There’s an area of Seoul which has managed to retain a lot of pre-war/colonial architecture, markedly different from a lot of the cookie-cutter buildings built nowadays: high ceilings, huge, wall-length windows, etc. Because the buildings are so old, they can’t be developed, which means elevators can’t be installed. This, in turn, means that the rent stays low, and it’s becoming the perfect place for artists and designers who can’t afford to be in, say, Hongdae.
We climbed to the top of this one, right in the heart of the city, built in 1937. We drank wine from red cups and enjoyed the cool breeze, a welcome retreat from the normally humid Seoul summer.
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The YouTube sensation and pop performer makes it his mission to change the musical landscape.
BY JASE PEEPLES SEPTEMBER 11 2015 6:00 AM EDT
Troye Sivan’s highly anticipated EP Wild is only hours away from its U.S. release when I meet with him on a balmy Thursday afternoon at a Beverly Hills coffee shop. With more than 3.5 million followers on YouTube, the singer’s latest effort had no trouble claiming the top spot on iTunes moments after it became available for preorder, but the success of his previous album, 2014’s TRXYE, set a high standard for the artist to surpass. Upon its debut, it was the number 1 album in 66 countries on iTunes and debuted at number 5 on the Billboard 200, and the music video for album’s lead single, “Happy Little Pill,” went on to rack up more than 17.5 million views.
These are statistics that might make any emerging artist antsy on the eve of a follow-up release, but the 20-year-old Australian-raised singer is quite at ease as he saunters into the shop, dressed in a plain maroon T-shirt and skinny jeans, with a satisfied smile splashed across his face. Moments after he joins me at a quiet corner table, he explains why competing with prior success is the furthest thing from his mind.
“Chart positions are very cool and awesome, but my biggest worry between the last EP and this one was that my music would change and grow, and I feel like that’s happened,” he says. “However, when I first set out to work on Wild, it was nerve-racking because I wasn’t sure what I was capable of — I’m still not sure — but as soon as I had that moment where I thought, That’s better than anything I’ve written before, the pressure got better and better because I felt at ease about writing something I was really proud of.”
He cocks his head thoughtfully to one side before adding, “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.”
It’s this kind of fearless honesty that has earned Sivan his legions of loyal followers and placed him on a short list of young out artists like Sam Smith, Shamir, and Years & Years front man Olly Alexander — LGBT trailblazers who refuse to believe the myth that a successful career can only be had by staying in the closet. In fact, Sivan says he feels it’s his responsibility to break new ground for the next generation.
“I have a platform and I should be using it to spread good if I can,” he says. “I know being able to see a gay artist who was living a happy, successful, and healthy life is something I would’ve appreciated seeing when I was 13 years old. The thought of being that for someone else is really awesome to me, and it motivates me to keep living my truth openly, honestly, and proudly.” For Sivan, living that truth means embracing subjects in his art that others have been afraid to tackle in the past. Writing love songs with male pronouns for his previous EP was the first step, but Sivan says he wanted to help move the needle for LGBT visibility even further this time around.
In his latest music video, for the title song “Wild,” he presents a story of first love between two very young boys.
“I feel like gay relationships are sexualized in the media and I just wanted to show a romantic, adorable, puppy love situation between two little boys because that’s something we never ever see,” he says. “We usually see stories when the teen is grown up, they’re 18, they’re going out, and maybe they’re promiscuous. That’s a part of gay culture — and it’s a fun part of gay culture — but there’s also those little baby crushes you have when you’re younger. I wanted to show that naïveté, that innocence, and that joy before someone tells you there’s something wrong with you.”
He stops and turns his gaze toward the steady stream of traffic rolling by on Melrose Avenue a few feet away and his voice softens before he continues.
“Unfortunately for me, I always felt in the back of my mind that there was something wrong with me. Even when I was a little kid, I remember suppressing any feelings I had towards other boys,” he says. “I was just aware I wasn’t supposed to be having those feelings from a very young age. And the boys in the music video, I only wish that I could’ve had that kind…”
He stops again, this time taking a deep breath before meeting my gaze with a warm smile. “Well, let’s just say I guess I’m a little jealous of the kids in the music video because they get to experience that — if only for a brief second, but they get to experience that relationship without any baggage.”
The subject is obviously one close to his heart, and Sivan says the video is the first installment of his “Blue Neighborhood Trilogy,” which will follow the story of these fictional boys as their relationship develops over years.
“To me the old ways of thinking about sexuality, these are all inevitable things that are going to change and my attitude is, let’s pretend as if they are changed,” he says. “Let’s pretend it’s not an issue to have two boys kissing in a music video or whatever it is. Let’s just do it and do it unapologetically because that is our honest experience. That is our truth.”
He adds, “Hopefully these videos will be the most viewed thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
With his latest music video garnering more than 2.5 million views in its first week and ringing endorsements of his new EP from famous fans like Taylor Swift, the singer appears to be well on his way to achieving that goal. Furthermore, his growing popularity is proof that young LGBT artists making music about their experiences can be power players in the same field as their straight counterparts.
Sivan teases that “a lot more music” from him will drop before the end of the year and he’ll be kicking off a tour “very soon” as well. Nevertheless, throughout it all he plans to stay focused on his primary mission: Creating a more inclusive music landscape for LGBT people.
“Over the years I’ve met a lot of fans who will whisper things in my ear like, ‘I’m bisexual and no one knows except for you now.’ Those are always awesome moments and I love that people feel like they can confide in me…but I’m fighting for a day when that won’t be necessary,” he says. “It’s my hope that somewhere, a young gay person who is struggling with who they are will see something like ‘Wild’ and say, ‘Maybe I do like boys, and that’s completely fine because there’s those kids in that music video — so I think I’m going to be just fine.’”
"the first week of august hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. the weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, & those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of august is motionless, & hot.
Keeping with the Star Wars tradition of planets with a single ecosystem, one key battleground in Rogue One is on a world that might resemble a relaxing seaside holiday destination if not for its proximity to the Death Star. That leads to a key battle in the film taking place on its balmy shoreline — blue waters and an eerie gray sky.
Confident in our movements, we advance upon each other, slow dancing amongst a sea of possibilities. Coy as she is, she finally reveals a hint of enjoyment as a wide smiled grin reaches ear to ear. Easily absorbed in this moment, absolutely everything other remains non-existent, for we are here only to lock eyes upon that singular other. Warmth comes over us, from fingertip to lower lip we feel this balmy connection enigmatically pulling us closer. Both concentrated on the direction in which we coalesce and the rhythm of a soft bass-line timed to a gentle scratch of snares met with causal patters, we drift atop an empty hardwood floor leading and following the same.
what can i say? the ink in my pen always leaks with you pisces, because the days and the nights blur, dawn turns into twilight, and you are the droplets in the clouds and the entirety of the ocean. and i can see that it feels hard to feel so split open and torn into different fountains of divinity, and humanity, and galaxies. you are a balmy sunset. your delicate internal world is shielded by your chameleon magic. and sometimes i want you to take me with you inside, because it seems like wonderland, because you’re always trying to run back there you make so many sacrifices, and yet, you always put yourself last. and this leaves you exhausted, lethargic, the sunshine you see in others turns to darkness and rejection, resentment, and to feel the pain of everyone swallow you and then become confused
about what are your feelings, or did you have that dream? or is this
real life? that mind is a photobox of memories, fairytales, and pastel
colour. you are the sea, and you seem to completely dissolve me.