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Exclusive: How Hayley Kiyoko's Groundbreaking 'Expectations' Is Just The Beginning

Hayley Kiyoko

Photo: Amanda Charchian

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Exclusive: How Hayley Kiyoko's Groundbreaking 'Expectations' Is Just The Beginning

Get to know the rising pop superstar – and video director – behind "Curious" and "What I Need" and find out how one hit blended into the next on her debut album, 'Expectations'

GRAMMYs/Sep 25, 2018 - 11:42 pm

Singer/songwriter Hayley Kiyoko is breaking the pop music mold in a whole new way. She has managed to become a fearless DIY success story, a resourceful and innovative video director, and a proud member and leader of the LGBTQ+ youth community, all without sacrificing an ounce of the irresistible smash hit sweetness. Simply put, her story is her own, unflinchingly real and yet universally relatable.

After several EPs generated a well-earned buzz surrounding her work, Kiyoko's full-length debut LP, Expectations, arrived earlier this year. Drafting on the infectious candor of "Curious," the album has brought her brand of pop mastery to the masses with authenticity, integrity and charm. Her latest single, "What I Need," features GRAMMY nominee Kehlani and its video, which was directed by Kiyoko, traces an epic story of love and independence.

Kiyoko has traced her own epic journey of late, wrapping a sold-out headlining tour followed by a run opening for Panic! At The Disco this summer. We caught up with the 27-year-old rising star in the midst of her whirlwind ascension to talk about the songs – and videos – of Expectations, the thrills of the road, how she likes to unplug, and what's next. 

As a very personal album and a concept album, how did your full-length debut Expectations meet your expectations?

I set my expectations very high for Expectations, my debut album. It's something that I'm really proud of, because I really enjoy albums that you can listen to from start to finish, and just push play, and not skip a song. And that was my goal, going into this album. And on top of that, keeping it visual, because I direct my own music videos. So I wanted people to feel that experience as they hear it. And have everything kind of run into one. So I'm really proud of it.

The video for "What I Need," which you directed, had me on the edge of my seat, totally invested. So how did you develop the narrative?

I've always wanted to have kind of this fun, road trip, friendship adventure video that really tests those boundaries of love and friendship. And I also had never really had a video that showcased that struggle of parents, or that adult role model not understanding their daughter or child and vice versa. And so the opening scene of the music video is both of them kind of bumping heads. Just being like, "I don't get you." And like, "Why is this so hard?" And I feel like so many people can relate to that. And so I just kind of built the story off that concept of trying to have, not only kids, but adults be able to relate and connect to the video.

How does directing feed your artistic spirit differently than music?

I love directing, and it's something that I realized is definitely a huge part of me. I think, as an artist who writes their own music and is so creatively involved in all of the decisions, you become a director of your career… for me, it was very natural to become a director. I became a director because I couldn't afford the directors I wanted… Being unsigned, and trying to become noticed, you end up just doing everything yourself. Because it's like, "well, if I don't have the opportunity, I'm going to create it." And that's kind of been my journey as an artist through and through, just doing everything on my own and not taking "no" for an answer.

And I love the challenges that come with music videos, and things going wrong, and having a vision for one thing, and losing a location, and having to adjust it. But what's so cool about directing is that, all of these things can change, but it's about keeping that core emotion and that core story.

"Curious" put the album on the map earlier this year. Do you remember writing that song? Can you tell us where it came from?

"Curious" is a song that covers a lot of my experiences with women, where… I want to make sure that I'm not a part of a game, and these feelings are true and real. And I feel like everyone can relate to that, that feeling of like, "is what you're saying to me true? And are you talking to someone else? And do you feel the same way towards me, towards someone else? And are you serious? I'm just curious, is it serious?" And that's kind of where that whole concept came up. And it's a really fun song to perform, and the music video for that is really based off of my life.

The word "curious" takes on a double meaning, which is part of why it's a great song. What does that word mean to you?

The word "curious" has always had a negative connotation to me, just because, when you're curious, you're unsure. And that kind of blends into my next song, "What I Need" is for you to be sure. Wow, I just put that together [laughs]. I think we all want to be with someone who knows what they want and knows who they are, and I think we're all searching for that. We're searching for purpose. We're searching for acceptance, relatability. And so I try to implement that as much as I can within my music and my storytelling.

Authenticity can be a rare trait in the pop music realm, and it seems like your fans, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, strongly identify with your voice because it is so authentic. What has that community  meant to you, in terms of your art, and then also in terms of your career?

Thank you. It's very interesting because I grew up without a community. I grew up not knowing, really, anyone like myself, that liked girls as well, or really liked anyone different. So it's been this crazy thing where I've found my purpose through my fans. I've found my community of people through my fans and through my music. And they've stood up for me, and kind of been like, "Hey, we're here. You haven't known where we've been your whole life, but now, in your mid-20s, here we are, shining bright." I have a lot of people thanking me for validating their feelings. But for me, I get emotional because I'm thanking them for validating my feelings. I put music out, really concerned whether I could be in the mainstream pop and be respected and heard. And they validated that by showing up to these shows.

Indeed. You've sold out some very big cities on this tour. What's it like to be onstage and see and hear your fans singing your words back to you?

It's really amazing to hear all my fans sing every single word, because it reminds you that these words are more than just words, they mean something to them. And they're telling a story to them, and they're helping them through something, whether it's laughter or sadness. It's really awesome to get to share that and have something in common with one another.

You have a very busy life right now. What's your favorite escape when you get some time to yourself?

I love nature. This is my first year really living on the road. I'm normally in my house, hoping someone's going to listen to my song. But I love walks, I love trees, I love water. It just kind of takes me out of my element. And when you listen to my album, you'll hear water throughout the album, because I find nature very centering. And it kind of resets your emotions. That's what it does for me, and so I wanted to do that in my album.

What are you working on next?

I'm really excited for the rest of this year, because I'm getting to tour Europe for the first time. For me, as an artist who had been unsigned for so long, [and recently] became signed, [I] wasn't really brought on tours, had to headline my own shows. And so to be able to finally get across overseas to Europe, and get to reach those fans and get to know that I have fans over there is very exciting. So I'm doing my first European tour in the fall, and then I'm going to be, hopefully, doing as many music videos as possible with this album and continuing to push that and seeing where that takes me.

Have you started thinking about a follow up to Expectations yet?

It's interesting, because most of the time, people are like, "I don't know what's next for me, or what I'm going to say." And this debut album for me is really just the beginning. Because for me, it was catching up with my life, and accepting who I am, and understanding that. So I'm really excited for my sophomore album, and future albums. Because I have so much more to say, and I feel like this is just the beginning.

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Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY

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Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY

Director Allen Hughes' four-part documentary takes home Best Music Film honors for its portrayal of the unlikely partnership that changed the music business

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 02:09 am

The team behind The Defiant Ones celebrated a big win for Best Music Film at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The crew awarded include director Allen Hughes and producers Sarah Anthony, Fritzi Horstman, Broderick Johnson, Gene Kirkwood, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Michael Lombardo, Jerry Longarzo, Doug Pray & Steven Williams.

In a year rife with quality music documentaries and series, the bar has been set high for this dynamic category. The Defiant Ones is a four-part HBO documentary telling the story of an unlikely duo taking the music business by storm seems better suited for fantastical pages of a comic book, but for engineer-turned-mogul Jimmy Iovine and super-producer Dr. Dre, it's all truth.The Defiant Ones recounts their histories, their tribulations and their wild success. These include first-hand accounts from those who were there in Iovine's early days, such as Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, as well as those on board when Dre and Iovine joined forces, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.

The competition was stiff as the category was filled with compelling films such as One More Time With Feeling, Two Trains Runnin', Soundbreaking, and Long Strange Trip. 

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Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs

Photos: WireImage.com

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Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs

Also see James Fauntleroy, Reba McIntire, Latroit, and more after they stepped off the GRAMMY stage

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 05:39 am

What do artists do the moment they walk off the GRAMMY stage from presenting, accepting an award or performing? Now, you can find out.

Take a peak at Album Of The Year GRAMMY winner Bruno Mars, 60th GRAMMY Awards Host James Cordon, Cardi B minutes before her electrifying performance of "Finesse," and more!

Also see Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY winners Portugal. The Man posing with their first career GRAMMY Award, Best Roots Gospel Album GRAMMY winner Reba McIntire right after she walked offstage, Best R&B Song GRAMMY winner James Fauntleroy, Best Remixed Recording GRAMMY winner Latroit, and many more, with these photos from backstage during the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Glenn Danzig

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2017 - 05:28 am

There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.

The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.

This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.

"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."

Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.

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Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs

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Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs

The Hawaiian native takes home Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like" at the 60th GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 08:11 am

Feeling the 24K Magic, Bruno Mars' successful progress through the categories he's been nominated in at the 60th GRAMMY Awards picked up another one at Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like."


Christopher Brody Brown and Philip Lawrence co-write with Mars under the name Shampoo Press & Curl. The other winning songwriters for Mars' hit tonight in this category are James Fauntleroy and production team "The Sterotypes" — Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and  Jonathan Yip.

For additional "Finesse" on stage at the 60th GRAMMY Awards, Mars was joined by Cardi B for a reprise of their 148-million-views hit remix.

The Album Of The Year GRAMMY Award wrapped up the night and wrapped up Bruno Mars' complete rampage through his six nominated categories — now six wins.

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