Photo Credit: Bryan Allen Lamb
Former Disney alum turned pop diva Hayley Kiyoko is hailed by her diehard fans as the “Lesbian Jesus”. Kiyoko, who is openly gay, released her long-awaited debut LP Expectations in March of this year. The seductive mid-tempo track “Sleepover” and the light-hearted beat bopping “Curious” were both released as teasers prior to the album’s release.
After debuting on top of the Billboard 200 charts and cruising on an already heavy social media buzz, Kiyoko then followed up her two initial tracks with a ladder up single this fall titled “Feelings”, which has been her most successful to date. “I’m sorry that I care // it’s really not that fair // I just complicate it when I say too much,” she belts on the sing-songy hook.
Undoubtedly, Kiyoko’s popularity has been mostly based around her sexuality and girlish charm. Take for example, on the cute pop duet “What I Need” with new R&B sensation Kehlani (who is also openly also bisexual), in which she addresses the complexities and uncertainties of a gay relationship. The video depicts an even more distinct picture as Kiyoko and Kehlani are shown as a lesbian couple on a carefree love struck adventure amid a recent breakup.
With that said, what is refreshing and fun-loving about Expectations is that it takes you through an actual story, complete with exceptionally illustrated storytelling music videos to match Kiyoko’s tone. She touched on this topic in a recent interview with Bazzar stating, “Every track is like a mini-chapter of who I am and what I’ve gone through up until now.” By and large, the album has enough fun-loving girl on girl jazziness, like the standout “Wanna Be Missed”, in which you envision Hayley Kiyoko riding down a beach lit highway as she croons, “I wanna be missed like every night // I wanna be kissed like it’s the last time.”
Nevertheless, she comes up short on cookie cutter tracks like “Palm Dreams”, where her vocals come across too airy and the lyrics are predictable and very basic. Interestingly, when asked where the name for this project came from, Kiyoko had this to say in a summer interview with Hot Topic, “I felt it was my biggest strength and also my biggest weakness. I didn’t know where I was gonna land, but now I’ve found my space.”
Artistically speaking Kiyoko’s strengths lie in giving young women hope, to go for your dreams and to be who you truly are. Proudly. Accepting oneself and being okay with that. However, where the problem lies is that aside from the amazing storytelling of her music videos, which vividly captures the essence of who she really is, her music is mediocre at best. It is as if she is still stuck in a fake Disney World. Branded and sculpted to be what a typical standard popstar “should” sound like. Still, this is precisely the point that Kiyoko’s album shows. She never had any expectations, even of herself. Her album was a product of her being unapologetically herself. And that, if nothing else, is what you can expect from Hayley Kiyoko every time! She pulls no punches and you can bet on that.