Hayley Kiyoko: The Rightful Queen

By Kamila Daurenova, Contributing Writer

As the first stop of her “One Bad Night” tour, it is no wonder that Hayley Kiyoko’s show on Nov. 2 at Webster Hall’s Studio was completely sold out weeks in advance. After her self-produced music video for “Girls Like Girls” went viral this past summer, the artist has built a supportive and dedicated fan base while being crowned the unofficial title of “queen of gays.” Her eclectic new EP “Citrine” reached No. 2 on iTunes Charts the day it came out, an impressive accomplishment for an indie artist. The show was just like the album — light and full of energy with a focus on self-love and acceptance.

ARIZONA, a trio of songwriters-turned-performers from New Jersey, opened the show. With an upbeat electronic-pop sound similar to Kiyoko’s, the three men charmed the audience with their enthusiasm and modesty. Despite the reserve that can come from a small band whose audience is unfamiliar with their music, they were in control of the stage and delivered their moving lyrics with confidence and emotional depth.

After a stage change and a few minutes of the crowd chanting her name, Hayley appeared on-stage and proved that her breathy and enchanting voice sounds just as good live as it does on recordings. The classic dance track “Gravel to Tempo” was reinterpreted for the night as a piano-backed ballad, bringing attention to emotional lyrics dealing with insecurity as well as asserting confidence and independence.

The audience was given pleasant surprise when the light and airy track “Ease My Mind” was turned into a mashup with Hailee Steinfeld’s “Starving,” leading to an unexpected, yet organic, combination. This was followed by “Palace,” a powerful and moving song about getting rid of people in life that feed off negative energy but still mourning their absence. “Girls like Girls” was a perfect closer, leaving the audience singing and swaying.

The evident energy and enjoyment that Hayley was exuding on stage set the performance well above expectations. Her hair flips and dance moves were perfectly in sync with her beat-driven songs, and the crowd went wild when she took out her fluorescent yellow drumsticks — which matched her nails — for drum solos. Even with long platinum blonde hair and glittery eye shadow, nothing felt superficial or overdone because of the openness, honesty and integrity she exuded.

What sets Hayley Kiyoko apart from other artists is her use of music to propagate self-acceptance, especially within the LGBT community. As the singer held hands with members of the predominantly female crowd, the well-deserved loyalty and dedication of her fan base shone through. And as she said goodbye, Hayley promised to return to Webster Hall in the spring. With the originality of her sound, amazing stage presence, and important message, there is no doubt that it will be Webster’s main floor that she will be selling out again next year.

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