It feels as though Hayley Kiyoko is about to have a moment.
The LA native paid her dues alongside Tinashe in ill-fated girlband The Stunners, who opened for Justin Bieber on tour in 2010 but never scored a hit, and has acting credits in numerous US TV shows (The Fosters,CSI: Cyber, etc). But since she dropped her 2015 single Girls Like Girls (which she calls “a female anthem for a girl stealing another guy’s girl”) and started speaking openly about her experience as a gay woman, her music has really blossomed.
These days, some of Kiyoko’s fans are so shook, they’ve started calling her a “lesbian Jesus”.
This brilliant debut album is a kind of female companion piece to Troye Sivan’s Wild and Years & Years’ Communion: a cool, contemporary mainstream pop record which explores inherently queer themes, sometimes subtly and sometimes more overtly.
“You wanna be friends forever? I can think of something better,” Kiyoko sings on Sleepover, a sophisticated and ultra-relatable track about falling for someone who’s probably unattainable because they’re probably straight.
The super-catchy Curious sees Kiyoko question whether an ostensibly hetero friend is queer-baiting her. And on HLNY, she positions herself as a direct rival to the rubbish boyfriend of a girl she likes. “He’ll never love you like me,” she sings in a deliciously matter-of-fact tone. Go girl!
Expectations feels like an important record because, Shura and Tegan and Sara aside, it’s still rare to hear pop songs sung from a queer female perspective. But it’s also an incredibly exciting listen because it’s catchier and more adventurous than most pop albums.
Kiyoko’s take on electro-pop tends to be swirling and sultry, but she and her producers aren’t afraid to experiment a bit. The stunning Mercy / Gatekeeper starts off like Lana Del Rey doing disco before morphing into a Prince-style robo-bop.
Closing track Let It Be is an anthemic electro-country tune; Under the Blue / Take Me In has bassy R&B beats. The dreamy Molecules sounds like the sort of thing Taylor Swift might make if she ever rocked up to the recording studio high.
A couple of tracks in the second half aren’t quite so dazzling, but they’re easy to overlook. Most of Expectations is so compelling that by the end, you’ll think “lesbian Jesus” isn’t quite such a ridiculous title for a 26-year-old pop singer after all.
Gay Times gives Hayley Kiyoko’s Expectations – ★★★★★