In an era where mainstream pop music oscillates between being a platform to discuss formerly taboo topics or alternatively a sound that is governed by more rules around sound, texture and tropes than ever before, Troye has not only found a happy medium, he has carved a unique and vital niche within it.
On the surface, his Auckland leg of the Bloom Tour could’ve been read as an hour and a half of unabashedly radio-friendly hits. But delve a little deeper, and it was an evening that explored transparency, vulnerability and queer self-expression.
This, of course, comes down to Troye himself, who proclaimed partway through his set that “all my songs are gay songs.” It was all too recently that queer pop singers were denied the chance to be themselves least it mar record sales, so it’s a positive shift to have an aspect of their world view within mainstream pop. At the crescendo of Heaven, a song Troye penned about his coming-out experience, I spied a teenager draped in a Pride flag hugging their parent tearfully. Make no mistake, in a world where bigotry is on the rise, the visibility of Troye’s queerness is vital.
As a performer, Troye showcased his obvious vocal ability and range. He contrasted deliciously sparkly pop numbers 1999 with heart-wrenching silken ballads such as Postcard, the stage production capturing their change in mood with ease. While Troye owned the stage with style and grace. One minute he would be strutting like he was walking into Family at 1am as hyperbolic lights swirled around him, the next he would be curled up on a faded leather sofa, lit only by a few lamps.
In between songs, Troye endeared himself to the audience with his affable chatter about Piha and pointing his favourite outfits (“rainbow flower crowns - I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything gayer”). He made everyone feel seen, heard and celebrated with genuine warmth.
Another smart move was the addition of a live band. On record, there is a juxtaposition between the fragility and urgency of Bloom's songwriting and its conservative, mid-tempo tasteful sound that could’ve been difficult to translate. Live musicians gave the songs an exuberant energy more suitable to an arena performance.
Troye added to this sense of vitality through a series of eye-catching outfit changes, saving the best for last as he led the audience through his encore My My My. Wearing a glittery pink “Yeti jumpsuit” slashed to the navel and paired with knee-high black patent leather gogo boots, Troye tossed flowers into the crowd. It was evocative of Smiths-era Morrissey and David Bowie who each did their bit to usurp traditional expectations of masculinity.
The style of Troye’s music and live show are nothing new, but he writes and performs with enough talent and likeability that it was entertaining and enjoyable. The added emotional depth to the experience came from the open, inclusive and outwardly queer nature of his persona, content and message. Some might fret about representation without “edge” or “authenticity” but a presence in mainstream, accessible, pop fun has always been and remains a needed validation, especially for young queer people. It won’t change the state of modern music, but performances like Troye Sivan’s are contributing to changing the faces and minds of its audience, so long may he continue.