This year’s music charts have been dominated by fast-paced songs, possibly influenced by the constant content on TikTok or the energy of young people following the pandemic. One standout is “Rush” by Australian pop artist Troye Sivan, with its funky house beat reminiscent of Spiller’s “Groovejet” at a faster 126 beats per minute. The chorus is energetic and chanted like a group of attractive personal trainers, and the music video further emphasizes the intense and lustful nature of the song.
I am excited to hear Sivan returning to top form, and even surpassing it. After gaining fame as a teenage YouTuber, Sivan released his first successful album Blue Neighbourhood in 2015. The album featured a combination of powerful post-dubstep drum programming and intricate production details, such as distant voices in the background of the emotional ballad Talk Me Down. However, his follow-up album Bloom in 2018 lacked some of this subtlety. While the lyrics were still strong, including beautiful metaphors for gay sex on the title track, the overall songs were average at best. Sivan’s voice struggled to carry the forceful belting in potential hit singles like My My My! and the heavy drums felt out of place for his style.
After five years and a significant break up, Sivan’s third album brings back the delicate nature of his previous work and embraces his talents. Something to Give Each Other serves as a reminder that powerful voices don’t always have to be loud. Some of Sivan’s most captivating vocals are like a conversation, such as on One of Your Girls where he reflects on his chances with a straight man he’s interested in, or Silly where he seamlessly transitions from his high falsetto to a more grounded tone. This may not be the traditional way to sing pop music, but it is alluring and sounds incredible when listened to through headphones.
The first track, Rush, is unexpectedly different from the rest. While there are still faster tempos, Rush felt crowded and intense, whereas other tracks allow Sivan more room to maneuver. Got Me Started features a quick UK garage beat, while Honey has the exhilarating feeling of dancing under a disco ball. Silly has a subtle deep house accompaniment and producer Ian Kirkpatrick (known for his work on Dua Lipa’s hits New Rules and Don’t Start Now) adds subtle details to the mix, like the sound of a rotary phone or a faint static on the vocals. This attention to intimacy and small details is reminiscent of Finneas’s productions for Billie Eilish and the recent trend of bedroom-pop, but even when Sivan’s songs have a fast pace, they still maintain elegance and a sense of mindfulness.
After emerging from the pandemic, Sivan, who was previously known as Melbourne’s most eligible bachelor, has released breakup songs on his 2020 EP In a Dream. Despite being surrounded by sex and romance, he appears to approach everything with a laid-back attitude, enjoying the present moment rather than worrying about the future. Even when singing about a long-distance relationship on the captivating track “What’s the Time Where You Are,” he maintains a carefree and optimistic outlook.
There are a few exceptionally beautiful songs that touch on past hurts. One of them is the drum-less organ ballad Still Got It, which perfectly captures the awkwardness of encountering an ex-lover (“I saw you at a party / said hello like an old colleague”). The song then boldly declares the desire to reconcile, but ends with the singer’s voice distorted in electronic effects, hinting at the impossibility of truly reconnecting with an old partner. The following track, Can’t Go Back, Baby, seems to acknowledge this truth. The use of a sample from American songwriter Jessica Pratt, repeating the title phrase like a mantra in Sivan’s mind, adds a poetic touch to the production.
In other places, Sivan’s influences are easily recognizable: the use of a vocoder in the chorus of “One of Your Girls” is quite similar to Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” from the Drive soundtrack, and “Got Me Started” doesn’t offer anything new with its well-known sample from Bag Raiders (especially in Australia). Some pop fans may also feel that the overall stakes are too low, and as the pace slows down after the energetic “Rush,” not all of them may give “Something to Give Each Other” the time it deserves to unfold. This would be a pity – as this is one of the best and most unique pop albums of the year. Sivan should be credited for keeping up with the fast-paced genre while also taking time to enjoy the breeze rushing by.