Hayley Kiyoko’s debut album Expectations has big hits – a minute and a half of overture will tell you that. Electropop-y synths and clapping beats lace the narrative of aching heartbreak, the calamity after first love is lost. Expectations has, well, expectations to break free from a music industry stale with heterosexual relationships. Kiyoko’s catchy choruses have aspirations for the mainstream: to carve a gap for queer stories.
Confessing to “over communicate and feel too much” but “know exactly what I’m feeling,” Kiyoko knows she is being played by a girl who is “sleeping with him.” The album excellently portrays the full impact of losing a first love. It feels like a concussion – quite literally “I bang my head” in ‘Mercy/Gatekeeper,’ where in underwater beats we find Kiyoko lamenting: “All I wanna do is cry.”
‘Under the Blue/Take Me In’ feels distinctively inspired by Lorde’s Melodrama with an imposed juxtaposition of two conflicting feelings, which unfortunately for Kiyoko is not as eloquent and lyrically precise as in ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless.’ The bright, positive beats are chart-happy without sacrificing honesty, and Kiyoko is already seeing deserved success as one of a few singers writing openly about lesbian relationships in the industry.
The narrative of self-confidence while drowning in feelings is unwavering, portrayed in the positively addictive “did you take-him-to-the-pier-in-Santa-Monica” stretch in album highlight ‘Curious.’ However, past the ‘XX’ interlude, ‘Wanna Be Missed’ is the last interesting take on the “I will hang around until you want me” message which starts to flop at ‘Palm Dreams,’ a bouncy track that is a little exhausting at this point – making this album about careful vulnerability and emotional intensity, slightly overcooked.
In a nutshell: Expectations brings a valuable focus on complex and intense feelings, but does not move much past this. However, do stay for the gay.