On November 15, 2007, a twelve year old boy with an unkempt mop of brown hair filmed a YouTube video of himself covering a song called Tell Me Why in his school uniform. Behind the shitty quality webcam, in that kid’s head, were dreams of one day doing the whole ‘music thing’ for real. That kid started to grow up. He knew he had a knack for communicating, so he moved into the ‘vloggersphere’, amassing nearly one hundred million views around the world in the years that would pass. The internet grew up with its new best friend, a friend who told it his biggest secret just after he turned eighteen. There was no holes barred. Nothing to separate fans and Troye. Troye’s whole life was on display on Youtube.
He’d occasionally manage to weave in music to this whole story-telling video content world – uploading songs he wrote looking back on the year’s pop culture in 2012 and 2013 as well as the odd cover or two. Mark Holland,who manages A&R at EMI, noticed the kid could tell a story well, knew how to market himself and had an audience that would support anything he did because it was always quality. On June 5, 2014, that little kid had grown up to be Troye Sivan, a dude who’s hair was a lot more on point, he was confident in himself and his capabilities and a guy who could announce to the world he’d signed a global recording contract with EMI.
For the most part, up until recently, Troye’s been able to live an almost-normal teenager’s life growing up in Perth, so he naturally generated life experience and stories. Real ones. Some good, some bad. He’s just like the rest of us and we knew that. One of his more recent videos showed a diary he kept. It lasted like, two months, but it was an outlet at the time for the ~heaps deep~ fifteen year old emotions he was feeling. But as he became an adult, he needed a more solid outlet. That’s where music – proper music – stepped in. After signing, he went all around the world, sneakily writing over forty songs with a bunch of amazing co-writers in every continent imaginable. Except Antarctica, tbh.
Out of the blue on July 23, Troye launched the lead single that he’d been teasing since day 1 of the TRXYE campaign, Happy Little Pill. It was co-written with LA-based Singaporean Tat Tong, who’s had seventeen platinum accreditations for songs he’s crafted and a guy named Brandon Rogers, who was on American Idol a few years ago. “It’s about loneliness and the different ways that people cope with the things that are going on in their lives,” Troye says of it. “I wrote this song during a bit of a rough time for someone super close to me, and for myself, and it still means as much to me as the day I wrote it.” Without knowing the full story it’s still easily adaptable to a lot of different circumstances and that’s one of the beautiful things about pop music as emotional and real as this. As a medicated anxiety sufferer, it hits me really fucking hard. “My happy little pill, take me away, dry my eyes, bring colour to my skies… numb my skin”. FUCK ME RIGHT IN THE FEELS. Musically, the production from fellow Perthians SLUMS, who took charge of the rest of the record too,is next level. The post-chorus breakdown towards the end with the vocal sample repeating the word “VIOLENCE” is monumental.
Touch is track two, with huge Flume and Peking Dukvibes emanating from this, at least on the drop. It’s interesting that he lists “Lana Del Rey and Lorde, Frank Ocean to Haim” as his musical influences because – with the exception of elements of the former two perhaps – it’s hard to hear any of those sounds in his work. Instead, he’s gone and created something special, a unique blend of balladic (I know it’s not a word but I don’t give a shit) emotions seamlessly mixed into 3am-and-I’m-drunk-and-carelessly-making-out-with-some-massive-cutie-in-the-club electronica accompanied by a vocoder-assisted lower harmony. That mix is hard to get right, but they’ve nailed it.
Track three was co-written with a young lady who I genuinely believe is the next Sia, 21-year-old Sydney based pop writer Alex Hope. You’d probably know her biggest hit as Taylor Henderson‘s double-platinum selling Borrow My Heart. She’s a genius. Alex helped Troye ‘pen’ Fun which is – you guessed it – the most fun song on the EP! Amazing. “Let’s go have fun, you and me in the old jeep, riding round town with our rifles on the front seat,” it’s an ode to technically illegal possession of firearms in a motor vehicle. It’s a total road-trip jam and the last chorus has crowd chants. Perfect.
However amazing the first three songs have been, the true highlight of this record is Troye’s most personal moment, Gasoline. It’s a love ballad. It’s honest. And it’s really fucking mature. He uses male-specific pronouns to talk about the love interest in question, which doesn’t sound like a big deal for a gay dude, but so many gay artists don’t do it just because it’s non-conventional. But this EP is about being non-conventional! “I see an outline in my bed, in the same spot as I watched him rest his head,” Troye begins over the top of a piano before a simple beat moves him forward. “I write this song, trying to forget it… I need to do something, fucked up for nothing, I’ve gotta just tell someone, tell someone what I’ve done”. We’re clearly dealing with something pretty fucked up here. But he’s used this incredible and necessary creative outlet that he’s created for himself as a little bit of therapy. Now, he’s sharing that therapy with his millions of adoring supporters who care like crazy about this dude’s wellbeing and that’s a very special thing. He’s got a more intimate relationship with his fanbase – who are really extended friends more than anything – than anyone else doing music at his level right now.
That twelve year old boy who uploaded a video on November 15, 2007, would be so fucking proud of Troye Sivan right now. TRXYE is out on EMI Music Australia right now.