Lesbian Jesus Rises! Hayley Kiyoko Gets Vulnerable on Sophomore Album “PANORAMA”

This summer really is for the girls, gays, and theys. We’re out at brunches and beaches. Beyoncé and Lizzo came out with new music. Oh, and the second coming of THE Lesbian Jesus, AKA Hayley Kiyoko, happened this past Friday.

PANORAMA is Kiyoko’s sophomore album, following the release of Expectations in 2018. In between that time, she released EP I’m Too Sensitive For This Shit in 2020. The album also follows the recent news of her confirmed long-term relationship with former Bachelor contestant Becca Tilley. The title of her new album is fitting: PANORAMA takes on a more mature, rounded tone. It shows that Kiyoko is more in tune with herself. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the singer stated: “I feel like I know myself more than I ever did”.

The usual pop-synthetic sounds that Kiyoko is known for are prominent throughout the album. It starts with “sugar at the bottom,” a fuck you anthem to an ex-lover who’s now “someone else’s problem.” This confidence and growth from toxic relationships are themes that appear more than once in
PANORAMA.

In “well…“, Kiyoko struts with charm and shows off her newfound growth:

“I’m looking hot as hell…/
And girl I’m gonna flaunt it…/
I know I’m doing well and everyone can tell I’m doing better than
You!”

And, yes, I’m eating it up, absolutely obsessed.

But there are more than messed-up relationships to be found on the album. We all know the “for the girls” music video is inspired by the Bachelor, the reality TV show Kiyoko’s current lover Tilley is well known for. While listening to “forever” and “deep in the woods,” I channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw, and I couldn’t help but wonder if these romantic tracks about deep love are about Tilley. During the chorus of “deep in the woods”, Kiyoko sings:

“I know I met you in another life/
You’re unforgettable/
It’s like you’re my dream, my déjà vu, a ghost/
You’ll be right there wherever I go.”

It’s not confirmed whether or not these songs are actually about Tilley, but let’s be real. These lyrics can make any heart swell, any listener swoon.

Kiyoko has been open about feeling lost and grappling with her mental health. PANORAMA showcases these things and is arguably Kiyoko’s most vulnerable album. In “supposed to be,” she reflects on a failed relationship but doesn’t have the confidence that’s in “sugar at the bottom” or “someone else’s problem.” She wonders what’s wrong with her, why things in reality didn’t play out as what played in her head. The track “underground” starts with Kiyoko admitting “it’s hard enough to wake up” and she’s been “avoiding conversation.” Though these are raw and soft moments, Kiyoko still manages to shine bright and connect with listeners.

“Found my friends”, released as a single over a year ago, is my personal favorite song on PANORAMA. Instead of beating herself up and being her own enemy, Kiyoko makes peace with herself and becomes her own friend. It’s a sweet message that inspires us to treat ourselves with patience and kindness, which is especially important during a pandemic and constant political chaos.

There are moments where the album feels repetitive. Songs like “flicker start” and “underground” take on a far too similar sound and have the common themes of loneliness and internal struggle. The similar sound makes it difficult for songs to stand out and, after listening to the album a second time, I felt the need to skip some tracks. However, none of the songs are bad individually. They’re good to listen to on a walk to the grocery store, at a dinner party with your chosen family, or during a solo dancing session in your bedroom.

All of Kiyoko’s discography holds a special place in my heart. With the iconic song “Girls Like Girls” back in 2015 alone, she paved the way for so many queer artists and helped a whole generation of young queer people feel seen. Music is still dominated by songs of great heterosexual romances; Kiyoko’s songs of lesbian love, heartbreak, and joy disrupt that. As an adult, I still get all giddy inside just from Kiyoko singing about loving other women, because it’s refreshing to hear her lyrics after listening to all the straight love songs on the radio. I can’t stress enough her impact and the importance of her music. PANORAMA, filled with passion, vulnerability, and heart, is the newest contribution to that.


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Lily Alvarado

Lily Alvarado is a queer Boricua who was born and raised in Bronx, New York. Outside of Autostraddle, she works in youth empowerment and development as a literacy educator. When she's not writing or working on a lesson plan, she could be found doing yoga, reading, or mindlessly scrolling through Tik Tok.

Lily has written 6 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. Becca talked about the album on her podcast and said that ‘supposed to be’ and ‘s.o.s.’ are the two songs specifically about her. She said a lot of the romantic lyrics are inspired by her but those songs are the ones that came from specific situations in their relationship before couples therapy.

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