Thursday 5 April 2018

Hayley Kiyoko - Expectations

Hayley Kiyoko - Expectations

“I’m just curious, is it serious?” Hayley Kiyoko questioned on breakout hit Curious earlier this year. It’s a song about a girl masking her queer identity, something the accompanying video makes plain: a young woman at a house party with her male partner, while simultaneously flirting with Kiyoko. It’s fun and frothy and flirty, but we’ve come a long way since the days of Katy Perry dipping her toe into queer culture with I Kissed A Girl. For Kiyoko, this is serious.

‘Expectations’, her debut album, is a bold statement of pride and queer romance. She only wishes others would follow suit. “I only want a girl who ain’t afraid to love me,” she sings on What I Need alongside fellow queer singer Kehlani, “Not a metaphor of what we could be.” On Sleepover she pines for a friend who’s unaware of her feelings: “Sleeping here right next to me, but will you ever mess with me?” Later on He’ll Never Love You she pointedly questions “Girl, why can’t you just be honest – with yourself?”

Above all, though, Kiyoko’s aim is to normalise queer relationships in music. Most of the songs on ‘Expectations’ detail the sort of romantic struggles we all face, whatever your sexuality. On Wanna Be Missed she craves a lover who “can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t breathe without [her]”, while on Feelings she apologises to her crush for having such strong feelings. Her songs are all delivered through catchy electro-pop with a dark R&B edge – contemporary and chart-friendly, she flits between cute flirtations and a harder, more urgent sexual desire. The only difference with most other popstars is her use of female pronouns.

On a couple of tracks she really does get serious, though. Mercy / Gatekeeper deals with depression as Kiyoko draws on her experience of Post-Concussion Syndrome after suffering a fall and concussion on her 25th birthday, the song’s latter half switching tack into a dreamy finale of yearning for the light at the end of the tunnel. The sexy, atmospheric Under The Blue / Take Me In has a similar two-part structure, Sapphic imagery sung over its waves of ecstatic synths, watery effects and bubbling bass. Both tracks are reminiscent of Timberland’s production on ‘Future Sex/Love Sounds’ – lengthy, two-part epic tracks that take pop seriously.

The album eventually ends on a downer – the moody Molecules and the more conventional Let It Be – but until then, ‘Expectations’ is a celebration of queer female love. Kiyoko’s fans have dubbed her ‘Lesbian Jesus’ and here she’s delivered her gay gospel. At the start of the year she declared it “#20GAYTEEN”. With the release of ‘Expectations’ that’s surely true – this album will be heard all year long.


Gizzle’s Choice:
* What I Need
* Under The Blue / Take Me In
* Curious

Listen: ‘Expectations’ is out now.