Hayley Kiyoko’s debut album has been a long time coming. With around 170 million YouTube views on less than twenty videos, and only two five-track EP’s under her belt, she evidently prefers quality over quantity. Having been dubbed nicknames like ‘Lesbian Jesus’ and ‘Queen of Gays’ by her fans, she’s held in high regard amongst the LGBT community. Her pervious tracks like ‘Girls Like Girls’ and ‘Cliffs Edge’ all came with visuals that young and old members of the LGBT community alike had not just been waiting for, but also needed. So it’s no surprise that her debut album Expectations certainly has some high expectations.
There will be no complaints after the opening track; braving all her ‘Feelings’, Kiyoko has fashioned a velvety smooth anthem of epic proportion with a delightfully addictive chorus that hooks into the very core of the catchy track. Starting off in a sultry tone which soon breaches into a more confident outburst of everything Kiyoko is undergoing, this dance ready track still has a vulnerable and honest side which makes it that much more relatable. Not only kicking off Expectations in a spectacular manner but reinforcing her status as an electro pop star.
Following on, silky pop duet ‘What I Need’ featuring Kehlani has the vibes of an unsure relationship, a ‘where are we?’ moment if you will. The feisty track has the makings of a top charting hit, classic electro-pop beats and the introduction of Kehlani really amps the track into an energetic flow of back and fourths between the two.
But what really gave fans something to grasp onto in between the release of Kiyoko’s 2016 Citrine EP and this debut album was ‘Sleepover’. Based on scenarios created inside Kiyoko’s head of a relationship that, in real life, isn’t how she wants it and the hurt of a possibly unrequited love, which the potent line “but at least I got you in my head” resonated with Kiyoko’s core queer audience. The vulnerability of ‘Sleepover’, carries on through ‘Mercy/Gatekeeper’ although with a much darker manner. What goes from some almost suicidal sounding lyrics of “bang my head until I start to fly, bang bang I start to fly” to a distorted, dreamy spoken word element during the ‘Gatekeeper’ portion of the nearly 6 minute track. Leading on from this double headed track, straight into another with a vastly quicker tempo; ‘Under The Blue/Take Me In’ has a feeling of discovery and rebirth, hopefully slowly leaving the self-pity and confusion behind. This overall over intense ten-minute segment feels like a mini story embedded in the larger narrative of the entire album.
Moving almost perfectly into ‘Curious’ like stepping out of the sea onto the beach and straight into a party scene, the latest single to be released pre-album release is a massive synth and bass heavy electro pop hit of colossal proportion. Whilst the curiousness behind the track is not the initial attraction to someone of the same sex and thinking “oh this is new”, which has been done before in various mediums. It’s more of a “but is it serious with this other guy?” slightly jealousy fuelled curiousness even though Kiyoko comes across as totally nonchalant in her vocal delivery.
Only separated by less than a minute of interlude, the narrative of ‘Wanna Be Missed’ follows on from ‘Curious’ and the trivial jealousy makes Kiyoko “want to be missed.” But it’s ‘He’ll Never Love You (HNLY)’ that is evidently going to be a massive track amongst the LGBT community from its sensual lyrics about Kiyoko being better for this girl than any man, and the all too familiar story line of falling for girls not yet out or going back to the same old guy; “playing with my fingertips, sitting there biting your lip, trying to kiss. Who are you trying to trick? Why don’t you just cut the shit?” Don’t be fooled by Kiyoko’s girl-next-door looks and loveable charm, this track lyrically unveils a side of sensual confidence that’s so very welcoming.
What feels like a bittersweet love letter to California, ‘Palm Dreams’ in a rather stylistic retro aesthetic, it’s charismatic description of the up’s and down’s of America’s Golden State and how Kiyoko is happy to “hang around until you break me.” The startlingly dynamical ‘Molecules’ unravels a whole relationship down to the simple chorus of “I’ve lost you.” From the first line there’s a sense of weakness in Kiyoko’s voice progressing into a chorus of electro-pop synth almost mirroring the sadness and from the grief of that track to the uplifting spirit of the nest, Kiyoko is about to ‘Let It Be’ in a decisive album closer which holds a rather tranquil introduction into an empowering message of concluding a relationship.
Kiyoko has made a full blown statement of what she can do in past on television shows and films but this right here, the music, is the embodiment of a role model that people want, no, need in their lives. In an album filled with highs and lows, relatable stories and meaningful narratives, the pure truthfulness behind Kiyoko’s debut album is admirable. For someone who already firmly has the hearts of many fans, ‘Expectations’ is only going to definitively cement her place in the music industry, so sit back and watch her diversify the pop charts single handily because it’ll be a scenic view indeed.