On Troye Sivan's debut album in 2015, he admitted he was "just a lost boy/ready to be found."
The Australian singer-songwriter was often shy, anxious, almost quivering.
When asking his lover for a kiss, he begged him not to bite. Sivan is back this year and, wow, what a difference three years makes.
A confident, in control and very knowing Sivan returns with the aptly titled Bloom, an addictive 10-track collection of unrushed, synth-rich pop songs from a man now not afraid of love bites. "I got my tongue between your teeth," he sings in "My My My!," a euphoric flash-bang burst of freedom and happiness.
The actor-model-You Tube star reunites with some of his main songwriting partners — Brett McLaughlin, Bram Inscore and Allie X — but the result is more adult, atmospheric and assured than his impressive debut album Blue Neighbourhood. That portrayed a young man coming to grips with his sexuality and a new world of sensual experiences.
On the last album, he was asking to hold hands and just sleep next to his lover ("but that's all I want to do right now"). Now he's offering a "trip into my garden," a line that comes from the title cut, a sly and sensual love song cleverly stuffed with double entendres. ("I bloom just for you.")
Nowhere is Sivan's maturity more apparent than on "Dance to This," his fantastic, spacy duet with Ariana Grande that is perfectly calibrated and features voices melding beautifully. It goes down like an ice-cold glass of water on a hot night.
Sivan also shows off his confidence and ability in a stripped down "Postcard," with Gordi offering her vocals. "What a Heavenly Way to Die," which takes its name from The Smiths' "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out," initially sounds like a risky move but ends up quite beautiful and perfectly executed.
The only real misstep on the CD is the lyrics to "Plum," which has so many fruit-based references that it seems forced.
The album ends with the slow-burning, turgid "Animal," which may remind fans of "Wild" from his debut. Both songs — about lust — are curiously contained. There's a strange coolness there, belied by primal lyrics that include "I am an animal with you." It's wonderful, but here's hoping Sivan lets loose a little on his third album. So far, he's bloomed into a pop force to be reckoned with.