Tender and personal but self-assured, Troye Sivan's Bloom is a coming-of-age album that captures the freedom in learning about yourself through experiences with others. Celebrating his identity and life as a young queer man, his precise songwriting maps his journey into adulthood while sharing some lessons in acceptance.
The 23-year-old singer reintroduced himself to us in January with the release of My My My! Not only is it one of the best pop songs of the year but it propels the artist – who had already made a big impression with his vulnerable 2015 debut album, Blue Neighbourhood – to the next level. My My My! is consumed with sexual desire as it focuses on the impulses that drive us and the teasing tactics we use to play the game. As the song builds in confidence over pulsating synths, Sivan fetishises the physical thrills of a new relationship.
On The Good Side, a heavy-hearted song that's as light as a breeze, he recognises the emotional intelligence and growth that occurs when we open up our hearts to someone else. The highs soar, but the lows are crushing. "I got the good side of you. Send it out into the blue," he sings on The Good Side. "The people danced to the sound of your heart. The world sang along to it falling apart." With these growing pains, he understands the world a little bit more.
Sivan veers close to Robyn-style sad pop. He wears his heart on his sleeve as he reflects on events that could be construed as negative, painting them as a learning curve instead. Opening track Seventeen looks back on his teen years, when he would use a fake ID to meet other men – often a little older than him – either in gay bars or on Grindr. "I went out looking for love when I was 17. Maybe a little too young, but it was real to me and in the heat of the night, saw things I'd never seen," he sings, letting us in on his formative years as a young gay man in Perth, Australia.
While going out and clubbing plays a huge role in queer identity and hook-up culture in general, Sivan removes the club from his romance on Dance to This, his very sweet collaboration with Ariana Grande, where he lets down his guard even more. The honesty and attention to detail in his songwriting puts him on the same level as Taylor Swift. Postcard, his duet with Australian pop-folk singer Gordi, is an excruciatingly real example of this. By magnifying his annoyance that his boyfriend never went to pick up a postcard Sivan had sent him from Japan, he dissects his own neuroses to deliver a sharp introspection that others would be too afraid to assess. Sometimes our biggest revelations come through the acts of love, sex and heartbreak and in Bloom, Sivan takes small snapshots from those experiences and makes them monumental.
The frankness in Sivan's writing style and the exploration of his own sexuality – the title track being a coy and knowing nod to his own preferences – marks just how far the entertainment industry has come in supporting queer artists when, historically, so many performers had to hide behind a facade to appeal to the general public. Placing Bloom alongside big pop culture moments such as the 2017 movie Call Me By Your Name and albums such as Frank Ocean's Blonde, Hayley Kiyoko's Expectations and Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer, the heteronormative lens of mainstream culture is shifting, giving space to those that were silenced before.