Not to make this about politics or walls or borders or displacement, but Australian pop balladeer Troye Sivan’s “Lucky Strike” is all about politics and walls and borders and displacement. More specifically, it is about the negation of those thorny, unkind configurations. At first blush, the song is a cool, coy slowburner with pure intentions. “I wanna tiptoe through your bliss, get lost the more I find you,” Sivian coos over producer Alex Hope’s garden of ambrosial synths. Later on the chorus, he implores: “Tell me all the ways to love you.”
“Lucky Strike” is about queer desire, sure, about the feeling of summertime infatuation; in its just-released video, Sivan’s pursuit of another man unfolds during a day at the beach. But much of the song is about the unsaid, about the power and refuge we find in another person. The song, then, becomes something much more: a paean to a world that doesn’t just unite us across cultural and bodily borders, but whose lifesource depends on that exchange.
The 23-year-old Sivan has been christened a pioneer and a modern gay icon; in September Pitchfork noted how the singer’s growing success marked a “milestone for queer pop.” His unwillingness to obscure his sexuality in his music heralds a new textural thrill: he’s embarked down a largely unroamed road where gay life is celebrated rather than quietly alluded to. Having already collaborated with chart-toppers Charli XCX and Ariana Grande, Sivan, as one WIRED colleague noted last year of a blossoming revolution in queer pop, belongs to a class of artists (along with Hayley Kiyoto, MNEK, Kevin Abstract, and others) who are “empowered to sing about their lived experiences, and to raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ community’s struggles.”
Still, it’s not entirely empowerment pop. Sivan’s got pride but his music, more often than not, hinges on recognition, on simply seeing his life, and the lives of his listeners for the expansive and beautiful thing it is. (Though one could argue that there’s nothing simple about the act of human recognition.) He’s something of a pop sophisticate in that way, creating music that’s subversive and aware, but still emphatically, delectably fun.
With the government shutdown well into its fourth week—it is, essentially, the result of a bureaucratic tantrum—many Americans remain out of work, without access to means to provide for their families or even get by themselves. And maybe because we are living in this strange epoch of Trump and brimstone, “Lucky Strike” feels especially potent. Really, it’s the chorus I keep returning to, when he sings, “Tell me all the ways to love you.” The message manifests like a spark in the night sky. It’s as if Sivan says: In a time of scorched land, let us remove all the barriers between each other and find a route to understanding, to love. Let us, radiant as we are in our carousel of identities, find relief in another’s embrace.
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The Best Music Moments of 2018