Few queer pop culture icons are actually queer. For decades, Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson were the artists who represented queerness — their mannerisms, fashion or status as allies forming their connection with the LGBTQ+ community. In contrast, Troye Sivan embodies a new era of representation. He is a pop star, an LGBTQ+ icon and a gay man. In the company of Hayley Kiyoko, Perfume Genius and others, Sivan’s fame is tied to his sexuality.
While 2013 saw Sivan come out to an online audience via YouTube, 2015 saw Sivan’s career come out. Blue Neighbourhood was Sivan’s debut album and his first step into his position as an influential gay pop star.
Three years later, last Thursday, on the stage of The Masonic, Sivan seemed at home in the rainbow limelight. Running a hand through his shock of pale hair and shrugging off a loose, gray suit jacket to reveal skintight fitness wear, Sivan paused his set to say, “This is the gay one,” before performing “HEAVEN.”
Admittedly, “HEAVEN” is no more queer than any of his other songs, but Sivan laughed over the shrieks of fans and explained his writing process for the self-proclaimed “gay” track.
“If I’m still gay when I’m 15 — if I still think Zac Efron is hot when I’m 15 — I’ll do something about it,” Sivan told the crowd — something he’d told himself after realizing he was gay.
Sivan draped a rainbow flag, which was flung at him from the crowd, over his mic stand as the dissonant synths of the song pulsed in time to his swaying hips. A multicolored ombre of phone flashlights lit up the balcony overhead.
The Masonic audience had danced along to Carlie Hanson, the first of Sivan’s two opening acts. They had swayed their bodies in a bubblegum trance while they sang to her syncopated melodies. But when Sivan performed, they danced with their souls.
“HEAVEN” vocalizes fear, more so than any of the recent bops from Sivan’s late-August album, Bloom. To sing with Sivan on the song’s chorus — “Without losing a piece of me / How do I get to heaven? / Without changing a part of me / How do I get to heaven?” — is to feel Sivan’s same conflict. And it is to see, directly in front of you, what it looks like to have surpassed that conflict.
Sivan’s lyrics, over all of his discography, offer an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ+ community to hear stories similar to theirs and to see those stories given a literal stage on which to be heard by others.
Sivan has grown up a lot from his teenage YouTube personality, where his emphasis was on his own identity. At 23, with a diehard following for whom he is an inspiration, he is still growing.
Leaving his Helmut Lang tank top backstage and returning from his third wardrobe change, Sivan tugged at his black and yellow pants.
“Guys, I have some advice for you: Don’t wear new pants on tour,” he said. “Do they look good at least?”
Sivan’s self-conscious moments endeared him to the crowd. As a figure who has the confidence to remind his audience that the four men making out on the theater floor have nothing on him — “Now bring your attention back to me, the pop star” — his vulnerability was well-received.
To close out his show, Sivan chose “Animal.” When he was recording the song, he said, he imagined he would yell “San Francisco” in the languid gaps between his lyrics.
As the lights in the room sank and an electric glow shone from the stage, the mellow piano chords flooded the theater and Sivan lived out his dream — calling to audience members who found themselves reflected in that song, listeners who perhaps found themselves because of that song.
Olivia Jerram is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].