Music

How Hayley Kiyoko is turning 2018 into #20gayteen

By Hayley Van Allen

Pop-icon Hayley Kiyoko is known as “Lesbian Jesus” for a reason: she is. In the past 3 years, Kiyoko has released 6 music videos featuring queer woman and their love interests. She’s singlehandedly providing the queer community with the sapphic content that has been lacking for years.

Kiyoko released her first explicitly sapphic song “Girls Like Girls” along with it’s hit music video in June of 2015. The song and video became an instant hit among members of the LGBT* community. It’s not every day young queer girls get to see themselves in a love story, and so the sweet portrayal of two girls crushing on each other became an instant queer classic. After the video’s immense success (the video depicting the evolving relationship between two girls is about to hit 85 million views on Youtube), Kiyoko released a number of other hit songs accompanied by music videos featuring more queer woman-aligned people. Her most recent single, “Curious”, was released January 11th of this year in anticipation of her first full length album, Expectations. So far, Kiyoko has released three singles that will all appear on the new album, set for release on March 30th of this year. She revealed the cover and title for Expectations on social media while also dubbing the coming year as #20gayteen.

The explicit queer nature of her songs and brand has earned Kiyoko a devoted sapphic fanbase. However, she didn’t always feel so comfortable singing about women in her songs. In an interview with Buzzfeed, the artist talked about her initial fears about the intersection between her music career and her sexuality: “I did not want to be the gay artist, and I talked to my manager all the time, like, I don’t want to lead with that. I didn’t want people to look at me like that’s all I am.” After seeing the joy and enthusiasm caused by the “Girls Like Girls” music video in 2015, Kiyoko felt more comfortable with the idea of starring in her own videos and presenting her own queer narrative. Her next music video, “Cliff’s Edge”, featured her in a relationship with another woman. Since then, Kiyoko has fully embraced her “lesbian Jesus” image.

The three songs released so far on her new album have all focused on her (fictional) relationships with women. Kiyoko directed and starred in a music video about the complicated feelings she has for a friend, entitled “Sleepover”. The dreamy pop song was released with its music video in March of 2017. The second song, “Feelings”, was released in October and accompanied by another self-directed video. The “Feelings” music video is a single take of Kiyoko pursuing a girl she’s interested in. She said of the video, “I want people to watch the video and have it remind them of that first moment — the butterflies when you first get hooked on somebody.”

Her most recent song, “Curious”, is the lead single to her upcoming album. The song was accompanied by another self-directed music video staring Kiyoko. The music video follows her interactions with an ex at a party. Kiyoko plays it cool and by the end of the video she’s moved on from the ex who is clearly still interested, but has also been taking advantage of her. Aside from just being unabashedly gay, one of the best parts of the video is the way it tackles a cliched lesbian trope. The whole “straight girl likes her best friend but is dating a dude and doesn’t want to leave him” archetype is set up, and then Kiyoko manages to subvert the classic ending by leaving the girl on her own terms. The song and video are, in a way, a self-love anthem about not putting up with unhealthy relationships and getting the love you deserve.

Hayley Kiyoko has consistently been making unapologetic, honest queer music videos that resonate with the sapphic community. That’s because they don’t just hint at the lesbian experience the way so many other representations of queer women in the media do. Kiyoko’s videos undeniably portray real, honest to God women who like women. They are illustrating just how universal love and heartbreak can be — normalizing same-sex relationships while also highlighting their uniqueness. In the process, she’s earned a devoted fan base that loves her almost as much as she loves them. So support the LGBT* community’s “Lesbian Jesus” and listen to Expectations on Spotify and iTunes after it’s release on March 30th!

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