“I had a bad day a couple weeks ago,” begins Hayley Kiyoko over Zoom from her Los Angeles home in the days before her album release. “I played the song [Panorama] and it was a great reminder for me. I’ve really been able to build this interesting relationship with the album where it’s helping me, and I’m excited to get to share it with my fans and hopefully it can help them.”
Four years after she burst onto the music scene with her debut album “Expectations,” Kiyoko is back with her sophomore album, “Panorama,” a collection of songs that help remind her of how far she’s come and of who she is, and now that it’s finally out, she’s hoping it does the same for her die-hard fans (who are so dedicated they’ve dubbed her “lesbian Jesus”).
After the release of “Expectations” in 2018, Kiyoko worried she wouldn’t know how to write a follow-up. When it came time to start working on new songs, she didn’t have an agenda of what she wanted the second record to look like.
“Which honestly was helpful, because I didn’t pigeonhole myself in trying to do something,” she says. “I didn’t really know what I was going to do. And so I really had that creative freedom going into the second album of like, ‘OK, what does this sound like now? What do I sound like now and where are we headed?’ And so it was a journey for me as well creating this and writing this album.”
Kiyoko says she named the album “Panorama” before she had even written the song of the same name.
“I wanted to celebrate the highs and lows and loving yourself along the way, and this idea of being able to see the bigger picture and that the journey is the destination and celebrating and acknowledging that. For me, definitely being a very career-focused person, you can kind of forget to take in the view and enjoy yourself,” Kiyoko explains of the concept. “And sometimes things get really challenging and hard and you’re like, ‘Oh well, I’ll just enjoy myself when I get to here.’ And that was a lesson I really learned through the pandemic as well, is really being present and acknowledging that even if I’m going through lows or feeling lost or not knowing what the next step is, I’ve overcome so much to even get to that point. Naming [the album] ‘Panorama’ was a great way to remind myself of that lesson that I have learned.”
In the space between her first album and her second, she experienced a variety of mental and physical health issues, which led her to lose her sense of self. “Panorama” serves as her reminder to herself to appreciate her journey.
“I saw myself separated from who I was, and I knew who I was, but she was so far away and I was like, ‘how do I get there? How do I rebuild my confidence? How do I regain trust with myself? How do I start loving myself again?’ All these pathways that I needed to rebuild,” Kiyoko explains. “And so I wanted to write a song that celebrated that clarity that I found. One of the lyrics is, ‘Today’s the day, I’m not passing through/’m gonna say ‘Wait, have you seen the view?’ And it’s like putting your foot down of ‘no, we’re not going another day without acknowledging where we’re at.’”
The first single video off of the album came earlier this summer and confirmed to the world what had long been suspected: that Kiyoko was in a relationship with former “Bachelor” contestant Becca Tilley. The concept for the video was around a lesbian “Bachelorette” show, and it marked both confirmation of their relationship and Tilley’s coming out.
“It was funny. I was sitting with my girlfriend, Becca, and I was stressed because I was trying to figure out the music video and she was just like, ‘Well, why don’t you just do a ‘Bachelor’-themed music video?’ Kind of almost as a joke, because I’m obsessed with ‘The Bachelor’ and also just dating shows in general,” Kiyoko explains of the video’s genesis. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God. That’s genius. And so immediately I went to plan it and then as we were planning it I was like, ‘Do you want to come out of the limo at the very end? Is this the moment?’ We didn’t really talk about it too much — she was just like, ‘Yeah.’ In my mind I was like, ‘Oh, this is like a really big deal,’ but I didn’t want to make it feel like a big deal.”
“I’m just so grateful that her fans really showed up for her and showed the love and support she deserves,” Kiyoko continues, “because it’s always really nerve-racking sharing your authentic truth with people. Some people have things to say and I’m so glad that everyone had such positive things to say. The music video itself, directing that video was so much fun, having 15 queer contestants. I mean, we just had the cameras rolling and it was just drama and just chaos. It was so much fun.”
Looking ahead, she’s eager to get back on the road, and to see which lyrics hit home for her fans — especially the ones that have them belting back loudly to her onstage.
“[Releasing the album] is a very cathartic, emotional thing, especially it being four years since my last album,” Kiyoko says. “It just hits different. 2022 hits different.”