For lack of a more iconic comparison, I think its fair to equate the Troye Sivan of today with the eighties success of Boy George and Culture Club. I find that they certainly sound similar – a yearning vocal which tends to operate soulfully over New Wave arrangements. Both artists have developed a dreamscape for gay romance where both love’s power and fragility can sound truly electric – a stylistic nod to club music, albeit one that’s more melancholic and introspective. George’s “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” is fun to dance to, but is so somber sounding as well, and so too, many tracks on The Blue Neighborhood will have you gazing at your dancing feet, grooving alone to the emotions. It’s just that type of blue mood – one which I personally have always gravitated too. It’s not all Pop perfection here though – I find the album to have several tracks that sound too similar to one another, and more frustrating for me are the silly millennial whoops and heys included on big tracks because…well, because everyone else was doing it, especially in 2015. I do my best to mentally omit the ‘wa ah ahs’ and ‘hey’ background vocals on a pretty big and moody opening track “WILD.” Honestly, why do these tired ideas creep into our Pop music? Is there really some deep seated need for us audience members to ‘sing as one’ like a children’s choir song after song, from Pop to EDM. Yep, these sonic follies, plus the annoying as hell vocal effect formanting, plus the Trap clutter on certain beats, were as trying for me back then as they are now - and perhaps even sound more frustrating listening to a song like “YOUTH” today. The beat finally drops and the sampled singing squirts and squelches over and over again, mind-numbingly. No, I am much more for the songs on The Blue Neighborhood which strove to circumvent overused trends – and with 16 joints to listen to, I thought my odds were pretty good.
While I was frustrated by aspects of “WILD”, I commend the subject matter as it explores more than just physical attraction, but speaks on the magic that happens when two people discover that their personalities are so similar; “We’re alike you and I / two blue hearts locked in our wrong minds.” I would normally take ‘blue’ to mean sad, but I feel Troye Sivan is more celebrating a ‘blue heart’ as something deep and to be admired – and furthermore, I am guessing that the liberated ‘blue heart’ is still not free so long as it’s in a wrong mind – which could translate to a closeted gay man, perhaps, though I need not read too much into the lyrics. Rather, the whole vibe, if I was to guess, is about two boys who have to sneak around in order to enjoy each other’s company in ‘the blue neighborhood’ as it’s described – basically a simile for any neighborhood which would not accept such a relationship. They have to wait for long periods before they can meet on the weekends, and they dream of just getting out of town together and never looking back. “BITE” illustrates the real Sivan (as he has stated) visiting a gay bar for the first time, and being a total rookie at first about what he was seeing at the young age of 18, as he marveled at this brand new world of confidence and sexual freedom – experiences that lend both an overwhelming but also sexy vibe to the arrangement. The synth buzzes electronically but the notes have brief pauses in them which increases the funky and industrial vibe of the beat, perfectly mixing feminine feelings with masculine ones. The rhythm is like a piston, reflecting Sivan’s arousal, sure, but his vocals find him holding on to his innocence, naturally, wanting everything he sees yet not being totally ready; “So kiss me on the mouth and set me free / but please, don't bite.”
“FOOLS” is a wavy Future Bass track that gets really old quick because of the incessant repeating nature of overbearing elements, but I am sure that fans of the sub genre already will appreciate the very aspects that are trying me here. Troye Sivan’s innocent sense of romance comes crashing down, as he states; “only fools fall for you, only fools / only fools do what I do, only fools fall.” I like the word play at least here, because he at once describes that the type of people who fall in love with the type of guy he fell for are fools. Sivan dreams of seeing the world and also settling down after all of that, yet I can’t tell from the ambiguous text if he wants to share these experiences with his current lover, or if he wants to go solo and both of their visions aren’t lining up (the dude might be a stay in ‘the blue neighborhood’ type) and therefore, Sivan is blaming himself for the uprooting the relationship – perhaps warning even that ‘only a fool would fall in love with him’, a jet setter and entertainer. Needlessly complicated, or poetic? It would seem that Sivan ended up leaving and pursuing his dreams. On “EASE” lonely sounding piano notes echo away with a double tapping Synthwave rhythm, making me feel like I’m cruising in the rain and thinking about life – just as the life of an actor and singer is getting the best of Sivan, as he relates to his distant mother on the phone; “but all this driving / is driving me crazy / and all this moving / is proving to get the best of me.” He is homesick and overwhelmed by the new life he has made.
A song like “THE QUIET” is a variation on the same Electro Pop themes, and has its various dimensions, from motoring measures to quite vocal moments, to big late hits, giving the ballad a sense of epic-ness. There are lots of songs such as these from “DKLA” to “LOST BOY” to “TALK ME DOWN”, which alternative between sedate measures and blinking crystalline parts that slam in at the expected time, and while each is fine, as a whole they are somewhat forgettable too, especially as they express similar concepts of either wanting to devour the other’s love, or taking things slow and just holding hands. The rest of the music offers only slightly different angles on the same drama, and I feel that by this point, listeners need to really be in love with the subject matter here, which more and more revolves around a really young man who is ready to be found, but ever questioning on what he wants or how to navigate such matters. Countering the value of this content though is the fact that Troye Sivan kind of recycles the same physical terminology, constantly referring to fingers and body parts and the moment of touching - which gets old. Another caveat is that as vulnerable as he makes himself out to be, flaunting his youngness on “YOUTH” while asking to take things slow on other songs paints him as a tease – and monologues from teases get old fast, whatever sexual orientation or persuasion you get down with. I find during the later half of the album that I just replay the dope ass beat accompanying “COOL”, a total New Wave dance track with its soft yet steady synth chords and a slick rhythm guitar moving in concert with swift hi hats. This song is much more my persuasion.