For Troye Sivan, putting it all out there is pretty much second nature. In 2013, he broke out with his coming out video on YouTube and over the decade since, has continued to share pieces of himself through music and performance. Sivan got his start on the internet posting YouTube videos with other popular creators in the early 2010s, but soon pivoted from a career solely in social media to pursue music and acting. He released two albums, Blue Neighborhood in 2015 and Bloom in 2018, and appeared in movie and TV shows like 2018’s Boy Erased and the 2022 film Three Months.
Recently, Sivan played Xander in the controversial HBO show The Idol, which also starred Lily-Rose Depp and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye. With the show coming to a close (and not getting a second season), he’s shifted focus to music and back to social media. On his TikTok, where he has over three million followers, he’s not afraid to share a story about an embarrassing date or talk about his crush on K-pop star Hyunjin of Stray Kids. (They later collaborated on a remix to his single “Rush,” which has remained popular on TikTok since July.)
Sivan’s new album, Something to Give Each Other, is no different: His first full-length project in five years, the album is slinky, sensual, and sincere. Initially meant to be a breakup album following Sivan’s split from a long-term boyfriend, Something to Give Each Other instead became more of a “collection of experiences,” he told Vogue in July.
Over 10 tracks, Sivan takes listeners through the peaks and valleys of his emotions over the last few years. The passionate, sweaty highs on the lead single “Rush” propel the listener through a celebration of queer joy, while the elevated pop track “What’s the Time Where You Are” warbles with thumping bass layered with Sivan’s sweet, silky vocals. The somber, sobering cuts “Still Got It” and “Can’t Go Back Baby” level out the story. The standout track, “One of Your Girls,” sees Sivan pining after a man who isn’t giving him the attention he wants so he’s willing to be whatever the man needs to get him to see Sivan. The song got the music video treatment, shocking fans once again with Sivan dressing in drag (looking fabulous) and featuring shirtless heartthrob Ross Lynch.
Ahead of the album’s release on Friday, Sivan spoke with TIME about focusing on his personal experiences to create Something to Give Each Other, why he thrives on TikTok, and embracing learning to dance.
How would you describe the sound of Something to Give Each Other?
It’s quite eclectic. I wrote it over a long period of time and the only criteria was that each song had to capture a genuine feeling that I experienced. All of them feel like me to me.
People were introduced to you through your coming out video in 2013 and your audience has seen you mature online from a kind of shy, timid boy to this loud and proud queer person. What parts of that maturation have been easy and what parts were difficult?
Maybe people would be surprised if they met me in real life—I’m still going to run to the bathroom if they start playing my song at a party because I get embarrassed. I’m just more confident at work. I feel comfortable wearing something extravagant for a video for art, doing red carpets, or whatever. I’ve really enjoyed becoming more confident as a performer.
The internet aspect of your career is so intertwined with your musical journey: you promoted your first EP TRXYE and last two albums on Tumblr and that mirrors how you use TikTok to promote your music now. Has your past informed the way you create content today?
Oh, 1000%. People say musicians have to be content creators now and I think that sucks for a lot of people. For me, that’s where I’m really comfortable. I don’t have to go and shake hands with the radio station in wherever the f-ck but I can stay home and make TikToks? OK! I really enjoy TikTok as a platform. In its infancy there were few things that worked very well and none of those felt genuine to me. But then once it grew and changed, it’s really just whatever you want. It’s a really fun way for me to express myself.
The two lead singles, “Rush” and “Got Me Started,” had big moments on social media this summer—especially with the videos where you’re doing more choreography than what you have done in live performances. When did this shift to doing more dancing happen and what made you want to start doing it more?
I’ve always wanted to dance but never thought that I could. For whatever reason, this time, I was just having so much fun. I stopped caring so much about what other people thought. When starting rehearsals for the “Rush” music video, I walked in and was like “I need you to know that it’s OK to laugh at me when I’m doing this.” I have never done this before in my life. First time I’m learning choreo ever and we’re filming the music video in a week.
I loved the way that it felt. I loved the process of rehearsals. It was so exciting to find something that again, regardless of like how good or not I was at it, I knew that I discovered something new as a 28-year-old that I absolutely love to do. So then I got a little cocky and said, “Let’s amp it up a little for ‘Got Me Started’” and that was even more fun.
You often work with Leland (the singer Brett Leland McLaughlin), a co-writer on many of your songs. What about him makes a great collaborator?
He and I are best friends, but there’s something about a creative relationship that is comparable to a very deep love or a friendship. We’ve been working together now for so long, where we can communicate through a look or I can send him a reference for something and I feel like he can hop into my brain and understand that.
You have created magic together on your last two albums, so I wasn’t surprised to see him listed on this one. But I was surprised to see [music producer] A.G. Cook, who is known for his avant-garde aesthetic, on the song “How to Stay With You.” How did that come about?
I try to go into collaboration without any sort of preconceived ideas or expectations of what I want from the person. He is just brilliant. When we finally got into the studio together, I was also surprised by what we made together.
You sort of stopped career as creator after your YouTube days. How do you look back on that time?
It almost feels like my high school experience. I made my first video when I was 12 and then kept doing it until I was 18 or 19. We were maybe the second wave of lYouTubers and we would all go to VidCons, traveling the world, doing meet and greets. I met all these great friends and it was a really special time. It was never a conscious decision to make the switch to music because music has been in my life since the day I was born—that felt very genuine to me. I look back at that time fondly, with maybe a bit of embarrassment, the way you’d feel looking at a picture of you when you were 15.