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Queer Artist Spotlight: Hayley Kiyoko


Hayley Kiyoko, photo courtesy of Billboard

Lesbian Jesus has risen! Hayley Kiyoko is your newest musical obsession who just released her debut album earlier this year. But sadly her music hasn’t gotten that mainstream love and attention it deserves, which is a shame because Kiyoko shows great promise at being a pop artist with longevity.

Kiyoko is maybe more recognizable to some audiences from her work in acting. From my understanding her most prominent TV roles came from her roles on the Disney Channel original movie Lemonade Mouth and on the CBS show CSI: Cyber (how many spin-offs can one show have?). I’m not too familiar with her acting and let’s be real no Disney Channel original movie can ever top the masterpieces that are Cadet Kelly and Smart House.

She’s released three EPs and her debut album Expectations since finding success on television. In doing so she has amassed a loyal fan base and internet buzz around her. Her breakout single “Girls Like Girls” has over 90 million views for the music video and over 30 million streams on Spotify. I remember being unable to escape the song in my suggested recommendations in the summer of 2015. After eventually giving in and watching the video, I liked what I heard. 

I believe a big part of why she has found such success and fans flock to her is that her lyrics are very straightforward and relatable for a young queer audience. She doesn’t shy away from using female pronouns her music and explicitly featuring female leads and love interests in her videos. Thus receiving the title of “Lesbian Jesus” from her fans.

I think she has the potential make a lot of impact with her music and her unapologetic approach to normalizing queer relationships, which shouldn’t be as newsworthy as they currently are. She is also important in queer representation because most prominent queer artists are white. So to have a queer woman of color reach the success she’s managed in a relatively short time span is great.

What is so impressive about what Kiyoko has done in such a short span of time (in regards to her music) is the control she has had over her music and image. A lot of her music videos are either solely directed by her or she has a co-director. So she is putting out her music and deciding how her music should be visually represented. That can be with queer relationships with women ranging from a type of youthful innocence rarely seen outside of heterosexual relationships (See “Girls Like Girls”) to complicated and layered (See “Cliff’s Edge” and “What I Need”).

She can even remove herself from the video entirely and tell a different story. This is seen with her video for “One Bad Night” which focuses on two people’s nights and how they intersect. And one of these stories focuses on a very real situation of a trans women experiencing housing insecurity and street harassment. This is the type of social commentary that needs to be more present in music and for artists who wish to be political and outspoken.

I encourage to check out the rest of her music and respective music videos. Including the recently released video for her latest single, “What I Need” featuring, Kehlani, another badass queer POC.

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