Exactly like "Love, Simon," "Bloom" is a watershed moment in mainstream pop culture - even if that historical significance doesn't immediately dawn upon its target audience.
Metaphorical lyrics describing the experience of receptive sex have been commonplace in female pop music for decades. Radio still plays such songs for all to hear - some were even hits. Artists like Britney Spears ("Over To You Now"), Rihanna ("Shut Up and Drive"), Christina Aguilera ("Woo Hoo (feat. Nicki Minaj)") and Katy Perry ("Bon Appetit (feat. Migos)") aren’t alone anymore, though.
Tons of unsigned LGBTQIA+ artists are entering "the sacred garden," with lyrics describing their own receptive sexual experiences. Although none are doing it in the mainstream like 22-year-old South African pop star Troye Sivan, with his new single “Bloom." Produced by Oscar Holter, the subtly groundbreaking release begs the question: will radio play this?
Hopefully. Possibly. Despite the album's lead single "My My My!" peaking at #80 on the Billboard Hot 100, Troye Sivan's label Capitol Records has done a great job getting LGBTQIA+ artists like Sam Smith and Halsey substantial radio traction.
The dream-pop "Bloom" debuted on YouTube with gorgeous Lyric Video animated by 3D artist & visual designer Jason Ebeyer. It's so good, it's hard to imagine why it's not the actual music video:
14 years after Britney Spears “Over to You Now" - a clever electro-pop banger with lyrics comparing anal intercourse to visiting a trendy underground club in the city - Troye takes a more direct route in "Bloom." With lyrics like...
Promise me you'll
Hold my hand if I get scared now
Might tell you to
Take a second, baby, slow it down
...there's no question what Sivan is singing about. If there was any doubt left, he confirmed the song was about bottoming via hashtag:
It was a bold tweet that shouldn't have been deleted. Bottom shaming is omnipresent in the gay community - oddly so - despite the fact that gay sex requires one partner to take that role. Therefore it is refreshing to see a mainstream gay artist like Troye Sivan express his sexual preference proudly.
Sivan also spoke to the song's sexual subject matter in an interview with Popjustice in late February, and his hopes for its success outside his usual fanbase:
Even without Sivan's confirmations, any flower metaphors in the lyrics are petal-thin; "Bloom" plays like a step-by-step guide through the lows and highs of the bottoming experience.
Another interesting lyrical moment is the song's refrain:
And it's true, baby
I've been saving this for you, baby
This refrain seems directly inspired by the hook of "Froot" Marina and the Diamonds:
Yeah, you know that it's true
I've been saving all my summers for you
Like "Bloom," Marina's song takes place in a lush garden and has themes of youth and receptive sex. It shows that while a song like "Bloom" is unique to a gay artist, it's not lyrically unique to pop in general; just like how critics celebrated "Love, Simon" as essentially a standard high school rom com, with the gay twist being the groundbreaking part.
Millennials simply expect content like this to exist with mainstream backing, and therefore aren't surprised when it comes to fruition. It's a weird time to live in where the historical significance of milestones of inclusion like "Love, Simon" and "Bloom" doesn't immediately dawn upon everyone.
Critics of "Love, Simon" saw it as groundbreaking for the sake of groundbreaking - but it was unprecedented nontheless. The same is true with Troye Sivan's "Bloom."
Both works are overt, sweet by nature, and commercial as hell. They are the generic representation gay men are just now getting to enjoy. "Simon" and "Bloom" stand in contrast to the less glossy mainstream representation of the past, which largely equated the gay experience to death.
I'll admit, I didn't understand or like "Bloom" at first listen. It first felt like an intentional grab for controversy, a lot like early Lady Gaga works. However, once I had time to think about the full weight of Sivan's history-making lyrics, I was hooked.
There's no doubt a song like "Bloom" will come across as shocking and radical to conservative audiences in Trump's America and the world beyond. It will be interesting to hear reactions to morning show or late night TV performances of this song.
Like "Love, Simon," Troye Sivan's "Bloom" is garnering nearly universal critical acclaim; hopefully it can enjoy similar commercial success, too.
Blogger's Note: At the time of publishing, #BLOOM was the #1 Trending Topic worldwide on Twitter.
More TROYE SIVAN
Details regarding Sivan's new album and upcoming headlining tour will be announced soon.
The official Troye Sivan app is now available on the App Store and Google Play. Fans who download the app will have access to exclusive content, merchandise, pre-sales and more.