Breaking ground with her 2015 single “Girls Like Girls,” LA native Hayley Kiyoko has pushed to call out ‘straight songs’ in order to normalize feelings for everyone. Taking note of the cover for her debut album Expectations, the female gaze is finally on the front lines.
Kiyoko, also known as “Lesbian Jesus” by her fans, has become a contemporary icon for the LGBTQ+ community. Diversifying the pop landscape to include more of the LGBTQ+ community, Expectations gives reason for any listener no matter their sexual preference[s] or self-identification to get up and dance or to sit and reflect on their own stories.
From start to finish, Expectations commends Kiyoko’s creative talents, from lyrical considerations (i.e. use of pronouns, personal ballads and raw tone), technical arrangements and accompanying videography, of which were directed by Kiyoko herself. The project carries listeners on a wave of self-discovery, exploration and understanding through smooth transitions and soft instrumental breaks that, as Kiyoko states, are completely intentional. At the moment of release, Kiyoko posted to Instagram:
“Promise me you will listen to it in order, from beginning to end, like it was intended. I set the setting and tone, but this is your personal journey to take what you will.”
Fan favorite “What I Need” (featuring Kehlani), “Sleepover” and “Curious” hold the first half of the album in a state of powerful expression of desire and sensuality, surrounded by the proudly-charged “Feelings” and “He’ll Never Love You (HNLY).” Gradually, the album becomes increasingly outwardly contemplative, a change that appears strongest during “Molecules.” Concluding with the anthem-like “Let It Be,” all 13 tracks are pulled full circle by way of a journey that seems to mirror that of a relationship, from curiosity to challenge and from challenge to acceptance.
In an era where every individual is challenged in some form or another, Hayley Kiyoko presents to us a no-holds-barred/this-is-real-life outlet of expression. Her craftsmanship and captivating sound are enough to earn her praise from many, but her openness, consideration for all and confidence set her apart.