Troye Sivan Shows What Gen Z Has to Offer American Culture

Last October, Australian pop star Troye Sivan released his third studio album ‘Something To Give Each Other’ to immediate acclaim, including two Grammy nominations and international commercial success. Although the artist’s previous work appealed to a niche audience of LGBT youth listeners, the 10-track album’s headline-grabbing singles ‘Rush’ and ‘One of Your Girls’ re-introduced the general public to the singer’s matured craft.

Energized by electro pop instrumentals, Sivan’s self-exploratory lyrics particularly resonate with Gen Z as he articulates the generation’s conscious desire for cultural authenticity and courage. In a historic moment defined by virtual communication, isolation, and polarizing opinion, Troye Sivan captivates Gen Z listeners with songs about finding human connection through experimentation and authenticity.

Written as an ode to partying and human interaction amid COVID-19 lockdowns, the album voices a generation’s yearning for something greater than pre-pandemic “normalcy.” Rather, Sivan seeks a world with less judgment of individual expression and more self-exploration through interpersonal relationships. Quitting family-friendly pop, the singer discusses socially contentious themes of sexuality and casual romance in the aftermath of a breakup.

According to The Atlantic, Americans today spend more time alone than prior generations. Social isolation of lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 saw massive increases in depression and other serious mental health concerns, especially for young people. Troye Sivan’s lyrics in ‘Something To Give Each Other’ convey the feelings of angst and physical emptiness shared by millions.

With the dynamic opener ‘Rush’, Troye throws himself back into the social scene of clubs and concerts, becoming a “libertine pop hero” over a nod to a recreational drug brand. Marked by the cultural phenomenon of its music video, the lead single scratches the itch of Gen Z’s COVID era yearning for socialization and physical touch. This thirst for intimacy continues into ‘What’s the Time Where You Are?’, a mid-tempo track about long-distance and online dating, experiences increasingly common among young people. Unafraid to tell it like it is, Sivan’s music sympathizes with the difficulties of this new romantic terrain while not shaming openness or promiscuity.

After introducing listeners to his less inhibited reality, the record’s third single, ‘One of Your Girls’, dives into Sivan’s interactions with uncertain straight men. Abandoning gender norms, Troye allows himself to be “one of your girls or your homies,” overcoming today’s struggles with gender, sexuality, and identity politics. Visualized in the shocking music video with former Disney star Ross Lynch, the pop star bucks our label-craving culture to build a 21st-century relationship focused on love over expectations and conformity.

On the tracks ‘Still Got It’ and ‘Can’t Go Back, Baby’ Sivan expresses sentiments shared by many as society “returns to normal.” While ‘Still Got It’ glances back at a past relationship, ‘Can’t Go Back, Baby’ bravely trudges forward as the singer admits, “I wish I could, but I can’t go.” Acknowledging the loneliness of freedom, Sivan offers an impossible wish: to go home to the life he knew before. In a pre-release interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, the singer described how “freedom can be lonely” despite his pursuit of a lifestyle of “erratic freedom.”

A case study in Gen Z and millennial lifestyles, Troye’s lyrics and interview commentary describe the push-and-pull of our globalized pop culture, frequent travel or study afar, and widespread social media use. Bouncing back from the isolation and slowness of pandemic lockdowns, Sivan jolts to life in ‘Got Me Started’ with a memorable sample from Bag Raiders ‘Shooting Stars.’ As the singer finds his footing in romance and life again, the track shares an interest in experimentation and honest communication.

‘Silly’ admits that Troye is a “love junkie” still trying to move on from his past relationship. Yet, the pop star contrasts this omission with the line “Don’t need anybody here to console me” showing an internal struggle with independence. Rejoicing his restored confidence and contentment, ‘Honey’ reverberates with a triumphant synth beat. Sivan describes the line “I see love in every space / I see sex in every city, every town” as the mission statement of the album on Spotify. In a culture so fragmented, ‘Honey’ unites listeners by recognizing shared sexual connections across cities and spaces. Finding his voice (or, as the song more explicitly states, “the courage to say all the shit I mean”), the Australian artist fully overcomes his youthful anxiety.

Finally, ‘How to Stay with You’ offers an open ending to the album with saxophone backing to top it off. Letting himself start anew, the album closes on a high note and inspires listeners to do the same. As Sivan described in an interview with NPR Music, ‘Something To Give Each Other’ highlights the value that people have to offer one another, whether in long-term commitments or brief happiness.

Embodying a social libertarian attitude, Sivan offers a path forward amid tense social and political division. As he repeats on three different tracks, we all have “something to give each other,” and we need to share that “something” without fear of moral judgment or cancellation, to overcome what perils our culture. In a world terminally online, with everything politicized down to our food choices, his art offers escape. Plug in your headphones, turn on ‘Something To Give Each Other’, and enjoy a half hour of synthpop delight.

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Free the People publishes opinion-based articles from contributing writers. The opinions and ideas expressed do not always reflect the opinions and ideas that Free the People endorses. We believe in free speech, and in providing a platform for open dialog. Feel free to leave a comment!

Sam Raus

Sam Raus is a Young Voices Contributor and a recent University of Miami graduate, majoring in public relations and political science. His commentary has appeared in RealClearPolitics, The Daily Caller, and The National Interest. Follow him on Twitter @SamRaus1.

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