In a Dream: a review and analysis of the new Troye Sivan EP

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Image belongs to Troye Sivan/EMI/Capitol/Universal

The last time we heard of Troye Sivan was on his second studio album Bloom in 2018, though since then Sivan has kept himself busy with collaborations with Charli XCX, Kacey Musgraves and Allie X, and appearances in Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” music video and in 2019 film Boy Erased, which tackled a young gay man’s experiences with conversion therapy. On his last album, Sivan found himself tackling more mature subjects than his debut album and largely expanding his sound into more maximalist and mainstream-friendly dance-pop. Sivan kicked off his latest campaign for his new EP In a Dream earlier than anticipated as Sivan found that the themes on it were appropriate for the general mood of the world as it was hit with coronavirus. Sivan has described the project as a “concept EP” and “a story that’s still unfolding”, navigating thoughts and feelings Sivan says felt emotionally resonant and fresh.

“Take Yourself Home” served as the EP’s lead single and arrived at a timely moment during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Sivan and listeners finding the title an appropriate reference to the situation and people needing to stay isolated from each other. The song’s brooding yet upbeat sound allows Sivan to express his weariness with life in the city and the disconnect between him and his partner, with Sivan confronting the uncertainty in his life. The production is minimalistic at first but as the song progresses, synths and a drum pattern aid Sivan in building a subtle danceable beat before erupting in an almost tribal yet firmly electronic outro with house elements & a choir of background vocals. “Easy” continues Sivan’s blend of upbeat dance elements with a melancholic and gloomy mood as Sivan finds himself seeking forgiveness after betraying his partner in a moment of weakness. Cast in a role that would usually be unsympathetic, Sivan sounds genuinely repentant as he begs his partner not to leave him, acknowledging his errors and depicting the deterioration in their relationship leading up to the moment of infidelity and the fallout thereafter. Sivan’s lyricism gives listeners a visceral image of how shattered he is by the events (“the wood is warping/the lines distorted”), but the production borrows from 80s synthpop to give the song a catchy though still mournful melody, which plays up the melodrama between Sivan and his partner. “could cry just thinkin about you” is a brief interlude that sees Sivan pondering about his breakup, finding himself not yet able to let go of his partner yet. Sivan realizes that either way, he is at a point where he needs to discover how to be happy on his own & rediscover who he is. The production is a washed-out and hazy indie rock sound with 70s influences, giving it the effect of sounding blurry as though Sivan is mournfully singing while looking through tears.

“STUD” finds Sivan at his most flirtatious, enthralled by a one-night-stand who is physically more muscular than him. Sivan wonders if his partner would change anything about him but isn’t interested in the answer, revealing Sivan’s insecurities about his appearance. The track begins with Sivan accompanied by piano punctuated by brief synths until eventually adding house beats and a full-scale breakdown by the bridge where Sivan asks his partner if he’s “into this” and reassuring himself that they should hookup. “Rager Teenager” slows things down as Sivan takes an introspective look at himself, wishing he could go back to the recklessness of his adolescence as he meets up with a former lover. Sivan sings emotionally as he yearns for the freedom of being a teenager and, reminiscing about the days he and his ex spent exploring their sexualities. The production slowly builds and allows Sivan’s vocals to remain the centerpiece of the song at first, focusing on only one synth and adding in drums from the second verse until the outro, where producer OzGo layers multiple synths that give the song a beautiful and arresting climax. Title track “In a Dream” starts with a bang as Sivan flies home to find peace but still can’t stop thinking of his ex-boyfriend, struggling to accept the finality of their breakup but resolved that they can’t get back together. The peppy synthpop beat takes influences from new-wave and Sivan’s wistful delivery sells the meaning of the song, conveying his frustration at not being able to fully move on and his sadness over their not being together anymore.

The EP doesn’t find Sivan too far removed from the sound he refined on Bloom, allowing him to experiment a little more but also tightening it up so that Sivan sounds at his A-game here. His songwriting remains strong and finds him navigating conflicting emotions, but able to communicate them effectively to listeners and make situations relatable. Though producer OzGo helms most of the tracks, the project is cohesive but never to the point of sounding homogenous, with Sivan delving into multiple facets of his 80s-inspired but modern synthpop and electronic sound. Sivan’s vocals also work to great effect here, as he inhabits the themes across the project & conveys them to the listener passionately, from the longing and tragic nature of “Easy” to the seductive yet insecure leanings of “STUD”. Brevity also allows Sivan no filler with every song feeling impactful and like a necessary puzzle piece to the story unfolding across the EP. Overall, this is an excellent step forward for Sivan, who sounds fully realized as an artist here and in control of his craft like never before.

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