(Image via teenvogue.com)
It feels as though Hayley Kiyoko came out of nowhere. All of a sudden, you hear the thudding beat of her lead single, “Curious” and it pulls you in right away. Who is this girl? And what is she doing to me?! Little did we know, Kiyoko was going to blow us all away with a debut album worthy of all the recognition in the world.
Opening with an enchanting overture, reminiscent of an M83 production, “Expectations (Overture)” leads the album into the extravagant and expressive work of art it is. Strings and chorus-like vocals add euphoric elements that feel almost church-like. Which kicks straight into the funky “Feelings”. A stand out single dealing with the transparency of human emotion. Kiyoko confidently sings, “I over communicate and feel too much. I just complicate it when I say too much.” While the song structure remains basic like any other pop song, the funky guitar adds a new groovy layer.
While the pop scene is supercharged with “boy crazy” female leads, Kiyoko remains true to who she is. She’s a lesbian, and proud of it. “I’m not over-sexualizing my music. I make out with women because I love women, not because I’m trying to be sexy. That’s not to turn heads — that’s my life” she tells Refinery 29. Teaming together with one of the most honest women in the pop/R&B genre proved Kiyoko can secure any song she wants (listen to the fun Kehlani assisted “What I Need”).
Songs like, “Mercy/Gatekeeper” and “Under the Blue/Take Me In” prove Kiyoko’s artistry in a genre that is so often saturated to the point of overconsumption. “Mercy” cranks out dramatic muffled vocals that almost feel like an inner monologue. “All I wanna do is cry and bang my head until I start to fly” spin out of Kiyoko’s mouth as she describes a turbulent time. The song feels like an emotional rollercoaster, up and down, as if she couldn’t decide how the song was going to end. Perhaps mimicking what she felt in real life. The words, “just give me mercy, cause I keep hurting, hurting” repeat throughout the song, adding to its raw honesty.
Each track feels different from the rest in a way that’s indescribable. “Molecules” and “Let It Be” close this album in such a delicate way. “Molecules” deals with a shift in perspective about a friends tragic loss. On Instagram, Kiyoko said “Let It Be” is about “Accepting the bravery to move on, and start a new beginning, even if it’s hard.” She then went on to say, “Sometimes good things come to an end and you don’t know why or how it happened. But there was a reason for that chapter in your life. You grew and learned to love. It’s hard to follow your heart and listen to your gut when you know things won’t work out.”
Expectations exceeded all my expectations. It serves a hot dish of fun, honest, and raw pop. Something the music industry should be admiring and honoring very closely.