Album artwork: 'In A Dream'Instagram: @troyesivan

Troye Sivan’s second EP, In A Dream, is a follow-up to his sophomore studio album Bloom that clearly marks a new direction for the Australian singer-songwriter. Sivan has always been on the edge of mainstream, and whilst the production of his COVID project keeps him well within the pop genre, the almost abrasive ending of Take Yourself Home places him firmly within the experimental genre.

Lyrically, In A Dream is a departure from Bloom - unsurprising, considering the breakup that is alluded to throughout the record. He references seeing an ex in his dreams, mourning the end of what was seemingly a happy relationship. He considers what comes next in songs that are nostalgic for a time before his heartbreak, never allowing the listener to forget what the point of the EP is. Learning from his experience is what makes In A Dream stand out from his past work. It is lyrically and sonically more mature, and his near-unique position as a gay man in pop means that Sivan’s work feels more original than most. He has something to share, and the In A Dream EP is an almost perfect medium for his message of self-knowing and acceptance of one’s sadness.

Maturity is not something that Sivan has always been associated with. He started as a YouTuber, and is arguably one of the few ex-influencers who have successfully made the jump from a small corner of the internet to musical stardom. His career was certainly launched in part due to his online following, and so for his first releases, TRXYE and Wild (now no longer available on his Spotify page), it felt like Sivan was trying to prove himself to a wider musical audience, one that wouldn’t already know his name.

On the other hand, Sivan’s fan base guarantees him listeners - a rare occurrence back in 2014, when his debut EP was released. Commercial success was almost certain, but critical approval wasn’t. It’s surprising that his debut album was so popular among critics, considering the usual stigma surrounding a transition from internet to mainstream celebrity. However, the release of Blue Neighbourhood established Sivan as a powerhouse of pop, a title he maintained three years later upon releasing Bloom. Perhaps it was at this moment that people started to think of him as mature, both musically and emotionally.

In A Dream is more honest and intimate than anything we’ve seen from Sivan before. The sound is unmistakably his, and unmistakably pop, but it does away with the cleanliness of previous releases. As Shaad D’Souza says for Pitchfork, Sivan “chooses distinctiveness over approachability”, exploring indie sounds rather than moving further into radio-friendly, mainstream pop. This choice isn’t new for pop artists generally, but it is for Sivan. It’s refreshing to hear him explore music that might not hold the universal appeal of his studio albums. However, the EP is also interesting to examine from a consumer perspective.

“It’s certainly the most vulnerable we’ve ever heard Sivan”

Upon finishing Bloom, one might expect Sivan to work on a third album for release in 2020/2021. Instead, he’s chosen a shorter format, meaning he can experiment without committing a full album to this new sound. Perhaps In A Dream will be an exception, but this isn’t necessarily bad. It’s certainly the most vulnerable we’ve ever heard Sivan, and to maintain this level of emotional intimacy in his work would be exhausting for both him and his fans. Whilst In A Dream doesn’t feel like somewhere Sivan wants to dwell lyrically (and who are we to begrudge him that?), it shows potential for even more sonic evolution.


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Finally, it’s worth thinking about In A Dream in the context of COVID-19. Whilst most of the work seems to have been completed before Coronavirus, the impact of the EP has changed in light of lockdown. Rager teenager! stands out, describing the caged feeling we’re all familiar with and framing it within the themes of youth and yearning- both absolute staples of Sivan’s work. There’s no doubt that the project would have been brilliant regardless of the situation. However, the fact that quarantine boredom drove Sivan to release the project, and that all of the promotional material was done by the artist in isolation, makes In A Dream all the more significant. The EP might not be a product of lockdown, but it fits well into a contemporary landscape consisting almost entirely of stay-at-home projects.

Does this mean that Sivan was ahead of his time when writing the record? Perhaps. But what’s most important is that the In A Dream EP is a refreshing, interesting, and complex work continuing the artist’s record of near-perfect alternative pop. It could certainly be more polished, but much of its charm lies in the artist’s fresh and authentic approach. It marks the potential start of an exciting era for Troye Sivan - I, for one, hope he follows this digression from mainstream pop and continues in his new direction.

4.5/5 stars

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