Caring extends to journalists, too. “You taking an Uber home?” Cole asks after our interview ends. “Just making sure. It’s kind of late to take the bus.” Chivalry aside, this is why J. Cole wins — and, more importantly, why people want him to win. J. Cole is the people’s champ. He’s the small-town kid who made it without selling out or changing. He proves that being yourself — even if it’s regular — is enough. Nice guys do finish first.
The 20-year-old singer and actor Troye Sivan headlined at Webster Hall on Tuesday night. Credit Nicole Fara Silver for The New York Times
A half-hour after Troye Sivan left the Webster Hall stage Tuesday night, the scrum of people at the merchandise table was still three deep. One of the two beleaguered clerks jumped up on the table and issued a desperate plea: “I need you to take two steps back!”
The crowd ebbed momentarily, then reclustered. Several fans, meanwhile, chatted up the people dismantling the stage set, and three teenage girls stood at the foot of the stage, smiling and staring into someone’s video camera and shouting, “Make America gay again!”
In the rest of the country, Donald Trump was racking up Super Tuesday delegates with a message of division and antagonism, but for a couple of hours here, Mr. Sivan offered a different approach and vision: charismatic, modest, inclusive.
Mr. Sivan — born in South Africa, and raised in Australia — may well be the prototype for tomorrow’s global pop star, an easeful polymath who manages to make big moments feel intimate. Mr. Sivan, 20, is a singer and an actor, as well as a producer of confessional YouTube videos — almost four million people subscribe to his YouTube channel.
He is also gay — “gay as hell,” as he said during an interlude here. In his recent video for “Youth,” he nuzzles another man and some of his friends pass around a Make America Gay Again cap (modeled after the ones Mr. Trump is selling that read Make America Great Again).
That all of this is matter of fact for Mr. Sivan doesn’t prevent it from being radical for the rest of the pop universe, which generally mistakes appropriation for inclusion, and inclusion for visibility.
Mr. Sivan could change all that. In December, he released his full-length debut album, “Blue Neighborhood” (Capitol), full of smoothly rendered light pop-soul with dance music flourishes, music that is far less original than Mr. Sivan is. But it’s quietly effective. Mr. Sivan’s voice is full of soft curves and light fatigue — he’d rather sketch a convincing outline than overwhelm.
On the album, these songs are soothing. At this show, though, he and his band gave them a bit of muscle — the drums hit harder, and Mr. Sivan was an avid salesman. He was an effortless stage presence, moving with a jaunty swagger while remaining warm enough to make eye contact and small talk with individual fans.
Parents lined the wall at the rear of the room, checking their phones and occasionally staring hard at the stage to figure out what was entrancing their children. (This show was the first of two sold-out nights here. The last time he played New York was in November, at Le Poisson Rouge, with less than half the capacity.)
At the end of the night, fans were scrambling to buy merchandise, but some were more proactive, bringing gifts to hand to Mr. Sivan while he was onstage. Midshow, he was talking about how “New York is the single most intimidating place in the world for me” when he was interrupted by a fan reaching out and handing him a homemade scrapbook.
Mr. Sivan grabbed it and began lovingly flipping through the pages. “This is so … a lot,” he said, adding, “I’m going to have glittery hands for weeks, this is amazing.” Then he ran his hands over his face and screamed, “This is a song called ‘Wild!’”