Most of the hottest summer songs came from artists we all know: Drake, Nicki, Beyoncé, and the like. Hayley Kiyoko, a 25-year-old recording artist from Los Angeles, doesn’t have that name recognition. In fact, most of us only know her from her short Disney Channel career, as Stevie from “Wizards of Waverly Place” and Stella from Lemonade Mouth. But Kiyoko has set herself apart from today’s music norms and burst onto the scene as a lesbian artist who doesn’t shy away from her sexuality in her music.
Her most famous music video was for the sweet and summery track “Girls Like Girls” in 2015. The song gained fame among the online community as a story of two teenage girls going from friends to lovers. After that, her video for “Cliff’s Edge” centered on a more sensual lesbian relationship. Up until now, fans begged for new material with the same themes, which are so hard to find in mainstream media.
This summer, Kiyoko granted these wishes with the “Gravel to Tempo” video, which presented a narrative of a teen (played by Kiyoko) dealing with mean girls at school. The main character learns to embrace her individuality and sexuality even in the face of bullies——and gives them a dance lesson while she’s at it.
Tumblr immediately exploded with the arrival of the hotly anticipated video, praising Kiyoko as “Queen of the Gays.” Though she is not the first artist to claim her sexuality, Kiyoko presents a unique case in the unapologetic nature of her music. When contrasted with the Sad Gay trope in media (a lot of LGBT music, TV, and film focuses on star-crossed, tragically in love gay characters), Kiyoko provides a spot of pure light. Music that focuses on straight relationships has always had its positive tunes. (Think “Cake by the Ocean” or “This Is What You Came For.”) Kiyoko brings that carefree aspect to her music, giving an audience of young lesbians upbeat songs about how great it is to love girls.