Hayley Kiyoko is a name that I hadn’t heard of until recently — earlier this semester, to be exact. I told myself that I would log onto Spotify and search for her music, but I forgot to, which led to inevitable regret when her album “Expectations” was released. If you don’t know who Kiyoko is, I have a feeling that you will soon.
Kiyoko formerly starred in “Lemonade Mouth,” a 2011 Disney Channel Original Movie about a group of teenagers starting a music group and competing against more popular groups. She is also known as “Lesbian Jesus,” a fitting nickname that makes sense as her music is primarily queer.
In 2015, she released her song “Girls Like Girls,” which was just the beginning of her attempts to change the pop music industry by normalizing songs about women loving women. She succeeds at this mission with the song’s chorus, consisting of the lyrics: “Saw your face, heard your name / gotta get with you / girls like girls like boys do / nothing new.”
In addition, Kiyoko’s music isn’t just catchy; it is empowering because it allows queer women to hold long-overdue visibility in the media.
The album flows seamlessly together. Kiyoko says that she prefers that listeners consume the album from start to finish, the way that it was intended. It tells a story about love and loss, as many of Kiyoko’s songs reflect her falling in love with straight girls and falling out of love with them as she realizes that they may not be serious about her.
In “Feelings,” the singer relates on her loneliness and desperation to be with someone: “I’m hooked on all these feelings / I know exactly what I’m feelin’ / This love asylum, like an island, just me and you / Spent the night, you got me high, Oh, what did you do?”
The lyrics emulate what feeling in love feels like to her. When she says that she knows exactly what she’s feeling, she means that her feelings are valid no matter what anyone else has to say about it.
In “What I Need” and “Curious,” Kiyoko sings about how frustrating it is dating a straight woman because what she needs is for her partner to be sure about their relationship: “What I need … Is for you to be sure … What I need … Is to tell me that it’s yours … And who you do it for … Need you to be sure.”
The song “Curious” follows a similar note, with the lyrics: “If you let him touch ya … The way I used to … Did you take him to the pier in Santa Monica? / Forget to bring a jacket, wrap up in him cause you wanted to? / I’m just curious, is it serious?”
“Wanna Be Missed” and “Let It Be” are both songs that sound melancholy in nature. “Wanna Be Missed” is mainly about the longing to be loved, shown in the lyrics: “I wanna be missed like every night / I wanna be kissed like it’s the last time / Say you can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t breathe without me.”
The second track “Let It Be” is about a relationship that ended for an unknown reason: “I believe we’re the ones who had it all / I believe we just had to learn to fall / I miss ya, I love ya / So it’s really hard to see, yeah / We just gotta let it be.”
When speaking to MTV News correspondent Meredith Graves, she said that she didn’t see a queer narrative in the media that resonated with her as she was growing up. “That’s what I’m doing with my work. I’m trying to create hope,” Kiyoko says.
“Because the films that I grew up watching were very depressing, and I’d be like, ‘Great! I feel terrible about who I am! Awesome!’ That’s what I’m pouring into [my] music videos, is showing that there can be a fairytale, and you can have hope with being who you are, and you can find the one. You can be yourself, and these feelings that you have are valid.”
Her songs and music videos are giving queer people hope and the representation that they deserve. The singer isn’t afraid to write about, sing about or depict women loving women in both platonic and sexual ways. The representation isn’t pornographic; her music videos show queer relationships in the same way that other music videos depict heterosexual relationships.
Besides the well-needed representation, “Expectations” is an album that is sure to meet, if not exceed, the listeners’ expectations. The songs themselves are pretty good and even non-queer people can relate to them because of how vulnerable and human they feel.
After all, regardless of sexual orientation, all most people want is just a sense of belonging, whether it be romantic or platonic.
Kiyoko’s album won’t disappoint. It is definitely not your typical pop music album, but it has common themes that mainstream popular music is known for. Some songs will stick with you from the first listen, while others may take a few replays to fully appreciate. The music itself feels very southern California to me; it’s general aesthetic is a warm, beachy day, chasing the person you love barefoot in the sand next to the waves.
Even if you don’t fall in love with Kiyoko’s music, her album “Expectations” is getting hyped up for a reason. Queer people need love songs too. They deserve songs to dance to, songs that really express how they feel about the person they have feelings for. Kiyoko may not be a household name yet, but someday soon I have a feeling that she is going to be.