“I had a bad day a few weeks ago,” Hayley Kiyoko tells Zoom from her home in Los Angeles in the days leading up to the album’s release. “I performed 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 helps me, and I’m excited to share it with my fans and hopefully it can help them.”
Four years after bursting onto the music scene with her debut album Expectations, Kiyoko returns with her second album Panorama, a collection of songs that help remind her of how far she’s come and who she is, and now that she -finally came out, she hopes to do the same for her die-hard fans (who are so devoted they’ve dubbed her “Lesbian Jesus”).
After the release of Expectations in 2018, Kiyoko was worried that she wouldn’t know how to write a sequel. When it came time to start working on new songs, she didn’t have an agenda for what she wanted the second record to sound like.
“Which was honestly helpful because I wasn’t lying about trying to do something,” she says. “I really didn’t know what I was going to do. So, I really had that creative freedom on the second album like, “Okay, what does this sound like now? What do I sound like now and where are we headed?’ So making this and writing this album has been a journey for me as well.”
Kiyoko says she named the album Panorama before even writing 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 celebrate and acknowledge that. For me, as someone who is definitely very career-focused, you can kind of forget to enjoy the view and enjoy yourself,” Kiyoko explains of the concept. “Sometimes things get really challenging and difficult and you’re like, ‘Oh well, I’m just going to have fun when I get here.’ And that was a lesson that I really learned during the pandemic is to really be present and recognize that even going through slumps or feeling lost or not knowing what the next step is, I’ve overcome so much to even get to this point. Naming [the album] “Panorama” was a great way to remember that lesson I learned.”
In the interval between her first album and her second, she experienced various mental and physical health issues that caused her to lose her sense of self. “Panorama” serves as a 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 regain my confidence? How do I get my confidence back? How do I start loving myself again?’ All these paths I had to rebuild,” explains Kiyoko. “And so I wanted to write a song that celebrated this clarity that I found. One of the lyrics is “Today’s the day, I won’t pass/I’ll say ‘Wait, did you see the view?'” And it’s like saying “no, we won’t live another day without acknowledging where we are”.
The album’s first single dropped 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 of the video revolved around a lesbian show, The Bachelorette, and it marked both the confirmation of their relationship and Tilly’s coming out.
“It was funny. I was sitting with my friend 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 make a music video for The Bachelor?'” Almost as a joke because I’m obsessed with ‘The Bachelor’ and also from dating shows in general,” explains Kiyoko of the video’s genesis. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God. This is genius. So I immediately went to plan it, and then while we were planning it, you I said, “Do you want to get out of the limo at the very end? Is this the time? We didn’t really talk about it too much—she just said, ‘Yes.'” In my mind, I said, “Oh, this is a really big deal.” but I didn’t want to make it feel like a big deal.
“I’m just so thankful that her fans really came out for her and showed her the love and support that she deserves,” Kiyoko continues, “because it’s always really nerve-wracking to share your authentic truth with people. Some people have a lot to say and I’m glad everyone has such positive things to say. The music video itself, directing this video was so much fun, with 15 odd contestants. I mean, our cameras were 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 see which lyrics hit home with her fans—especially the ones that get them roaring back at her on stage.
“[Releasing the album] is a very cathartic, emotional thing, especially after four years since my last album,” says Kiyoko. “It just hits different. 2022 struck differently.”