Hayley Kiyoko is a new queer pop-icon
Taking queer music into the mainstream
Hayley Kiyoko is the icon the music industry has been missing. The 26-year-old former Disney star is taking the world by storm. She is a role model for young queer women and is representing the LGBTQ+ community, one song at a time. In addition to writing, starring, and directing her own music, Kiyoko is owning her own identity as a gay, female, Japanese pop-star. But it wasn’t like that initially.
At first, she was hesitant about coming out with her music because she didn’t want people to think of her as another gay artist. In 2015, Kiyoko released the music video for “Girls Like Girls,” which tells an all-too-familiar story that people of the LGBTQ+ community can relate to: a close friendship that turns into something more. With an influx of positive reviews, more and more people are falling in love with Kiyoko and her music, and admiring her ability to highlight issues in a community that is often sidelined in the music industry.
Soon after, she began creating personal anthems of what it feels like to fall in and out of love, as heard in her tracks “Sleepover” and “Cliff’s Edge”—all explicitly using terms that promote LGBTQ+ relationships. Kiyoko claims her sexuality with confidence, style, and grace, which is something everyone can look up to.
Today, many queer artists tend to shy away from specifically gendered lyrics. In songs like “I Kissed a Girl,” by Katy Perry or “Cool for the Summer,” by Demi Lovato, the lyrics are often ambiguous and hesitant to suggest the possibility of a female love interest. But Kiyoko’s music has always been and always will be about girls.
“Feelings” is a sultry, upbeat, and catchy song that has parallels to Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” in which the lyrics depict Jackson chasing after a girl. Kiyoko reimagines this familiar heteronormative concept with herself and a girl she is attracted to. Another track that spearheads queer issues is “Curious.” The message of this song talks about two girls liking each other, despite one having a boyfriend. Not only does this showcase vulnerability among girls who aren’t afraid to declare their sexuality, it defines what it means to love yourself. “I’m just curious, is it serious? / Calling me up, so late at night / Are we just friends? / You say you wanted me—but you’re sleeping with him,” Kiyoko sings.
Many of Kiyoko’s songs are unique in and of themselves, but Kiyoko is developing a signature style with the upcoming release of her third EP, Citrine. Throughout her videos, Kiyoko utilizes a multitude of colors and palettes to bring an array of visual aesthetics to her audiences. Combined with the use of thought-provoking lyrics and an upbeat crescendo to the chorus, Kiyoko reinvents a style that is specifically tailored to herself.
Hayley Kiyoko is a force to be reckoned with, and is changing the pop scene for generations to come. Young, adventurous, and quirky, Kiyoko is leaving a legacy for artists to mimic and be inspired by.