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Album Review: Troye Sivan - 'Something To Give Each Other'

13 October 2023 | 10:30 am | David James Young

At long last, Troye Sivan shows his face – proud, joyful and unapologetic about who he is and what he stands for.

Troye Sivan

Troye Sivan (Credit: Terrence O'Connor)

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Allow for all three of Troye Sivan's album covers to serve as tableaus of the various stages of his trajectory from shy YouTube twink to global pop sensation.

2015's Blue Neighbourhood: A shivering youth is painted against the midst of suburbia that is seemingly home to him, and yet he appears completely lost. 2018's Bloom: The youth, now a little older and wiser, dresses up smart for the occasion in resplendent black and white – and yet, he's not quite ready to face the camera.

And now, with the release of Something To Give Each Other, the early twenties have become late twenties, and at long last, our hero shows his face – proud, joyful and unapologetic about who he is and what he stands for.

The story behind the album's cover goes that the seemingly simple shot – Sivan grinning, wrapped in some hunk's tree-trunk legs – took hours to get right on account of its subject not wanting his smile to be insincere. It was only when a friend tickled him that he could genuinely shine his pearly whites, and photographer Stuart Winecoff could get the final snap. 

While each carried moments of a glistening smile, Blue Neighbourhood and Bloom both felt like they were concealing something in one way or another – as though we weren't getting the entire picture, even in the most revealing moments. That's not a judgment call, by the way – growing up is hard enough without having to do the whole thing in public the way Sivan has, who donned the cover of Rolling Stone around the same age that most kids are deciding whether to go on a gap year or not.

It's all just to say that no such inhibitions are found anywhere on Something To Give Each Other. An assertive listen that's equal parts electric and eclectic; it's the sound of the boy next door becoming the man about town. He's wild, he's blossomed, and he's ready at long last for the world at large.

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Perhaps one of the most surprising elements of Something To Give Each Other right off the bat is its length – or rather, a lack thereof. At 33 minutes, it is the leanest Sivan record to date. Rather than that being indicative of an ideas shortage, however, it instead boasts a quality-over-quantity mentality at a time when artists like Drake are overstuffing their feature-length albums and Ed Sheeran is serving up two hour-length endeavours within a year.

Truly, this is the kind of approach more mainstream artists should take: Don't just add more songs because it will mean more streams; make the songs you already have so good that people can't help but put them on repeat.

Such a tactic has already worked well for the album's first two singles, Rush and Got Me Started. The former is Sivan's campest, clubbiest track to date: Its rah-rah group-vocal chorus recalls the mannish refrain of Stereo MCs' Step It Up through the lens of the “tell me more” boys in Grease's Summer Lovin', while its slinking bassline drags Studio 54 through the time-travel portal into 2023 – stopping off briefly in the 90s to add some Eurodance piano stabs into the mix.

The latter, meanwhile, expands Sivan's widescreen electro-pop galaxy with assistance from Bag Raiders' dancefloor classic turned evergreen meme Shooting Stars. Though seemingly an awkward interpolation at first, repeat listens (see?) allow for it to tessellate into something truly galactic and effortlessly fabulous.

Of course, Sivan doesn't spend his entire night on the dancefloor. Some much-needed downtime comes in the suite of Still Got It and Can't Go Back, Baby – which not only serve as the album's literal centrepiece but a key highlight. The former apes Frank Ocean's Bad Religion with its prominent church organ and a soul-bearing confessional from Sivan as he ruminates on a love long gone. Though the titular phrase is generally used in a positive light to reiterate one's skills, it unveils its context in Sivan's breathy hook: “I still got it... bad.” 

He then switches from former bedfellows to strange ones, as another unlikely sample weaves into the album's tapestry with folk troubadour Jessica Pratt's Back, Baby. Her distinct vocals provide a safety net for Sivan to trust-fall backwards into, watching everything crumble in slow motion around him as he does so. Its bedroom-pop finesse – which, not for nothing, was co-written by fellow Aussie wunderkind Nick Ward – is unlike anything Sivan has attempted in the past. It's for that very reason, then, that you're compelled to transfix on what this emphatic departure has to offer.

What really sells Something To Give Each Other, ultimately, is how far Sivan is willing to go. On What's The Time Where You Are?, he twirls around a throbbing synth-bass as he sexts his way through jetlag: “I'm right on top of this groove/God, I wish it was you.” It's his most explicit come-on yet – an impressive feat, considering the title track of Bloom was about... ahem, deflowering.

From his innermost feelings to his outermost desires, from his quietest ballads to his biggest disco infernos, Sivan wants everyone to know exactly who he is. He may as well, too – after all, he's finally sure of it.

Something To Give Each Other is out now via EMI Music Australia.