Review: Hayley Kiyoko’s debut album is an LGBTQ triumph

Dubbed “Lesbian Jesus” by her loyal Twitter fans, singer-songwriter Hayley Kiyoko lives up to the name in her debut album, Expectations. The LGBTQ icon challenges the status quo of the “typical” female pop star with her music, style and attitude.

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records.

Kiyoko is a former Disney star- turned pop singer. When most people hear “former Disney star,” it’s hard not to imagine another generic, auto-tuned pop star churned out of the Disney fame machine. However, Kiyoko makes it clear that she’s not anyone’s next Miley, Selena or Demi.

Prior to the release of Expectations, Kiyoko had garnered some publicity with her steamy, creative music videos for singles “Girls like Girls” and “Sleepover.” However, the release of her album is definitely a breakthrough for her music career.

As a standalone pop record, the music, while dreamy and enjoyable, doesn’t exactly push boundaries. However, the message she conveys through her unapologetic sexuality and raw emotion makes the album unique and appealing. Hollywood isn’t exactly filled with openly gay female musicians and Kiyoko doesn’t care — that fact only adds to her allure.

The album’s first song, “Expectations,” serves as a confident and mysterious opener, leaving listeners wanting more for the rest of the album. “Feelings” is a relatable song about overthinking relationships and complicating them. “I walk into this world trying to be nice,” Kiyoko sings. “They say I’ll get hurt if I’m not like ice.”

In “He’ll Never Love You,” Kiyoko reminds listeners that she can treat a girl better than any man (or woman). Expectations ends wistfully with “Let It Be,” which is slower and more emotional than the other songs. It wraps up the record with a sense of calm acceptance about the way things will be, despite them not being what she wanted in the beginning.

With a sensual, edgy sound reminiscent of a mix of Lorde and Halsey, Kiyoko’s sound occupies a space between pop and R&B with a dash of angst. A collaboration with Kehlani in “What I Need” strategically puts her on the map in the music industry, and associates her with a fellow badass LGBT female singer.

Judging from the positive response to her debut album, Kiyoko is only going to get bigger and bigger. With her refreshing authenticity, one-of-a-kind style and extremely loyal fan base, Kiyoko is only going to keep exceeding expectations.