timeHis charts this year have been dominated by uptempo songs — perhaps driven by the deluge of content on TikTok or a generation of young people moving full steam ahead in the wake of the pandemic. The standout is Australian pop star Troye Sivan’s hit summer single “Rush.” Built around funky house beats – like Spiller’s Groovejet dialed up to 126bpm – and accompanied by a raucous chorus that sounds like it’s being sung by a distracting group of bodybuilding personal trainers, it’s all sweat and heavy breathing; The music video is filled with glory holes, hot bodies and slutty looks, highlighting the kind of steamy activities Sivan gets into.
It’s exciting to hear Sivan is back to his best – and definitely improving. After first finding fame as a teenage YouTuber, he released his 2015 debut album Blue Neighborhood, which balanced bombastic post-dubstep drum arrangements with poetic production details like the distant vocals behind the mix of the power ballad “Talk Me Down.” ). Some of the nuance was lost on 2018’s Bloom – while the lyrics were good, such as the title track’s beautiful metaphor for homosexuality, the songs were mediocre and Sivan’s voice couldn’t carry the likes of My My My! He became less and less suited to the heavy drums that seemed to leap out of the radio.
Five years and a bad breakup later, Sivan’s third album returns to that subtlety and plays to his strengths – Something to Give Each Other is a reminder that a voice doesn’t need to be big to be strong. Some of Sivan’s most captivating vocals are conversational in nature, such as on “One of Your Girls” in which he ruefully assesses his chances with the straight man he likes, or in “Silly” where he slams His high falsetto brought him back to reality. It’s the “wrong” way to sing pop music, but it’s magnetic and sounds great on headphones.
Opening track “Rush” proved to be something of a curveball. There are more high-tempos in there, but Rush feels claustrophobic and carnival-like, while other tracks give Sivan more room to move. “Got Me Started” has a nimble British garage rhythm; Four Four Sweethearts has the spectacle of looking up at a mirror ball. “Silly” has a deep house soundtrack, and producer Ian Kirkpatrick (the man behind Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” and “Don’t Start Now”) hid an Easter egg in the mix: a rotary phone whine. The slightest hint of static in a shout, a human voice. It’s an intimacy and detail that feels attuned to Finneas’ work for Billie Eilish and the recent bedroom-pop boom, but even when Sivan’s songs hit the high notes, they do so with grace, care, and a sense of mindfulness.
For someone who entered post-pandemic life as Melbourne’s purest bachelor and sang breakup songs on 2020’s In a Dream EP, Sivan is clearly surrounded by sex and romance. But he seemed to take things as they came, enjoying the moment rather than worrying about the next. Even when singing about a long-distance relationship in the beautiful “What’s the TimeWhere You Are,” he’s still full of energy and possibility.
However, there are also a few amazing songs where old wounds still linger. The drumless organ ballad “Still Got It” perfectly evokes the eerie feeling of seeing someone you were once close to (“I saw you at a party/Greeting like an old co-worker”) before publicly declaring that he wants them. Back, there’s a coda where his voice is scrambled by electronics: another poetic creative flourish that suggests you can never really talk to old mates the way you once did. The subsequent song “Can’t Go Back, Baby” seems to acknowledge this, while a sample of American alternative songwriter Jessica Pratt sings the title over and over like Sivan The same mantra in my mind, beautifully done.
Elsewhere, Sivan’s influence is sometimes a little too obvious: the vocoder chorus on “One of Your Girls” bears a strong resemblance to Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” from the Drive soundtrack, while “Got Me Started” doesn’t A bag raider that does too much new (especially in Australia) to a fairly well-known specimen. Some pop fans may also find the overall stakes a bit low, with the pace calming down after opener “Rush” and not everyone giving each other the time they need to unfold. It would be a shame – this is one of the best and most unique pop albums of the year, and to his credit he’s able to keep up even as the genre speeds up around him while making sure to feel the breeze on his face And passed.