In 2023, a pop vocal album is more likely to consist of angsty, overwrought emotions than a carefree romp on the dancefloor. Indeed, whether it’s the continuous sociopolitical upheaval as a result of a deadly pandemic or climate change, pop singers have been leaning more into their sensitive sides in the 2020s, even as a means of producing the latest banger. Which is why when Troye Sivan released “Rush” as the lead single from his forthcoming third studio album and confessed to taking poppers as a means of authenticity for gay club culture in its music video, pop culture commentators immediately heralded it the exact type of pop music our current era is lacking.
Similar to the release of “My My My!” as the lead single from Sivan’s previous record Bloom, one couldn’t help but compare it to the sexually charged lyrics and imagery of George Michael or Janet Jackson just 30 years earlier. But unlike Michael, Sivan has had the privilege of openly portraying same-sex attraction in his work.
With his third LP, Something to Give Each Other, we meet a much more subdued version of Sivan than the gay coming-of-age tale heard on Bloom. Nonetheless, the singer had already successfully established himself as the type of pop star from a bygone era, one who pursues the serious nature of passion, desire, and joy. Indeed, for an openly gay male pop star to be as horny as Troye Sivan is on his latest studio album is subversive enough, especially in a fraught political climate that would sooner have twentysomethings feeling overwhelmed and lonely.
But that’s ultimately where the accomplishments of the record end since Something to Give Each Other is sonically messy and incoherent, perhaps by design. A gay pop star’s new album that pulsates with desire is hardly the place for pop music purism, but Sivan has an impressive voice, heard anywhere from his acoustic performances or high-energy dance pop. It’s almost lost to vocal effects on Something to Give Each Other, giving the LP less the artsy, creative edge it was going for and more an irritating, forgettable quality.
The album’s biggest earworm is “One of Your Girls”, which, despite also missing the opportunity to display Sivan’s real vocal ability, has generated its fair share of mainstream attention thanks to its accompanying music video. The singer appears in drag while straddling a half-naked Ross Lynch and mumbling the lyrics, “Give me a call if you ever get desperate / I’ll be like one of your girls.” Sexuality is a spectrum, which is undoubtedly the message that Sivan seeks to portray with this particular song. Still, the track also comes across as a missed opportunity to make such a theme palatable to its audience.
In an era where young people are more likely to struggle with depression than have rampant casual sex, Troye Sivan’s Something to Give Each Other offers pop music enthusiasts a much-needed reprieve from the more emo offerings of Olivia Rodrigo or Billie Eilish. But the record falls short of its own standards, set high by the success of its predecessor and lost in its own ecstasy and provocative imagination.