Troye Sivan and Lauv (aka Ari Leff) are two young connoisseurs of the love song. Sivan dropped his sophomore album Bloom on us this summer, overflowing with fleshy, pulsing summer romance like "Bloom" and "My My My!" Meanwhile, singer and songwriter Lauv — who co-wrote Charli XCX's "Boys" and broke out on his own in 2017 with I Met You When I Was 18 — released one of his first major hits, a love song with ex-girlfriend Julia Michaels, "There's No Way" in September. It's a breathless story of cosmic flirtation, full of instant fireworks and stolen moments.
It's a cliché, that when you're in love, pop love songs like the ones Sivan and Leff write suddenly make sense in new ways. They connect like never before, allowing you to gloriously indulge in the melodrama of your own story. On the flip-side, when you're heartbroken, the same songs are torture: their euphoria becomes just a painful reminder of what you've lost. And in this state of mind, it's a well-documented psychological phenomenon that only the bleakest, loneliest pop songs, that (as the saying goes) "make you want to dance and cry at the same time," can offer comfort. Hence, our illustrious canon of "sad bangers" and "dancefloor criers."
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While both Leff and Sivan know the secret to a love song, it's no surprise that a new inductee into this canon emerged from a collaboration between two of the most sensitive young men in pop. The pair got together this summer with a plan to write some material together, at a time when Leff was struggling with a painful exit from a long-term relationship.
"i'm so tired...", released last week, is a textbook dancefloor crier that plays with the trope of love song burn-out. "I'm so tired of love songs/ tired of love songs/ Just wanna go home, wanna go home" Lauv sings wearily, in his breathy mid-range falsetto, over an echoey beat. It captures the particular sting of an unwanted encounter with a formerly beloved song: "Party, trying my best to meet somebody/ But everybody around me is falling in love to our song." Later on his verse, Sivan name-checks masters of the genre, Coldplay and Lorde: "Hurts like heaven/ lost in the sound/ buzz cut season/ like you're still around/ can't unmiss you/ I need you now."
The pair's vocal chemistry is evident, as Leff's aching tone melts into Sivan's silken one. Meanwhile the bleak lyrics burn, riding on bright hooks and an immaculately danceable beat. "i'm so tired..." is a refreshing kind of pop song in a moment crowded with fairytales and self-love anthems, that offers catharsis as it leans into pain.
PAPER sat down with Sivan and Leff to chat about about the inspiration for "i'm so tired...", their chemistry in the studio, and their favorite sad bangers.
Tell me how you guys met.
AL: Me and Troye met at a doughnut shop... wait I really even commit to my bad joke. Yeah, Troye, we met at some rehearsal studio.
TS: I was rehearsing for something else, and I heard music coming from the next room and just really, really liked. It was when "I Like Me Better" was really flying up, and I love that song and was super excited to meet him.
AL: Yeah, you were with Brett [McLaughlin], who also wrote "i'm so tired..." and then we did a show together again in San Diego. I've been a fan for awhile, so when we finally got to work together I was actually pretty nervous.
You were nervous?
AL: Yeah, hell yeah.
Is Troye intimidating?
AL: I mean, I always get like that, though. I get hella insecure and stuff, especially if I'm working with someone I really respect. I just immediately, in my head, "Everything I have is bad, I suck." I'm glad that it worked out.
How did you start talking about this particular song?
AL: We didn't get together with the idea of making this song. We just got together to write something, and Troye, I know you wanted to do some stuff outside of your project.
TS: I've been wanting to write for other artists for a long time, because I love writing and it's really fun. It takes the pressure off, honestly. You have to lead the way with the story and the perspective and what you're trying to say. It's fun to me to be able to be in the room, write, and have that experience, while not having to be confined by whatever rules you normally set for yourself.
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What was it like in the studio together?
TS: For me, I just love our music and was super, super keen to just write and see what happens. I was also pretty adamant that I didn't want to go in... sometimes when two artists get together and write, it gets a little tough because you're so used to being the artist. It's very easy to become bullish in a session. I really, really didn't want to do that so I tried to just be as chill as possible. Then, Ari played me the chords of "i'm so tired..." because he had already started working on it. The chorus was there already and I really, really freaked out and got excited and we ended up writing the rest of the song that day.
At that point it was still just an Ari song. Then idea came that we would turn it into a duet, and I was super, super stoked about that. I went in and recorded my verse and then brought in one of the producers that I've worked with a lot to fix up some production stuff and figure out where the song would go. Ari had basically got it 75% of the way there, we just needed to figure out the structure and nail it down. It's pretty crazy, we just looked and we wrote the song in June of last year, so it's been a good two months of finicking with it and fixing and making little tweaks and changes. I'm so happy that it's finally out.
AL: That's pretty much the full story. It's crazy, honestly, how fast time passes.
Was it tough to sit on? Does it still feel really real and relevant?
AL: I'm always super impatient. But, sometimes you have to do whatever's right for the song. The song is certainly still real to me. I'm the type of person where I, to my own, it's probably not a good thing, spend so much time reminiscing on the past and getting perspective on things, which is what the song's about. Just surrendering to it, when everything still reminds you of this person and you're so exhausted by that and you just want to move on and live your life.
Why did you want to write this sort of anti-love song, that feels in juxtaposition with a lot of pop music?
AL: I put out this project I Met You When I Was 18, that was all about one long relationship that I was in. So I was sort of in this head space of, you know, I'm working on my album now, and it's lot more about other stuff. Just broader, life stuff. So this song is sort of transitional for me where, I'm still in that realm but I'm so exhausted by that over and over. That was where the emotion was coming from.
TS: I've always been attracted to... for me, music is something I turn to when I'm in a tough spot. Writing is very therapeutic for me. Listening to music is super therapeutic for me, so it was a concept that really, really resonated with me, to the point of almost torturing yourself, like, "When I'm sad, I listen to sad music and feel sadder and then somehow better afterwards." I don't know, I wanted to just kind of write about that really vulnerable moment where you're just like, "Whoa. I'm really fucked up at the moment over this person," or whatever it is, and letting yourself have that indulgent moment of being in that rough spot, and working through it. I don't know if it's the healthy thing to do, but it's definitely something I do and something I can relate to.
There is such a canon of lonely pop songs like this one. I'm curious if any songs like that were inspirations for this track?
TS: For me the holy grail is "Dancing on My Own" by Robyn. I feel like that song is one of the best pop songs of all time, full stop. Just the fact that it somehow makes you feel liberated and sad and lonely — and at the same time, you feel like you have this vice of the music. That's all at the same time, on top of being a perfect pop song by such a great artist. That, to me, that's the goal. That's the dream.
Then, of course, there's Lana Del Rey, the queen. She doesn't really write bops, but she's lonely.
TS: Yeah, totally similar vibe.
Tell me about the Coldplay and Lorde references. Are "Buzzcut Season" and "Hurts Like Heaven" among those sad songs that made you feel better?
AL: Definitely, for both of us. We were just sitting in my backyard talking about songs that we do that to ourselves with. For me, a lot of Coldplay, particularly from one breakup, especially after their album Ghost Stories. That album was fucking… and I mean, "Buzzcut Season" as well as that song. I know one of my exes used to listen to that song all of the time, and I was like, "Why do you listen to this song on repeat all the time?" Then now, it's like "Okay, I get it."
What has the response been like?
AL: It's been insane, I'd say. Really, really insane. I know we're in the Top 25 globally on Spotify, which I don't think has ever happened to me before.
AL: Yeah, it's insane. You never have any idea how a song's going to do when you put it out. You can feel good about a song, or not expect a song to do well, but just seeing how consistently people are streaming it like crazy... all the love.
TS: The really interesting thing as well, I feel like, is you often really have to carry the songs on your back — and it takes a lot of pushing and reminding people that you've got a song out. But this song, and I don't want to jinx it or anything, but so far it's felt really effortless and easy. I think working with a friend is really fun, but the song has kind of taken on a bit of a life of its own. We're not out there screaming every day, "Stream 'i'm so tired...'," it's just climbing and climbing. It's really nice to see, I'm so happy to see that people are responding to it in that way.
Maybe it's because the title is such a big mood.
Did you think about the catchy title?
AL: For a while there were mixes of the song going around titled, "Tired of Love Songs." I was like, "No, 'i'm so tired...'" would just be funny, even though it's really annoying to tweet about it or post about it because you have to put the dot dot dot, it looks so bad in the middle of a sentence.
Troye, could you talk a bit more about why you want to get more into songwriting. Are there sounds you feel like you can't necessarily explore as Troye Sivan?
TS: Yeah, for sure. One thing that was really, really fun about this was, in the past when I've written for other projects that weren't mine, it was a female artist. That's really fun because you get to explore this new range that obviously I can't sing in, but at the same time, working with Ari, I feel like our voices are kind of cousins or something like that. Slightly different tone and stuff, but cut from the same cloth. It was really, really nice to write a song that feels equally like a Lauv song and a me song. That's a really cool and rare thing.
At the same time, in the writing room, you just have the freedom to explore. "I'm so tired…" is not my current situation or my current story, so I had to dig into a couple of things: first of all, Ari's experience, second of all, my past experiences, and third of all, this hypothetical situation, "How would I feel?" I've kind of been there before, so I had to tap into all of those things and I don't know if I would have done that in a session just for me. To have the experience to explore different things and explore different sounds and really just share the weight of the session is so cool.
What's next for you both?
AL: Yeah, I'm pretty much just in creative mode. I was on tour for a really long time, and that was incredible. I'm just in LA, doing some traveling, writing, working on my album. There might be some other music in the meantime as well, you never know with me. Stuff kind of comes out of nowhere. I'm also going on tour in May in Asia, which I'm really excited about. That's going to be fucking insane. There's just going to be more touring and music to come!
TS: I'm home now, but leave in two weeks. It's been so nice just to be home for a second, have the opportunity to come and zone out and not be focused on the day-to-day, "What do I have to do today," kind of thing, and more "What do I want to achieve in general, and what's something that I want to work towards?" I've started the wheels turning on some much bigger, longer lead time projects that I'm really excited about. I'm set to do another film this year, I would love to do a lot more music. I'm also super excited because I'm going to Europe in two weeks, and then I've never toured Asia and I'm going there. I'm playing Lollapalooza in South America, I'm really excited for that. I'm going to get to go home to Australia to tour at some point! It's looking like a really, really cool year for me.
Photos courtesy of Zhamak Fullad