Hayley Kiyoko on Debut Album ‘Expectations’ and Singing About Girls
“I love what I do,” Hayley Kiyoko tells TIDAL. “I love singing about girls, and I love who I am, and I’m proud of who I am.”
Kiyoko — a singer-songwriter, actress, director and dancer — has taken this confidence throughout her creative career and into her next big milestone: her debut album. On Expectations (out this Friday, March 30), Kiyoko continues to tell her story as an artist, a queer woman and someone who has faced health challenges and loss. “I feel like I hit on a lot of different experiences throughout my life,” she says.
Singing about her queer identity, Kiyoko occupies a space in pop that’s often underrepresented or not represented at all in the genre — but really, she’s just singing about her life and the complicated landscape of modern romance. “It’s about breaking stigmas and stereotypes, breaking walls and barriers and normalizing people,” she says. “If I have to put a label on myself to help normalize myself and help normalize people then I will do that.”
There’s no denying that Kiyoko is a refreshing, multifaceted artist and one that’s unafraid to speak her mind. Get to know the rising artist below and stay tuned for her album, Expectations, out this Friday.
Your upcoming album, Expectations, comes out on March 30. Why did you choose that title? What does it mean to you?
I decided to name it Expectations because expectations is my biggest strength and my biggest weakness. Sometimes, it runs my life. I set such high expectations for myself, which is why it’s one of my biggest strengths, and I always try to match those expectations, and that’s why I’m able to do certain things. But because I set those expectations so high for myself and for others, I’m constantly being let down every day — whether that’s through work, girls, myself, health or anything. So within writing the album, I touched on a lot of different topics, and I felt like expectations was really the thread through it all.
You talk a lot about dating and romance in your music. Can we expect more narratives about your love life and its trials and errors on this album?
I feel like I hit on a lot of different experiences throughout my life through different love triangles that I tend to get into and dealing with relationships with girls and whether they love themselves or they love me. I’m always getting myself into sticky situations so I sing about that a lot. I also have a track on my album that covers my concussion that I went through so I talk about health and loss, and I cover a huge span of topics that I went through. What’s cool about my music is that I’ve been playing catch up and discovering who I am as an artist so I feel like this album is really creating and singing about the present for the first time.
Talk to me about your lead single on the album, “Curious,” and the music video. What’s the story behind that, and what was your vision for the video?
The direction of the video is about being tired of someone playing games. It’s fun to play games to a certain extent, but you have to know when to walk away and have respect for yourself. That was the take I did with the video, which was really fun and cheeky.
The song itself is mirroring that whole concept of “are you serious?” and everything you’re doing with me, are you doing it with someone else? Knowing whether someone’s being honest with you or not and honest with their feelings, and questioning that really.
You’ve done so much creatively from acting to dancing to directing and, of course, making music. How does your album represent a new phase in your career?
It’s a milestone. It represents a monument for me because my fans have really helped me get to this point. They funded my first EP. They’re the ones who got my “Girls Like Girls” music video to 500,000 views when I only had thousands of views on my other videos. They’re the ones who got me signed. It’s just been a constant growth and building from, literally, the ground up. So the album is a milestone in that sense of this insanely long journey of just wanting to be heard and respected and listened to and getting that opportunity to have that platform. I’m really excited to have that opportunity for people to hear what I have to say.
Out of all your creative outlets, what art form are you most drawn to?
Music is a great place for making a space for me. I’m able to implement all of those platforms into one. I’m able to direct and be on camera, and I’m able to dance. It’s all of these elements. I love acting as well because that was also an outlet for me to be able to do multiple things. I love outlets that I can multitask in. I’ve always loved music, it’s always been my number one. It just takes a long fucking time to get there. You’re having to create art and a space, and it’s so easy to just jump into someone else’s art but to create your own takes a long time. I’m excited that I’ve found my place in music and my space in directing videos, which I never thought I would be doing in a million years. I really just like to tell stories — my stories and other people’s stories as well.
Your sexuality is a big part of your music and who you are as an artist. Have you always been this open with it, or did you become more open with time?
I feel like I never really wanted to lead with who I liked. I just felt like it wasn’t really important, and then I released the “Girls Like Girls” video and I realized there wasn’t really a person in the pop mainstream that was so open and owned it, so I defaulted into this role of owning it. Not because I didn’t want to, but again, it’s like, we’re just human beings. We’re people. It doesn’t really matter who you like. In this day and age, it does matter because it’s about breaking stigmas and stereotypes, breaking walls and barriers and normalizing people. If I have to put a label on myself to help normalize myself and help normalize people, then I will do that but that was never something that I wanted to necessarily do because no one really wants to be put in a box. I love what I do. I love singing about girls, and I love who I am and I’m proud of who I am. I’m happy with the road that I chose.
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