Review: Hayley Kiyoko’s identity emerges with “Found My Friends”

The+cover+for+Hayley+Kiyoko%27s+latest+single+%22Found+My+Friends.%22

Photo Atlantic Records

The cover for Hayley Kiyoko’s latest single “Found My Friends.”

Amelia Foster, Print Managing Editor

Once dubbed “Lesbian Jesus,” singer Hayley Kiyoko has faded in and out of the spotlight in recent years as the frontwoman artist for queer women. Her position has since been replaced by Girl in Red—though some reject the need for the mantle at all—and Kiyoko’s music career was on the backburner as she dealt with her private life. But on April 30, Kiyoko released the single “Found My Friends” and emerged with a new sense of identity, her art stronger than ever.

Kiyoko is most well known for her romantic songs (“What I Need”) and her confident, identity-affirming ones (“Girls Like Girls”) while the personal and self-reflective ones get ignored and hidden on the albums and EPs, never released as singles—”Found My Friends” changes the game. While the pandemic was rough for everyone, Kiyoko acknowledged on her 30th birthday that “[she has] never felt so proud to have made it and the single reflects her struggles and inner growth.

Similar to Lorde in “Liability,” at first it seems as if the person Kiyoko is singing to in “Found My Friends” is another girl, someone who Kiyoko “wants to dance with… all night,” but when you look closer you realize the only friend Kiyoko has found is herself. As part of an identity where so much of it is based on whether you’re in a relationship with someone, it’s refreshing to see Kiyoko free to just exist in her own space, undefined by others.

Her newfound maturity resonates throughout the lyrics, with the song immediately acknowledging how long it’s been since she released music and how far she’s come since then. The pre-chorus of “I keep on running beside myself / I keep on running, don’t think I’m well” alludes to her health struggles and how she’s learned to depend on herself. It’s a stark change from her days of constantly longing for a girlfriend, and a refreshing depiction of how you don’t need someone else to be whole, even if it feels that way.

The sound of the song itself is thoroughly pop but it’s never aggressive or too bright, Kiyoko’s smooth voice settling easily into the background. I’ve always associated Kiyoko’s music with a long drive to the beach, just something to play with the windows down and the sun slightly burning you, and “Found My Friends” keeps up the trend.

Kiyoko’s latest album was released in 2018, but if her most recent Instagram posts mean anything, she’s gearing up to release another. Kiyoko and her music have been near and dear to me for going on five years now, and “Found My Friends,” shows that that love has no sign of fading.