A star reaches new levels of confidence
Vicky Greer
16:32 29th July 2022

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Hayley Kiyoko – lovingly dubbed ‘Lesbian Jesus’ by her fans - has taken us with her on a journey since she changed the world with ‘Girls Like Girls’ in 2015. Today, she releases her second album PANORAMA, four years after her debut full-length in 2018. On this new record, we see her reach new levels of self-acceptance and a well-deserved level of confidence that’s been in the works since her debut EP, A Belle To Remember.

Recent single ‘for the girls’ is the leading showstopper of the album, on par with her greatest hits like ‘Girls Like Girls’, ‘Gravel To Tempo’ and ‘Sleepover’ from her previous outings. It’s precisely what Hayley Kiyoko is best at: danceable, summertime pop music that celebrates how wonderful women are.

Although PANORAMA doesn’t quite capture the same magic of earlier EPs This Side of Paradise and Citrine, bubblegum bops like ‘flicker start’ and ‘sugar at the bottom’ show us that Kiyoko hasn’t lost her way with words in the slightest, or her ability to create an instant earworm. PANORAMA also sees her become more experimental, playing around with autotune on ‘underground’ and disco-infused dance pop on ‘well…’.

There’s no doubt that PANORAMA will maintain the cult following that Kiyoko amassed with EXPECTATIONS – her queer parody of The Bachelor for the release of ‘for the girls’ pretty much secured that, reminding us that Hayley Kiyoko has always had a knack for making social media go wild.

PANORAMA marks a huge step in Kiyoko’s self-confidence. It’s hard to believe that at the beginning of her career, she never sang directly about her sexuality for fear of backlash. ‘Girls Like Girls’ was undoubtedly a turning point, a cultural shift that allowed artists to sing directly about their queer identity in a way that was rarely heard in the mainstream. Now, we see Hayley Kiyoko enjoy the world that she has built as she further embraces her own identity, without fear of being over-sexualised simply because she’s singing about another woman.

PANORAMA’s main weakness is that the middle of the album isn’t as memorable as big hits like ‘for the girls’, and we start to lose momentum. Approaching the end, however, we make a return to the vulnerability that made her early records so special. The penultimate track ‘found my friends’, Kiyoko’s ode to her support network, puts a beautiful message at the forefront without compromising that chilled-out, summery feeling that runs throughout PANORAMA.

In the titular closing track, perhaps the rawest moment on the album, we remember exactly why Hayley Kiyoko is such an important musician, and just how much of a joy it has been to go on this journey with her.

PANORAMA is out now.

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Photo: Press/Trevor Flores