Hayley Kiyoko - Expectations
If you are of a certain age you may have no freaking idea who Hayley Kiyoko is. You needed to have the Disney Channel on from dusk till dawn as a kid for her to be etched in your brain, but as of late She has made more waves for being one of the only openly gay pop stars. There is a ton riding on this album with the gay community already referring to Hayley as "lesbian jesus". Expectations then becomes a perfect title for all the people counting on Kiyoko to represent the marginalized in popular culture, maybe they've never heard a MUNA track or something. From the firsts moment it feels like Kiyoko is putting a lot of stock in this album being a real epic; the first track is called an "overture" for really no apparent reason. Yet it spills into a fiery pop song very of this moment with trap flourishes around her breathy voice. The production has these little bright electronic elements on every track that are really quite nice and add a dimension of fun to what is otherwise a pretty weighted album. It feels like Kiyoko wants this record to be important without really making it all that important. You don't feel transported and the storytelling is surface level at best, but the songs make you feel like they should say something more. "Mercy/Gatekeeper" is this electronic soaked swarm of a track but the lyrics are really mindless pop masquerading as high minded. She is so focused on living up to the expectations that she forgot that a pop record is also supposed to be fun. You can only imagine the number of hands stirring this album as Kiyoko's label has put some serious muscle behind this release, but it ends up being a bit of mishmash of exuberant highs and lows that land with a major thud.
This truly feels like an album that too many people have pushed themselves onto. The songs with slashes for really no apparent reason, the intro, the interlude all contribute to this idea that Kiyoko is trying to be Lorde rather than Carly Rae Jepsen, but ends up being neither. This record feels like it's what pop music is supposed to be in 2018, but revels little about what the young artists point of view really is. None of these tracks feel personal at all, just generic pop for generic fans. "Wanna Be Missed" also has this pacing that goes from quick to crawling in almost an instant and makes the track feel so oddly constructed. All of Expectations feels like it wanted to be a unified record and have a distinct and apparent narrative, but it never fully comes together and feels like a bit of a mess. Her features Kehlani and HNLY all but vanish on their tracks sounding to similar to each other. "He'll Never Love You" also uses this ridiculous dramatic pause when Kiyoko dares to say the word "shit" that feels so childish and silly. The thing that sticks out the most about this record though is just how incredibly forgettable it is. There is not a single track that makes you want to go back and listen, everything flows in one ear and immediately out the other. The whole lead up to this album and pardon the pun but the "expectations" are far to great. Kiyoko would do so much better with some space and freedom to show us who she is rather than who the record company wants her to be. Hopefully they are two different people.
5.5 out of 10