A new age of pop is blossoming with the rise of singer-songwriter Troye Sivan, a radically different voice in mainstream music. Borne out of social media, the openly gay South African-born Australian is on the verge of real-world superstardom with the release of his sophomore album, Bloom, on August 31.
Along with Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara, Sivan is part of a new generation of stars discovered not by talent scouts, but from the DIY magic of YouTube. "[YouTube] felt so personal and genuine — like people can get a real taste of who you actually are," Sivan, who even came out in a YouTube video in 2013, told Pop Justice. "I'd have no idea how to get signed and stuff like that without doing what I did. I don't even know how or where I would start. Like, what do you do? Send demo tapes to labels or something?"
The music video for "Bloom," the album's title track, showcases the mixture of polish and authenticity fans have come to expect: It begins with Sivan's lipstick-covered pucker glistening as he croons, "Take a trip into my garden/I've got so much to show ya/ The fountains and the waters/ Are begging just to know ya."
At 23, Sivan has been releasing music for more than a decade: He was just 12 when his debut EP, Dare to Dream, was released in 2007. But he subverts expectations for a teen idol: Sivan's biggest single, "Youth," hit No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2016 with no radio play. He sings openly about queer love and dons a variety of androgynous looks. "Seventeen," another track on Bloom, recounts an affair Sivan had with an older man when he was still a teen.
"I'm lucky enough to exist in 2018 where I have a record label that's like, 'Write whatever you want to write,' he told Billboard, "I don't have to hide anything."
And it's not just young music-buyers who are taking note of Sivan — he's garnering superstar fans, too: In May, Sivan performed with Taylor Swift at the Rose Bowl in Hollywood (the two sang his song "My! My! My!") and a month later he and Ariana Grande dueted on the summer bop "Dance To This."
But he's not letting fame go to his head.
"I don't feel a pressure or desire to do anything for anybody other than myself," Sivan told NME. "It sounds egotistical, but I make music, first and foremost, because I enjoy it. It's the process that keeps me going, and as long as I'm doing that, I'll feel fulfilled."