Grade: 4.5 / 5.0
Troye Sivan teetered on the cliff of adolescence with his 2015 debut album Blue Neighbourhood and dived into sultry adulthood with 2018’s Bloom. Today, he swims among shards of broken hearts and drowns in sensuality with his latest EP, In a Dream.
Sivan ventures further into the realm of electropop with In a Dream, melding fiery hits with reverberating synths and slithering earworms. He revels in unashamed passion and sifts through nostalgia on midnight drives, in moonlit cities. A fantastic alloy of both nostalgic and futuristic elements, In a Dream leaves behind the honeyed effervescence of Bloom for a visceral, darker dreamscape.
The EP’s lead single “Take Yourself Home” fluidly introduces this ominous, edgy surrealism. Surrounded by chilling echoes and unintelligible chants, Sivan’s sweet, soothing voice seems almost haunting. The piercing song takes on a new meaning during the pandemic, serving as Sivan’s personal reevaluation about honesty, ambition and living in the present.
At the same time, Sivan also reflects on his past: In “Rager Teenager!” he creatively holds a conversation with his younger self. The lyrics, though fairly simplistic, capture an intoxicating nostalgia that makes the song a mature sequel to his pop hit “Youth.” Opening with mellow keyboard notes that smoothly escalate to an electronic pulse, the song encompasses the feeling of wanting to be lost in a crowd, of wanting to act freely and recklessly.
While the EP shines in moments of pure lightheartedness and spirit, it also features a soft, underlying sorrow. At the end of each chorus in “Easy,” Sivan pleads, “Tell me we’ll make it through” or “Please, don’t leave me, leave me” — imploring injunctions that taint the ballad with mournfulness. The song’s upbeat pulse is contrasted with inflections of regret; as he casually compares a broken relationship to a house burning down, Sivan develops a compelling intensity that relays a weighty heartache. Many of the EP’s songs thrive with these artistic contradictions, and Sivan utilizes discrepant elements to add effective texture to his music.
Sivan trades the quiet honesty of his earlier works for undeniable boldness, and “Stud” reigns as a truly eccentric, electric amalgamation of his musical styles. The song, similar to the unconstrained compositions of Charli XCX, is a roller coaster of dizzying, drastic shifts from light piano to jarring beats. The song emanates a fierce intensity and drips with raw desire, but Sivan also laces its infectious thrill with insecurity: Hoping to be viewed as attractive and desirable, Sivan consciously compares himself to the nebulous “hunk” he’s meeting with. At the heart of In a Dream, beneath the layers of buzzing synths and harmonies, lies a stripped sincerity.
In a Dream seems more cathartic than Sivan’s previous works, relying more heavily on tales of heartache than euphoria. Sivan focuses less on recovery and more on self-awareness, understanding and acceptance. The interlude “Could Cry Just Thinkin About You” is a placid stream of consciousness, a slushy mumble of 52 seconds. As Sivan’s distorted words fade beneath tranquil percussion, he connects every part of his life to a past lover, but ends on the line “I don’t know who I am, with or without you/ But I guess I’m ’bout to find out” with hushed hope.
This hope intertwined with palpable vulnerability persists to Sivan’s titular and final track. The epitome of pop-rock perfection, “In a Dream” is a high-energy, candid confession. Sivan rushes through the poignant lyrics as if to avoid facing their gravity, but he finally acknowledges his own sincerity at the song’s stripped bridge: “I won’t let you in again/ That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever said.” This sentiment is the essence of his EP: Rather than attempting to move past pain, he instead tries to come to terms with it.
Exploring heartache and self-awareness with candor, the dynamic EP creates a mystic, dreamlike scene that showcases Sivan’s maturity as an artist. A multifaceted diamond of synthpop, In a Dream succeeds as an unforgettable addition to Sivan’s dynamic discography.