Saturday, 27 October 2018

Hayley Kiyoko @ O2 Academy Islington

Hayley Kiyoko @ O2 Academy Islington

It's been quite the year for queer artists. Janelle Monaé gave us an exploration of queer black America. Troye Sivan and Years & Years gave us sexy queer confidence. We've had bops, albums and representation in multiple genres from the likes of MNEK, Kim Petras, St Vincent and Sophie.

And then there's Hayley Kiyoko, without whom we wouldn't even have #20GAYTEEN.

The ex-Disney star's pop is aimed squarely at a young audience, as proven by the crowd of teens in attendance. Yet far from bubblegum, her R&B-tinged sound is as empowering as it is catchy. Breakout hit Girls Like Girls sounds like frothy pop but it's a sincere subversion of typical straight pop; tracks like Curious and What I Need are radio-friendly potential chart toppers about embracing sexuality. Every song is a queer anthem. Every song sounds like the last song of the night.

Though predominantly songs taken from debut album 'Expectations', the set also included work from earlier EPs. Clearly written at a more exploratory stage in her career, they border on Disney channel emo teen songs - but they're no less powerful to the crowd.

No matter what she's singing, though, Kiyoko is a popstar through and through. The way she works up the crowd, dances to the heavy beats, struts along the stage with conviction. She is a commanding stage presence oozing confidence, a young woman as comfortable on-stage as she is in her own skin entrancing and empowering a crowd of teens in the midst of finding themselves. It's a superstar performance worthy of far bigger venues, even when the poor sound quality of the Islington Academy threatened to ruin the night.

Not that the crowd cared as they - understandably - chanted "lesbian Jesus" between songs. In fact, their reactions were the most heartwarming part of this gig. A crowd of free-spirited predominantly young queer females holding each other, swaying to the music, waving pride flags in a welcoming space of equality, openness and acceptance. This. This is the future of pop music.

4/5

Hayley Kiyoko @ O2 Academy Islington

Hayley Kiyoko @ O2 Academy Islington