When we left you in Part 1, Troye was doing 80s colour-blocked photo shoots, spinning in floor-length skirt-suits and hiding coyly in flower fields. We talked through the pastel smoke of Happy Little Pill, the muted sobfests Blue Neighbourhood Trilogy and Heaven, the sexual reclamation of My My My! and the modern camp classic Bloom as Troye explored desire on-screen and embraced queer aesthetics. Certain motifs persist ー such as 80s stylisations and hyper-saturation ー but as we move from the Bloom era into In A Dream and Troye goes through a break-up, new themes emerge through a new persona: Sad Troye™.
Bloom Era (2018-19) [cont…]
Dance To This (featuring Ariana Grande)
In Dance To This, an underrated collaboration with pop megastar Ariana Grande, Troye strips back the concept and creates a more simplistic narrative. Under mellow blue lighting at what seems to be a cross between a retirement home and a children’s birthday party (a bingo hall perhaps?), he sings his song with CD backing to a less than enthusiastic crowd.
Ariana, previously hiding in the crowd, approaches the stage cautiously and arrives in time for verse two. The pair are each dressed in their version of a slouchy blue suit: Troye in a powder blue and lightly camp ruffled shirt, Ariana in a faded royal blue with preppy red piping. Their confidence builds together, even when the crowd’s ambivalence turns to dislike and their audience starts to leave. As suggested by the song’s title, they do “Dance To This”; they spin and circle each other, somehow never getting tangled in microphone wires. Eventually, they ditch the mics and dance on empty tables under the (presumably extra-narrative) effect of strobe lighting.
Altogether, the music video narrative speaks to the message at the song’s lyrical core: no matter what is going on around us, and even if “we’ve already seen all of the parties / We can just dance to this”. And they do so with gleeful abandon.
For his final single from the Bloom era, Troye goes to the beach. Rosy tints, hyper-saturation and 80s aesthetics are on the menu for Lucky Strike as opening shots of fun beach summer vibes contrast melancholic synths. Soon we learn that this narrative will be a love story. However, whether this love is just a fantasy is yet to be determined.
The object of Troye’s affection in Lucky Strike is the beach bartender. Mirroring love interests in his previous videos, the bartender is well-built, with oiled biceps and chiseled abs aplenty. Sunset scenes ー of the two together, of Troye lit in green dancing gleefully on the beach ー flicker in throughout; then again, so do post cards and film reels, hinting that this narrative may only be constructed. Heavily autotuned and distorted vocals reinforce an image of falsehood.
While Troye orders nervously at the bar, unable to meet his crush’s gaze, the sculpted bartender squeezes Troye’s own bloody heart into the drink, even licking the straw after playfully in a moment of camp gore. Lust for the visual of an idealised male body is enough to be literally heart-wrenching.
During the bridge, Troye and the bartender sit on a love boat that floats over an impossibly pink sea. Red cushions play off heart and blood motifs from earlier in the video and add a sense of excess and luxury that seems improbable.
By the end of the video, it becomes obvious that Troye’s sunset romance is merely a fantasy. Confirming this, he addresses the camera with his eyes in a final shot at an empty bar. Honestly, the fact that the whole encounter was imagined makes the music video that much more queer.
In A Dream Era (2020)
Easy was the first music video released in the most recently completed of Troye Sivan’s eras: the In A Dream EP. His first time self-directing, we get introduced to Sad Troye™ in perhaps his most complex song ー lyrically and thematically ー so far.
The song tells the story of a relationship in crisis, as Troye laments his mistakes (it’s implied that he cheated) and begs an opportunity for forgiveness: “he made it easy / Please don’t leave me”. Matching this sombre reflection, we see Troye alone in all but one scene, wallowing in self-pity. He sits in a house that is empty and sparsely decorated, reflecting his isolation. A white rabbit sits awkwardly in some shots, perhaps a reflection of the confusion and cognitive dissonance felt during a relationship breakdown. Later, we see a broken mirror: a distortion of vision and perception, the violent and irreversible destruction of something previously shiny and beautiful.
Different lighting effects explore the different shades of heartache: warm orange light brings out a melancholy fondness for the past as Troye stares into the fire (perhaps a nod to Elio in the final sequence of Call Me By Your Name), whereas blue brings out marks and bruises from stress and fatigue on his face. The vibe is one of mourning and regret; it is as if he knows already that his pleading is hopeless.
Troye only manages to escape the dreary and empty house in one scene, introduced via his TV. Clad in a red wig, brightly coloured suit and gold highlighted makeup, he channels tZiggy Stardust-era David Bowie, with drag queen back-up musicians to boot. His pale skin and red accents give him a clownish aesthetic: there is an appearance of joy, but ultimately a deep sadness lies underneath.
Towards the end of the video, even the Bowie-esque Troye looks broken, breaking his character illusion and staring down dumbfounded. Back in the house, Troye spins around in a drunk haze, the rupture now visible as a bloodied scar on his forehead. In his lyrics, “this house is on fire”; in his video, so is he. The setting, the relationship and Troye have become one in their devastation. Still on fire, Troye stares into the camera, at least unaware of the flames that consume him, at most unbothered.
Eventually, Troye falls into the pool, and it is from a shot underwater that we get the cover art for the In A Dream EP. He has put out the physical fire, but perhaps not the metaphorical.
In his next single, Rager Teenager, Troye pulls it back even further. In one static shot sat in an empty bathtub, he sings about yearning for uncomplicated teenage love, open shirt and all. Visual effects match manipulated synths: his movements leave a shaky trail on a second verse with heavier bass; waves move over his face on the bridge, mirroring sparkly production.
Like the relationship he fantasises about in a lost youth, his attitude is light and impish: he grooves to the beat, playing with origami figures in the outro and giggling. He finished the video sinking lower into the bathtub, sighing for a past that never was.
Easy Part II, with Kacey Musgraves and Mark Ronson
After friend and previous collaborator Kacey Musgraves heard Troye’s song Easy, she wrote a verse and started working with him and Mark Ronson on a reimagining of the song. The music video was directed by Bardia Zeinali, who also directed Dance To This, and features Troye and Kacey swarming through dive bars and motels.
The video opens with Troye in the motel bathroom mirror, cutting off part of his mullet and looking regretfully at himself or into the distance. These opening scenes, shown under green, blue and red lighting, flicker in throughout the video, reminding us of the song’s painful lyrical core.
Kacey is at her most sexual in this video, donning a short sequined dress and fur coat, dancing for an anonymous male figure under red light and chilling with Troye outside an adult toy shop. They seem to be on the run: Kacey is dyeing her hair when she enters the narrative, and the pair are seen driving between motels in the dead of night. What they are escaping ー a relationship, a crime, their own guilt ー is less clear.
Though Troye never appears to have an on-screen male love interest, he doesn’t abandon queerness in this video: we see him dancing at a Nashville dive bar where drag queen Jorgeous is singing his song on karaoke; we see him singing one line through the bodies of initially homoerotic line-dancing; and the cover art features the song’s title as a tramp stamp under the waistband of Troye’s cut-off jean shorts.
Altogether, Easy Part II (as it is stylised in the introduction) has a less clear narrative motivation than a lot of Troye’s other videos, but the vibe is still definitely there.
In recent years, Troye’s music videos have continued to evolve and explore new motifs. As he collaborates with both upcoming and established artists (he sang alongside Tate McRae in Regard’s latest single You), his influences are forever shifting and expanding. Where Heaven was melodramatic and romantic, Easy is understated and Lucky Strike is shamelessly sexy. Where Blue Neighbourhood Trilogy was youthful and muted, Easy Part II is mournfully mature and Bloom is unashamedly camp and colourful.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see where he’ll go next.