Sivan says. “There’s a couple of ways you can do that – through melody or lyric or production. When they’re all working together to tell the story in their own way, then you can show someone how you’re feeling. That happens quite rarely. And what I decided for this album was that I was going to wait until that happened 10 times – because I knew that I wanted the album to be 10 tracks. I thought it was finished when I felt like I had 10 genuine feelings and moments that tell the story.”

Sivan is a thoroughly 21st-century pop star: simultaneously megafamous and obscure. Among the wider public, his name recognition can be spotty. But to his 15 million Instagram followers and eight million YouTube followers, he is the only star who matters. Critics have always been on his side. In 2019 the New Yorker heralded an artist whose songs “translate the gay teen experience into recognisable rites of passage”. He was, said the magazine, “a gay pop idol in the mould of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber”.

Four years on, the rest of the world may be about to catch up. In July Sivan released Rush, an upbeat belter that broke with the little-boy-blue hue of previous hits such as Bloom and Youth. Rush is everything you could want from an end-of-summer pop fling. It is joyful, a bit frisky, a tune that wants to stretch, wiggle and throw suggestive eyes at the world. For Sivan it has been a reset button.

“It’s so crazy. I’m still kind of feeling it,” he says. “I knew that I wanted that moment on the album. That was such an important part of the last two years: that hot, sweaty euphoria on the dance floor with a bunch of people. That kind of freedom and joy is something that has changed my life over the last couple of years. And I knew that I wanted a song that felt like that.”

His record label was slightly dubious about Rush. They liked it but felt there were better tracks to introduce Troye 2.0 to the world. He put his foot down.

“I was so happy when we wrote Rush. I knew that I loved it. There was actually some back and forth about whether it should be the first single. I was, like, ‘You know what, guys? You have actually to trust me on this one. This is the first single.’ Everyone did, thankfully. It feels like it’s changed my life. It feels very different from before.”

Rush was also controversial – or so felt certain corners of social media. In the video Sivan twerks and spins with a cast of dancers. They are all skinny – many share Sivan’s slight physique. There was instant criticism: why so airbrushed? Where was the body diversity? Sivan acknowledged the critique: the video for Got Me Started has a range of body types. It’s all about being open to feedback, he says.

“I responded to that. And worked on it and made changes accordingly. Sometimes, of course, there’s a learning moment to be had.”

When navigating online fame, Sivan says, the challenge is to sort the valid criticism from the noise. “You’ve got to try and decipher, is this something you [can take on board]? Not even talking about the Rush video – in general. Anytime I was seeing something it’s, like, ‘Is this something that genuinely needs my attention? Or is this something where it’s, like, people are having fun on the internet?”

It has been a summer of contrasts. Rush was his biggest hit. He also appeared in The Idol, the Weeknd’s roundly panned music-industry melodrama on HBO and Sky Atlantic. Few came away from that disaster with their reputations enhanced. (The Weeknd’s may never recover.) Sivan was an exception. Playing Xander, the creative director for Jocelyn, the Britney Spears-esque lead character played by Lily-Rose Depp, he delivers a masterclass. In their scenes together, Sivan acts the Weeknd off the screen – quite an achievement given that one of their big set pieces features Xander being hog-tied with a power cord and shocked into submission.

He is unable to talk about The Idol and the accusations of misogyny around it because of the Hollywood actors’ strike, which prohibits members of the Sag-Aftra union promoting projects that are covered by its agreement with US TV and film producers. But he says that he enjoys acting and would like to do more, pop stardom allowing. In fact, there’s lots he’d like to do more of.

The challenge is finding the time. He has also launched a lifestyle range called Tsu Lange Yor, a line of fragrances and decorative objects for the home. He is an ambassador for a cosmetics company and recently strutted the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week. Sivan isn’t complaining – talk about living all your best lives at once. Still, he knows it is a lot.

“I’m going to take a big break,” he says. “There’s not any balance at the moment. It’s nice – a temporary go-go-go. I’m so unbelievably proud of this work. And I feel like this work wouldn’t have been able to be made had I not have had a big long break before. I guess the way I achieve balance is by knowing my limits, and knowing what I want from my life as well. I’m setting that up for myself. So whether it is deciding to go home to Australia for a couple of months or take a bit of a break or move from a music project to an acting project or whatever, I think that does almost help that I’m doing different things. Because I get to fill my cup back up.”

Sivan, who was a successful YouTuber before he was a pop star, says it is “much, much easier” to be a gay musician today compared with when he started – “It’s a totally different landscape than it was 10 years ago.” In 2013, when he was 18, Sivan came out to his fans in a video. He had long since done so to friends and family, so it was not as if being gay was a weight he carried around, but he is proud of making that video at a relatively tender age, knowing it helped others to accept and celebrate their sexuality.

“I came out when I was 15 to my parents. At that point it felt like old news already, and I think the support of my family and my friends in my real life made me feel a bit bulletproof in that regard,” Sivan says.

“Of course, I was nervous and everything. But I really, really, really didn’t care if someone was going to have, like, a negative reaction, because I had everything I needed.”

The decision to publicly come out was partially motivated by the fact that he was about to sign his first record deal, with EMI Australia. He believed he had to be honest with the label, and his sexuality was part of his identity. But if he was going to share that information with a record company, he needed to do so with his YouTube followers, too.

“All I wanted to do with coming out publicly was, first of all, free myself,” he says, “and also give back, because the queer community on YouTube helped me so much. I used to watch those coming-out videos all the time. And they helped me come out. I wanted to do my part.”

Something to Give Each Other is released by Polydor