Not too long ago, Troye Sivan was just another teen striking out on dating apps. Once, right in front of him, his date pulled up Grindr and started browsing for new guys — apparently his boyish charm wasn’t enough to hold the interest of his restless suitor. “It was a while ago, back in a time when it was a little bit less accepted and a little bit more scary,” Sivan says now. “I was like, ‘Okay. I think I'm just gonna go home.’”

It was, however, enough to launch a fast-accelerating career, soon spinning goofy chit-chats and vlog confessionals into a YouTube goldmine. Now, a few years later, the 22-year-old Aussie is the epitome of a next-gen pop star: internet famous, likably awkward, and unabashedly gay, at once an outcast icon and a nouveau heartthrob. His debut album, 2015's critically acclaimed Blue Neighbourhood, is filled with the familiar angst of adolescence, weaving frank reflections on insecurity, sexuality, and suburban romance into lush, electro-indebted pop. But on his forthcoming sophomore record, due out this spring, he’s ready to leave behind his youthful uncertainty and lean into something more sure — something that, Sivan hopes, will help his fans move forward, too.

“I don't know if the world needs a sad gay album right now,” he tells PopCrush, calling from the Minneapolis airport on a day that started in Chicago and ended in Boston, an apt snapshot of his now whirlwind schedule. “I think they need to go out and have some sort of sonic relief, and be reminded that we've been through shit in the past and we’re going to continue to go through shit, but we're always going to be okay.”

Sivan’s still the same lovable oddball, just with a little more clout (he’s fresh off a Saturday Night Live performance). And moving forward, he has the chance to be not just a voice for the internet, but the voice of a generation — or, in millennial speak, a voice for a generation.

Below, Sivan discusses his lighter, love-centric new album, the LGBTQ community post-Trump, and his thoughts on the Grammys, SNL, and YouTube's recent wave of controversies.

A lot of coverage for Blue Neighbourhood centered around your sexuality. Is that something you’re continuing on this album? How are you going to build upon the conversations you started there?
I think about that a lot. It's interesting to me because I don't really know what I did to spark those conversations in the first place, other than just do what every other pop star does. I've sung about boys. I've put love interests in my videos. I think that those conversations happened because they're necessary, but whether or not I'm driving those conversations, I'm not so sure.

I'm gonna definitely continue to be honest in my music and keep writing from my perspective, which happens to be a queer one. And of course I wanna keep up any sort of activism work that I do, but I don't know if I'm necessarily responsible for the conversation around my music being centered around my sexuality. I've never had a problem with it. I know some people do, because some people don't wanna be ever boxed in as anything. I don't really see the big deal because I am a gay artist, and I'm totally fine to be called a gay artist. But yeah, I mean, do I wish that sometimes it wasn't as big of a deal as it is? Maybe, but I'm also fine with it.

What other parts of yourself do you want fans to see or recognize more of?
I feel good about the way I'm perceived. What I want people to remember me as is someone who loves pop music and someone who loves songwriting. And someone who was unapologetically honest about who I am, but also about what I want to say in my music. Through good or bad, through being boxed into something or not boxed into something or whatever, I write really personal pop music.

Since Donald Trump was elected, have your conversations with LGBTQ fans in America changed at all?
It has a little bit. I think that we're all sort of searching for the most effective response to what's going on right now. I was scared and still am a little bit to this day, but my natural reaction has kind of gone to, "I want to try and bring people together in joy.” Anger and sadness are all completely valid and effective emotions in this kind of situation, but I also really believe that joy and unity are equally as important. I think that it's more important now than ever to go to Pride parades. And it's more important than ever to go out to clubs and celebrate our diversity and our differences and everything. That's a really impactful thing to do in a time like this.

Blue Neighbourhood was a very personal record. What do you want to say about who you are this time around?
A lot, actually. I've grown up a lot and learned a lot about myself, and about music, and about relationships and love. The thing that I was most excited about was I felt like I had learned so much from touring about my voice and the kind of music that I wanna make, and what works in a live setting and what doesn't. I sort of subconsciously wrote this album for the road. It's going to be really fun to tour.

Is there anything fans would be surprised to know about you?
They wouldn’t be surprised about it, but I’m really low-key. I don't party a lot. I really just like spending time with family and being at home and watching Friends. I feel like it's the most soothing show in the world because it always just reminds me of my mom. We used to watch it together when I was growing up, so I feel it's like a hug every time I watch it.

As someone who joined YouTube at a young age, when you're kind of still learning and figuring things out for yourself, how do you feel about some of these controversies that are popping up with Logan Paul and Kian Lawley?
I think that's sort of an unprecedented thing that the world's never really had before because now everything is living forever online. There are a lot of questions about holding people accountable, but also questions about forgiveness and [our] growth as humans. People will, of course, make mistakes and people are gonna make mistakes online. I'm going to make mistakes. I think that it's how you respond to them, and how you choose to learn and grow from those situations that really defines you.

I'm not a big fan of the whole culture of “cancelling” someone when they've done something questionable. Obviously, there are situations where people can do horrible things and it's totally valid to not want to support that person anymore. But I also think that we should put ourselves in other people's shoes and be like, "Have I made mistakes before? Would I want people to forgive me if I had?"

And what do you think about the criticisms that the Grammys have been receiving for skewing too male and not being in tune with hip-hop?
All valid concerns. Women have been not just stepping up, but conquering the music industry for so long that I think that [comments like Neil Portnow’s] are completely unjust. I think the criticism is completely valid.

You’re currently dating model Jacob Bixenman. Are you generally more of a relationship person, or do you like to date around?
I am definitely a serial monogamist it seems. I don't really know. I've only ever had a couple of relationships, but they've been one after the other.

You were on Saturday Night Live recently. Did you go to the famous after party?
I did and I have some lame news. It's not that lit. I think there's an after after party that gets really fun and crazy, but everyone's so dead tired and so hungry. It's a really nice group dinner. It's just not a crazy party, but I had a really, really amazing conversation with Lorne Michaels and Jessica Chastain.

You worked on X-Men several years ago, but Joel Edgerton's upcoming drama, Boy Erased, is your first big film role. It's a really heavy premise. What made you want to be a part of telling that story?
I read the script and I was just floored. I find scripts kinda hard to read, but I just blasted through it and read it in like an hour or something. And I saw the cast that was attached and saw that Joel Edgerton was directing, and just really, really fell in love and became obsessed with the idea of becoming a part of this project. So I did an audition and sent it off, and just kind of hoped for the best.

It was weird. A couple weeks later, I was walking in L.A. and bumped into someone. And he came up to me and he was like, "Hey, this is so random, but did you just audition for Boy Erased?" And I hadn't told anyone that I had auditioned for it. So I was like, "This is really weird. Also, where do I know this person from?" And I'm like, "Oh my God. That's Lucas Hedges,” who’s playing the lead in the movie. He was like, "Yeah, I just saw your audition." And I was like, "Oh s---. Maybe that means that it went really well." So I guess that was my first inkling that maybe I'd got the part. And then a couple days later I Skyped with the director, Joel, and he told me that I got the role. So, I was just super honored and I think it's going to be a really special movie.

What attracted you to the character of Gary?
I don’t want to give anything away, but he's a very exciting character for me to play. It’s a small role, 100 percent a small role. I don't want anyone to think I'm the lead in the movie or anything like that. I'm not. But I play one of the boys at the gay conversion therapy camp, and my character kind of becomes a catalyst for change later in the film.

Are there any characters on TV right now or in movies that you saw, and you thought, "Damn. I wish I could play that part?"
Ooh. I would have loved to ... I think that it 100 percent was made for Timothée Chalamet, but I would have at least auditioned for Call Me by Your Name. That would've been fun to have a go at that. It was such a beautiful book and movie. I really feel like that was the first time, pretty much ever, that I've looked at a character and been like, "I 100 percent relate to that person." Like every single thing, even down to his body type and the way that he looks. It's so strange. I look at his body and I'm like, "That's my body." Like skinny, small little nipples, pale. Like everything down to the nipples, it's me.”

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