After her initial foray into teen pop with the Stunners, Californian singer/songwriter Hayley Kiyoko embarked on a solo trajectory that saw her slowly evolve over three EPs of smart indie synth-pop. This growth culminated on her full-length debut, Expectations. Here, Kiyoko is confident and liberated, presenting a more natural portrayal of herself and a collection of music that is slick, mature, and sex-positive. Taking cues from contemporaries like Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Hailee Steinfeld, Zara Larsson, and Halsey, Kiyoko is bold and assured. At its most interesting, Expectations envelops listeners and keeps the body moving. Immediate standouts like singles "Feelings" and "Let It Be" complement deep album cuts like the two-part "Under the Blue/Take Me In," whose slinky atmospherics and passionate urgency make it a highlight. Kiyoko also doesn't shy away from honestly relating her experiences as a gay woman. The cheeky "Curious" is an endearing gem that chronicles a girl-likes-girl-likes-guy triangle, while the delightful "What I Need" pairs Kiyoko with R&B singer Kehlani on a buoyant track about embracing sexuality. Sometimes, Expectations can be generic, like on "Sleepover" and "He'll Never Love You," which could have been released by any of the aforementioned singers. However, despite this occasional dip into indistinguishable pop territory, Kiyoko's debut hints at untapped potential from a fresh voice with a relatable perspective.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung