Troye Sivan performing at Capital Pride in 2018Ted Etyan, CC by-SA 2.0

Cher in the 70s, Madonna in the 80s, Britney, Beyoncé, and Ariana Grande: gay men have consistently turned to female pop stars to express their love and lust. While a small number of artists have provided a queer alternative, few have depicted the gay male experience with as much honesty and accuracy as Troye Sivan. Debuting at 20 on the Billboard 200, the Australian musician’s third studio album, Something to Give Each Other, continues this pursuit with immense success.

“Few have depicted the gay male experience with as much honesty and accuracy as Troye Sivan”

The former YouTube star established the record as unapologetically queer with its lead single, ‘Rush’. An obvious nod to a well-known brand of poppers (a drug popular among gay men), the song’s catchy chorus chant drags the listener through the doors of a sweaty nightclub. Racy lyrics like “kiss it when you’re done” place gay sex at the forefront of the record, as Sivan refuses to veil his queerness.

The record’s second single, ‘One of Your Girls’, looks at gay sex through an emotional lens. Moving away from queer joy, the track discusses Sivan’s much sadder experience of casual sex with straight men. A materialistic framing of his physical attraction hints at the painful absence of an emotional connection. This pain is amplified in the chorus, when Sivan offers himself to be used on a whim: “If you ever get desperate, I’ll be like one of your girls.”

The catchy chorus of 'Rush' drags the listener through the doors of a sweaty nightclubYouTube (Troye Sivan)

The story, which resonates with many queer people, is not used to condemn hook-up culture, but merely to depict its reality. Rather than comment on the sociology of the gay experience, Sivan throws out his retrospective awareness to depict the excitement of an illicit affair. Similarly, in ‘Honey’, he returns to casual sex with an upbeat rhythm and optimistic attitude. Humorous lyrics like “I’ve learnt so much about you. I don’t know your name” remind the listener that the gay experience is not just heartbreak and homophobia but can also be effervescently happy.

“That isn’t to say that Sivan’s album is solely queer”

That isn’t to say that Sivan’s album is solely queer, as many songs address universal experiences. ‘In My Room’ discusses confusing situationships, messy “like an unmade bed”, while ‘What’s the Time Where You Are?’ navigates the difficulties of long-distance relationships. Their lyrical strength is unsurprising considering Troye’s repertoire. What is new about this record is an increased production value. The songs feel more layered and interesting than his earlier work, likely thanks to acclaimed collaborators like AG Cook and Oscar Görres.

Despite the record’s more maximalist approach to production, ‘Still Got It’ provides a stunning example of Sivan’s ability to dial back where necessary. Poignant vocals are left alone with a devotional organ, allowing the pain of seeing an ex-boyfriend to resonate uninterrupted. The song’s outro offers a deceptively final silence before new percussion crashes in, representing the familiar feeling of memories flooding back.


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It is the album’s final song, ‘How to Stay With You’, which blends the record’s queer focus and universal appeal. Daydreams of living together and meeting the family warm the heart of any listener yet are juxtaposed with the incongruent tone of chorus lines like “I’m a little bit lost on how to stay with you.” Gay men enter the romantic sphere much later than their straight counterparts, learning who and how they love in a kind of “second puberty”. The resulting confusion is sewn into their love lives in the same way that Sivan so elegantly threads it into the chorus. But as the song fades to a smooth saxophone riff, he reminds us that, despite this melancholy, we still deserve a love story.

Traversing an impressive variety of subjects, the critically acclaimed album is strung together by intelligent writing and Sivan’s unique take on the electro-dance genre. With its peppering of queer colloquialisms and spotlighting of gay storylines, it is a soundtrack for the young gay experience, depicting queer affection not as political currency, but merely something to give each other.