Friday, 30 March 2018

Hayley Kiyoko 'Expectations' Album Review

The day has finally arrived. Yes Hayley Kiyoko’s debut studio album ‘Expectations’ is finally here. Being her debut studio album is an important distinction to make as she has previously released 3 EP’s, but ‘Expectations’ is her first full length album. It’s 13 tracks and 48 minutes long of an absolute breath of fresh air.

For a quick recap, Hayley Kiyoko somewhat burst onto the scene with the brilliant ‘Girls like Girl’s’. It’s still a song and music video widely spoken about today, and it feels as though it’s been around a lot longer than its 2 year spell. Another thing to note is unfortunately whilst society may have come a long way since a decade or so ago, the number of LGBT Artists in the mainstream of the music industry is still incredibly small. That’s a problem not just for the industry, but for people seeking the enjoyment of listening to music that they can relate to. Sure the radio’s are full to the brink with catchy Pop songs that we all love to sing and dance a long to, but are a lot of those Pop songs telling stories of LGBT relationships and experiences? No.

Which is why Artists such as Hayley Kiyoko are so important. ‘Expectations’, like all of Hayley’s music is an unapologetically queer album. But I feel what makes most albums, and indeed most music, in the society that we’re living in today so good is Artistic involvement. Songs where the Artists have been involved in the lyrical aspects of the song and in some cases Production aspects, are what I enjoy the most. It makes what I’m listening to more personal, because these are songs coming from the Artists own experience. It also leads to far less generic lyrics and that is always a plus.

It would be difficult to give this album a track by track analysis, given 4 out of the 13 songs were released prior to the album and ‘Expecations (Overture)’ and ‘xx’ are too short in length to really be classed as tracks.

Speaking on personal preferences I love when albums are non-stop from start to finish. I love when one song is going towards its ending, but is blended in with the next stop so the music never stops. It can sometimes feel really abrupt to me when a song has had a great build-up and climax of music, and then suddenly stops and we have around 5-10 seconds of silence waiting for the next track to begin. With ‘Expectations’ that minor gripe is more or less obsolete. ‘Expecations (Overture)’ is the opening track of the album and leaves wonderfully into ‘Feelings’. It is a really neat track and probably sits somewhere among my top 10 favourites of hers, and the music video is absolutely wonderful.

The stand-out track on the album though has to be the duet with Kehlani ‘What I Need’. I’ve already said most of what needed to be said in the New Music Friday, because it is an absolutely superb track. Kehlani’s music isn’t exactly something that I’m familiar with, but this could tempt me to check out some of her music and I think that counts as an extra win.

‘Sleepover’ is another track that was released prior to the album’s release and is among the slower side of things, but still as effective. If you haven’t checked out the music video for this beauty, then you are missing out because it’s as soft and wonderful as the song.

‘Mercy/Gatekeeper’ is one of the albums double tracks. I’m not particularly a fan of double tracks, because I tend to find the individual message of the songs gets lost. Hayley Kiyoko though makes it work. It follows in the footsteps of ‘Sleepover’ in being a slow tempo ballad in the first part of the song, tugging at the heartstrings, and then in the second half of the song steps things up a notch again, before then veering off into another direction for its climax. Songs that take risks, having multiple genres of music all effortlessly blending together and basically delivering a musical experience are songs that I very much adore.

Following on from this is the second of the albums double tracks ‘Under the Blue/Take Me In’. It’s a bit more of a by the numbers song, but it leads well into the excellent ‘Curious’. It’s probably my second favourite song on the album, most definitely joining ‘Feelings’ in my top 10 all time songs, and is again accompanied by a superb music video because if there’s one thing Hayley does better than creating fantastic songs, it’s music videos.

As said previously ‘xx’ is too short to really be described as a song, considering it is only 51 seconds long. It feels more like a brief intermission, finishing the first act of the album and opening the second act, and that is somewhat of a shame because musically it sounds great. ‘Wanna Be Missed’ is probably my third favourite song based on the attitude alone. It’s a Pop/RNB number mixing the elements, and delivering a bundle of attitude as Hayley sings of wanting a previous partner to still want and need her. It’s a genre of post break-up song that I really wish more Artists would explore. ‘He’ll Never Love You (HNLY)’ follows on and at this point if by some miracle your wig is still attached to your head, it’s well and truly gone. It’s a tropical Pop song, following on from the message in ‘Wanna Be Missed’ by informed a former partner the new guy they’re with will never love them the way Hayley does.

‘Palm Dreams’ continues to step up the tempo as the album reaches its finale with a late 80’s/early 90’s Pop number. Following that is ‘Molecules’ that has a fantastic pre-chorus build-up equally matched by the chorus. I can’t explain what exactly about this song makes it so damn good, it just is. The album finishes with ‘Let It Be’. It is always extremely difficult to sort out where exactly which song is going to go where on the album, and particularly deciding which songs are going to open and close an album. ‘Let It Be’ is without doubt my favourite song on the album and the perfect choice for closing. As soon as I pressed play on it last week (it was the final track released prior to the album) I was completely in love with it. The music, the lyrics, Hayley’s voice. It’s all just so completely perfect.

As I mention in my Fickle Friends review recently, sometimes when you wait so long for an album to be released, your expectations can be too high and the album turn out to be really bad. ‘Expectations’ just like ‘You Are Someone Else’ very much doesn’t have this problem. The album has the right amount of up tempo songs, and the right amount of ballads. Lyrically the album is top notch, and accompanied by quality production with the music (There is absolutely nothing worse than great lyrics with terrible music and no-one can convince me otherwise). Hayley Kiyoko has more than delivered 20gayteen with ‘Expectations’.