Monday, September 7, 2015

Wild | Troye Sivan



With over 3.5 million YouTube subscribers and 2.9 million Twitter followers, 20-year-old Internet personality Troye Sivan was guaranteed success when he dropped his debut extended play TRXYE last year. Without any promotion or a popular single on contemporary hit radio in the United States, the extended play found its way to number five on the Billboard 200. Just a year after his official entrance to the music scene, Sivan is ready to follow-up with Wild, a second extended-play stamped with the promise of more music to come in the near future.

TRXYE captivated audiences with dense, electronic soundscapes that enveloped Sivan's smooth, yet limited, vocals. He boasts the same appeal this time around, with his voice now floating to the forefront of sleeker productions. The title track is a brooding, color-by-numbers synthpop experience complemented by children's chants; this type of formulaic pop is Sivan's strongest suit. "Fools" and "The Quiet" were crafted from identical sonic blueprints, both featuring sultry, lonely verses that give way to sawtoothed synths and pitch-shifted vocals. While enjoyable, they are unfortunately indiscernible from one another. Co-written with Allie X, "Bite" also comes from a similar place, but layers of reverberated vocals and a sparse backdrop set it apart from the rest of the bunch.

The production formula is only toyed with on "Ease," a track written, produced, and sang by Sivan and Kiwi duo Broods. Caleb Nott brought sharp drum machines to the table while Georgia Nott delivered top-notch, airy duet vocals. This song proves that even the slightest sonic experimentation on Sivan's part, while not necessary this early in his career, is not detrimental; it is a refreshing step off of Sivan's usual path. On the cusp of minor viral success, singer-rapper Tkay Maidza claims the spot as Wild's only other featured vocalist on "DKLA." Her punchy delivery, which evokes Azealia Banks in the best way possible, contrasts Sivan's fragile pout and the dark production pulled straight from FKA twigs' playbook, but her vocals are reverberated and pushed into the distance to ensure the contrast isn't as harsh as it could have been.

Sivan has made waves as a YouTuber, a musician, an actor, and an openly gay celebrity. Many viral stars followed in the footsteps of Sivan and Tyler Oakley in disclosing their sexuality, but Sivan's 2013 coming out video was one of the first that I remember watching. Wild will be backed by a music video trilogy - the first part of which is already out in the form of the title track's music video - that zeroes in on a gay relationship that blossoms from a childhood friendship. Props to him for using his position to help further the normalization and representation of gay relationships in the media, especially with the portrayal of early homosexual feelings.

While the appeal of viral star-musician hybrids has been tarnished in the past few years thanks to people who crossover to music without visions of sustainable careers in the field (Carter Reynolds and Joey Graceffa are the first that come to mind), Troye Sivan is the real deal. Akin to overnight sensation Halsey, whose debut album Badlands opened at number two on the Billboard 200, Sivan packages new-age PBR&B and gloomy synthpop in a digestible format. Nothing here pushes his vocal boundaries despite the potential, but that's not a glaring problem: it's very easy to build successful music careers and craft quality pop songs with narrow vocal ranges (see: Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez). He's arguably still a kid, and he still knows what kind of music the kids like. If he can keep a grip on those tastes and continue to base his works off of them, Sivan will be here to stay for years to come.

Wild is available now under Capitol Records.

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