Sunday, November 29, 2015
When I was young, there was no such thing as pop music affirming the reality of gay relationships, much less depicting them. Times have changed, and nowadays young gay people are far more likely to see themselves reflected in pop culture, as these videos show.
Troye Sivan is one of the most successful YouTube young stars. He’s an openly gay 20 year old who’s an actor, songwriter, and singer, as well as a YouTuber. He recently released a three-part music video series that’s really pretty remarkable, and it’s what prompted this post.
I first mentioned Troye a couple years ago, when he posted a coming out video on YouTube. I called it “A positive coming out story”, because it was.
Since then, among other things, he’s released an EP Trxye, which I bought, and the single “The Fault in Our Stars” for the movie of the same name, based on the best-selling young adult novel by fellow YouTube (though older…) star, John Green.
His three-part music video series is called Blue Neighbourhood, and is from his forthcoming album of the same name. The three songs are about two young guys who grow up together in a small town, fall in love, and what happens then.
The first of the three, “Wild”, is up top, and it’s the first one I saw, on a music channel on our pay television service (it’s also on our free-to-air digital TV service). When I first heard it, I knew it was Troye, since I recognised his sound and voice, and I watched. I quickly worked out what it was about, so the kiss at the end was particularly satisfying, both to the story and to the expectation I had for what the video was about.
Next up is Part 2, “Fools”, which continues the story into their young adulthood. The first scene in “Fools” is also the last scene in “Wild”. It plays out the conflict between their love and a world that, even now, does not want to allow gay men—especially young gay men—to experience love. It’s about the joy of love, the pain of prejudice and bigotry, and hope that endures despite the odds.
The final video in the series is “Talk Me Down”, which wraps up the story:
The Advocate called it “heartbreaking”, and it is. Having watched all three videos, I knew where this was headed—and yet, the ending is ambiguous. Hopeless romantics like me can still believe that maybe love triumphs in the end, maybe there’s a happy ending. Or, one can see a darker end to the tale. That ambiguity is a particularly good touch, I think.
In an earlier interview, Troye told The Advocate, “I think the most important thing to me at this point in my career is being able to be honest in my songwriting — and these songs are about boys. Hopefully these videos will be the most viewed thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
I hope so, too. As I’ve said many times, I was basically an adult—probably around the same age that Troye is now—the first time I ever heard a gay-themed song that was about the realities of our lives and experiences.
It heartens me to see how much things have changed, and how young artists like Troye can be true to who they are, and express themselves authentically. That in itself is awesome, but the fact that we also get to have pop music with deeper meaning, deeper imagery, is also a great thing. I absolutely love pop music that serves no other purpose than to entertain, and if it’s authentically gay, too, even better. But I also like to be challenged to think and to feel. So, I value diversity.
Many of us from older generations, I think, can be uncomfortable to at least some extent to realise that even kids can be aware of their romantic feelings and sexuality, so these videos will challenge some people because of that alone. It’s what I noticed when I saw the first video broadcast in New Zealand, especially since not all that many years ago TVNZ displayed homophobic bigotry in censoring Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”. So, when the radical right religionists find out about these videos, the first in particular, I’m sure they’ll add it to their voluminous boycott lists.
Normal people, however, won’t do that. We don’t live out lives trying to make other people’s miserable. We value humanity and love, and are glad when love triumphs over those who seek to destroy it. The fact that things like these songs and videos exist, and that there are more and more all the time, shows one thing very clearly: The good people are winning.
The Blue Neighbourhood album is due to be released on December 4.