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Can Troye Sivan 'Infiltrate the General Public' With His New Single?

Can Troye Sivan ‘Infiltrate the General Public’ with His New Single?

The gay pop singer hopes the upcoming single "I'm So Tired" will go mainstream. But there are systemic hurdles that stand in his way.

Gay Australian pop singer Troye Sivan took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to tease his first single of 2019, a collaboration with singer-producer Lauv titled, "I'm So Tired."

Sivan has high expectations for the track, which is to be released January 24, deeming the song an "instant slapper." The out heartthrob thinks the song might finally earn him a spot amongst mainstream music listeners, declaring to fans: "Let us Infiltrate the general public. Together."

But why has Sivan, with all of his talent, not already broken into the mainstream music market? This reality illustrates the hurdles that out queer artists still face in crossing this threshold.

Sivan seems to have been poised for success since his early days as a YouTube sensation. He came out publicly in a YouTube video at age 18, which currently has over 8 million views. The video earned him a legion of young queer followers, who welcomed his debut album, Blue Neighborhood, in 2015.

The album, which featured themes of coming out and identity building, was warmly regarded by critics -- a five-star review by The Guardian's Everett True. "It is difficult not to lose yourself in Sivan's world, so perfect is the illusion," True said.

Sivan used same-sex pronouns in his love songs and male-love interests in his videos, making a promising case that he was to be the next out phenomenon in pop music. The album peaked at number 7 on the Billboard 200 and his single "Youth" landed at number 23 on Billboard's Hot 100.

With his early successes, the hype around last year's follow-up album was huge. Upon the release of Bloom, the critics, once again, lauded Sivan's efforts. Bloom landed on several year-end lists and LGBTQ audiences raved over Sivan's more mature content. With a solid debut at number 4 on the Billboard 200, Bloom definitely achieved some commercial success, but one can wonder-- why it was not even more successful?

"My My My!," the album's only single to register on the Billboard's Hot 100, peaked at number 80, despite ">a buzzy music video. And in a year practically owned by Ariana Grande, her collaboration with Sivan, "Dance to This," failed to pick up much momentum on the charts.

Sivan similarly failed to garner any nominations for Bloom at the 61st annual Grammy Awards, where Dua Lipa -- a singer who once opened for Sivan on his Blue Neighborhood Tour -- is a top contender for Best New Artist.

While Sivan's warm reception by music critics has warranted many to deem him as a mainstream queer sensation, it seems his music might only be being played -- or at least appreciated -- at LGBTQ functions. Sivan seems to be doing everything right: creating critically acclaimed music, establishing a massive fanbase, and maintaining an engaging social media presence. Yet, the U.S. charts appear to have written him off.

Perhaps some of the blame is on those in control of the U.S. music industry. In an interview with The Advocate last year, music-producer Greg Wells voiced the many obstacles LGBTQ artists still face gaining traction in the U.S. music industry. Mika, a queer Lebanese-English artist Wells collaborated with, was not able to successfully crossover in U.S. markets because he was seen as too feminine by "the gatekeepers of radio."

"There's rampant homophobia, not just in the record business but in the American media. It's better probably than it's ever been in America, but in Europe, it's way less of a big deal," said Wells. "Radio is a very, very, very conservative format and it misses so much of the great music being made."

While Sivan was extremely visible on the covers of magazines this year, he could barely be heard on U.S. radio. Music critics praised the visible queerness of Bloom, but the conservative radio industry may not have appreciated the openness with which Sivan sings about gay sex on the albums titular track, not to mention its accompanying gender-fluid video.

Sam Smith is the most notable example of an LGBTQ person who was welcomed by American radio. However, Smith was never as visibly queer as Sivan and his songs have tended not to explicitly be about the queer experience. His songs target wider themes --such as heartbreak and loneliness-- oftentimes with gender-neutral pronouns. Talking to The FaderSmith said, "I've made my music so that it could be about anything and everybody -- whether it's a guy, a female, or a goat." Perhaps, only with this type of palatability can queerness really be accepted on U.S. radio.

To wit, Sivan has been touted as this decade's first fully-queer-pop success, though he has yet to be completely embraced by American music institutions. Even Sivan's recent Golden Globe nomination for Boy Erased's "Revelation" came from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association -- an organization primarily made up of non-American voters.

Perhaps, with the positive momentum earned from his pitch-perfect execution of Bloom, Sivan might finally be able to capture the ears' of the general public with next week's release of "I'm So Tired." But at this point, it's hard to imagine what else Sivan can do to prove his worth.

ALEXANDER MODIANO is an intern at The Advocate magazine. Follow him on Twitter @alex_modiano.

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Alexander Modiano