Bloom is Sivan’s second full-length studio album and is due out on Aug. 31 via Capitol Records. The set follows his debut effort Blue Neighbourhood, which reached No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart in 2015 and has earned 586 million on-demand streams for its songs in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music. Bloom was introduced by the single “My My My!” in January, which hit the top 30 of the Pop Songs airplay chart. Sivan has released four more tunes from the set in the run-up to the album’s release: “The Good Side,” the title track, “Dance to This,” featuring Ariana Grande, and “Animal.”
“I think my first album was kind of like a coming-of-age album where I felt like I was really finding my feet and kind of figuring out sort of my place in the world a little bit,” Sivan tells Billboard. “This (new) album felt a lot more like, ‘I'm here now and I kind of get how things work a little bit more’ and it's me sort of enjoying the kind of fruits of my labor from the first album.
“And I'm just super happy. I've got a really, really beautiful relationship, I've got a dog, I've got a house. I live in L.A. now. My family (from Australia) comes out to visit me all the time. I’m making music with people that I only ever dreamt of making music with before. I'm just in a really good place, so I kinda wanted to pay tribute to that and write about that and explore what that sounded like.”
Bloom comes nearly three years after Blue Neighbourhood. How does Sivan feel his songwriting and overall song production process has changed since then?
“I think a huge thing for me was a confidence boost. I think touring really helped me kind of find my feet a little bit more and then I was just listening to a lot of music that was super inspiring to me… By the time I got back into the studio to start writing this album, I was so fired up and had really specific references and knew what I wanted to say and all this stuff. So, coming in with that kind of confidence I think made me a much better writer, kind of just being able to really try and have fun and explore things and let myself do whatever I wanted. That was the real shift for me.”
Sivan says that when he was writing and recording Blue Neighbourhood, he had “no idea” what he was doing. “I had to write like 100 songs to happen upon 12 that I felt like fit into that specific lane.” While he says he’s “so proud” of that album, it feels like “reading your old diary from when you were 15.”
“A sort of like reaction to that — a response to me growing up,” Sivan says, “was my writing just became a little bit more self-assured and experimental. To be able to write ‘The Good Side’ and put it out and then also write a song like 'Bloom' and put it out. Those would have been two really scary things for me when I was a little younger.”
After doing a few isolated live gigs over the summer, Sivan will take Bloom out on tour starting Sept. 21 in Irving, Texas, and the trek continues on through Nov. 8 in Vancouver, Canada.
Which new songs is Sivan particularly stoked to bring out on the road? “Seventeen,” “Animal” and “My My My!” are the first tracks that he lists, though he’s keen on “the entire album.”
“I've only had little tastes of what this new music feels like live and it's been so much fun. So, I'm really, really excited to be back at home with … my crowd in a show that's for me. To be able to kind of make the vision come to life is gonna be so much fun.”
Aside from Bloom and its tunes, Sivan also has another new track, “Revelation,” coming out this year. He co-wrote the song specifically for the upcoming movie Boy Erased, in which he co-stars. It’s the first time Sivan has written a song explicitly for a film. The movie is based on the book Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family, by Garrard Conley. In the film, Lucas Hedges plays Jared, the 19-year-old son of a Baptist pastor who is outed to his parents and then pressured into attending a gay conversion therapy program. The movie will be released in theaters on Nov. 2 and the public got its first taste of the tune through the film's trailer.
Sivan says that he “really fell in love with this project.” “It’s so close to my heart… I wanted to be as involved as I possibly could. From day one, I was sort of bugging everyone – the producers, the director (Joel Edgerton)” about making music for the movie. “I’ll write new songs for the movie if you guys want,” he offered, “You can use any of my old songs. Like, whatever you guys want, I will make it happen.”
Eventually, Edgerton told Sivan about how Sigur Ros’ Jónsi was working on a lot of music for the film. Sivan says he and Jónsi met up for coffee and says “Jónsi had this melody… and he was kinda just singing gibberish words over the track and it was so beautiful… So, Leland (a frequent songwriter collaborator of Sivan’s) and I went in and we wrote lyrics for it and recorded the song and sent I off (to the powers that be with the film). And that was the one. That was the ticket. That was ‘Revelation.’”
Elsewhere in our chat with Sivan, he discusses who he’d like to collaborate with in the future (think of a pop superstar whose first name rhymes with the word sailor), his reaction to the kid version of the video for “Dance to This,” and how he cast one particular “hunky” male model in the “My My My!” video.
Also on the Pop Shop Podcast, Keith and Katie review news about Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson, Travis Scott and Maroon 5.
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