Friday, July 17th, 2015

Hayley Kiyoko – Girls Like Girls

Is there a theme today?


Patrick St. Michel: The syrup-dripping-down-a-wall pace matches the general ho-hum theme, which even Hayley Kiyoko sings it’s “nothing new.”

Will Adams: The combination of wobbly, spiky production and a friendly lilt is effective, but in 2015, “girls like girls like boys do, nothing new” is no revelation. In 2015, it’s easy to find art that speaks to the complex experiences of queer people, and yet here we are, reviewing a pop song that is racking up YouTube views and Upworthy shares when it’s not even daring enough to say anything beyond “homosexuality exists.” The attendant video, which also irons out nuance, follows an annoying trend that places its cast — mostly white, model-thin, gorgeous and have flawless skin — in four minutes of wish fulfillment. A fantasy in the present, without the yucky emotional baggage: the crux of the clip is our protagonist’s revenge on the boyfriend, not the abuse he had just inflicted on his girlfriend, not the consequences of the girls’ kiss and how it will reverberate throughout the neighborhood, their schools, their families, themselves, nothing. We’re meant to say “fuck yeah” as she throws those punches but not think about what it really means. The song and video pander to that crowd who finds it sufficient to leave “IT MADE ME CRY” in the comments and not think about queer issues any more deeply. But when “Girls Like Girls” doesn’t treat its subject matter with much depth, why should its audience?

Cédric Le Merrer: If only it didn’t sound like store brand Sky Ferreira.

Micha Cavaseno: The production sounds like a wall of bass, but the vocals sound like gurgles beneath a giant bubble. And the greatest failing is the concession that “girls like girls like boys do.” All these acknowledgments and attempts to rebuff that still take the blatant pains to give it up to the other audience. Look, at the end of the day, forget me, and never mind them. Do you. While it makes perfect sense to me that the song is supposed to make a scene, it becomes more about the scene than the inspiration. Its not a “as long as its not in my face” that makes me protest, nor is it an “I don’t wanna see this.” I and the many interlopers shouldn’t even be a thought, point blank.

Thomas Inskeep: A solid pop song made more significant when you realize that it’s about young lesbian love: “girls like girls like boys do, nothin’ new.” Its video is a 4:30 indie film, and a real gutpunch. The song could use a little more chutzpah. 

Rebecca A. Gowns: The chorus alone — “girls like girls like boys do, nothing new” — is an emotional rollercoaster. An exclamation, a compromising analogy, then brushing it all off as if it’s not significant but a part of life. The lyric sums up coming to terms with being attracted to girls as a girl — especially as it’s repeated over and over again like a self-analyzing mantra. The kind of thing that comes to you at 2 a.m., like another line: “I’m real and I don’t feel like boys.” The music slinks and pounds, blending desire with a slick pop production. But beneath the sheen, the verses are laced with threats towards the status quo (those damn hetero boys); the words prick but seem less like things that have been said and have happened and more like a part of the narrator’s expanding night-fantasy. Not only will she kiss a girl, but the girl will be a damsel in distress, and to get to her she will tear down walls, steal thunder, become a dark cloud. Fine, normal, nothing new. Until the morning.

Alfred Soto: The singsong chorus has the effect of explaining matters to idiots, and I can imagine Kacey Musgraves tiring of the acoustic twaddle and adding these twinkling synths. Depending on your political persuasion, “nothin’ new” is either a triumphant statement or a reflection of the tune’s blahness.

Danilo Bortoli: Indeed, “nothing new”, as Kiyoko sings, happens in the song — both sonically and figuratively. The fact that she understands (and masters such realization) that is “Girls Like This”‘s biggest strength. And also why it’s so necessary, even moving. 

Katherine St Asaph: I’m not sure there’s much demand for Lorde played at the wrong tempo.

Ramzi Awn: Just enough punk. Just enough Debbie Deb. Just enough L7. Girls are heavy. Boys are heavy. And apparently, girls like girls like boys do. I buy it.

Brad Shoup: But not as much as they should like steel drums.

Reader average: [8.5] (8 votes)

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16 Responses to “Hayley Kiyoko – Girls Like Girls”

  1. I feel similar to Will here. I actually wrote out a blurb but didn’t submit it because I thought my response was a bit unfair.

    But since you asked (right?), it centred round the thought that same-sex desire is too often framed as oppositional, or even revolutionary, in English-language pop songs, in a way that doesn’t happen with other media like TV. But then which English-language pop songs did I mean? I was being subconsciously selective. And what really made me feel ambivalent is that a lot of people – some I saw while reading up on this – will get a lot from it; a lot of them women, unlike me (hence why I felt dodgy about speaking on Demi Lovato too, /but did anyway/). To me the “nothing new” sounds like a faux-insouciant response to an off-screen strawman, and it grates, but knowing how different it could be for other people made me feel bad. And all this is without even mentioning the peddling of crossing-lines and freaking-out tropes.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Scott. Upon reading these other (fantastic) blurbs I do feel a bit bad about my take being a bit self-serving and overlooking the double standard of queerness for women vs. men (at one point I wondered if we were meant to parse the lyric as “girls like girls like boys do (like boys)”). I don’t doubt for a second that this song means a lot to some people, but it didn’t quite do it for me because it didn’t strike me as a realistic narrative (seriously, how do none of these teens have acne).

    I wrestled a lot with my score because I do like the music and production (Cedric’s Sky Ferreira comparison is quite apt), but the video put me off a lot for the reasons I mentioned above. Aspects of the song certainly did too; I didn’t understand why the bulk of it seemed directed at the boyfriend. The one line that really struck a chord with me was “don’t tell me what I feel, I’m real and I don’t feel like boys,” because it works as a retort to anyone.

  3. Thank you Scott and Will! Good conversation w/r/t this song.

    I wish more ladies had blurbed this :(

  4. I mind the “nothing new” way less than the music, but I’m also hetero, so YMMV

  5. This song is a little weirder than is communicated in these blurbs. There’s just something to it. Doesn’t really sound like Sky Ferreira, doesn’t really sound like Lorde. It’s awkardly delivered, that’s what I hear first, it’s a little cheap, then there are pieces picked from obvious, big pop formulas of the 80s or 90s. The bass doesn’t fit, but it does, and the song lacks the impression of being a calculated ‘cool’ pop song, jumping on trends — it’s more naturally fumbling for answers, tripping over things and making a mess. An intriguing song. I’m not sure what I really think of it yet, but despite the awkward approach to this subject, or perhaps because there too hayle and her co-writers feel like they’re fumbling for the right words, I had it on repeat for half an hour after first listening to it. Good blurbs on this by Rebecca and Danilo


  7. Wow rude.

    Not the tumblr post — people should feel how they feel and express it how they like — but I’m guessing she wrote a tumblr post instead of leaving a comment for a reason. Do you tag people in replies to subtweets too?

  8. oh.

  9. xx

  10. The reason presumably being that she’s starting a conversation in another context with other people, and didn’t particularly feel that it’d benefit from having Will as part of it (accurately, based on his response)?

  11. I mean I probably would have had a more substantial response than “oh” had the conversation been directed at me and it weren’t 24+ hours after the fact.

  12. Yeah Will, but what is your response? She makes a hell of a lot of good, very accurate points. Since you seem to be ignoring the post, I’ll outline some for you:
    You are not the target audience, there is so little queer media (even in 2015) that saying there’s a lot of it is laughable and downright inaccurate, you have no experience with homo- or bi-phobia, you contradict yourself in your statement, and there are so many things you don’t seem to understand about queer issues that the fact you think you can speak about those who do is just rude. Kelsey Chow and Hayley Kiyoko are not white, fyi, and it’s rare for /any/ music video to not have attractive actors in it, so if that’s something that throws you off then you’d better be complaining about all music videos and not just this one. You think the main point should be how the girls will affect everyone else, not the fact that they make each other happy.

    And when you are confronted with all these facts, and more, your only response is “oh”? If you still stand by your review, say that. If you understand and accept that she made a good argument, say that. If you understand what she’s saying and just don’t want to admit you were wrong, /say that/. Don’t ignore it by saying it wasn’t directed at you and it came too late. The amount of time shouldn’t matter, and it was still brought to your attention. Respond.

    Oh, and that one line that “really struck a chord” with you? It doesn’t work as a retort for just anyone. It’s specific to girls who aren’t attracted to boys and have had that part of them ignored because they “just haven’t found the right guy yet”. The fact that you don’t understand that just proves Laura’s (the tumblr poster) points even more.

    And Rebecca? It isn’t brushed off, it is significant, and it is a part of life. And threats to the status quo? Are you kidding me? When the status quo is phobic and cruel, I think it’s good to change it. But the song isn’t saying anything is wrong with hetero boys, it’s pointing out that nothing is wrong with homosexuality either. Honestly I’m a little disappointed that you got “heterosexuality is wrong” from “homosexuality is not wrong”. It’s not one or the other. We can live in a world with both. Deal with it.

    Basically, Will, you and some of your peers have no idea about actual queer issues but you pretend you do. The people that criticized the music? That’s fine. You don’t have to like the music. But criticizing the message? When you don’t understand it yourself? That’s where I draw the line. So read your own critics, and actually respond to them.

  13. Ugh.

    Since a bulk of your criticism relies on the assumption that I and some of my co-writers are not queer, lemme just put it out there that I am bisexual.

    So: 1) that line actually does strike a chord with me and 2) you have no fucking place to tell me or my co-writers that we have never experienced homo- or bi-phobia before.

    As I said earlier, I did not feel obliged to respond to Laura because she intentionally excluded me from the conversation – which I have no problem with! (well, except that her frequent use of my name made me a little uncomfortable.) I agree there were some questionable things about my writing that had some bad implications (e.g. I thought saying “mostly white” made it pretty clear that I know Chow and Kiyoko are non-white but I realize it seems to erase them), but if Laura wanted me to know this, why not comment here? Why not find my Tumblr from the sidebar and contact me there? Why not search me up and find my Twitter handle? Laura clearly doesn’t care about my response (unless “dot” is her commenting alias), which again doesn’t really phase me. I really am not a fan of the whole subtweet mode of criticism, and I feel weird talking about her here.

    I’m not going to speak for the other writers you’ve targeted in your comment, Alex, but I don’t know where the fuck you get off telling us that we don’t know about queer issues or what audience we fall into.

  14. What’s with the blithe assumption that writers at TSJ have no personal experience with homophobia or biphobia and thus no understanding of queer issues?

    Like, I don’t flag every review I write with “I am a gay” and I don’t think anyone else should have to, but there are plenty of queer voices at this site and assuming that we’re a straight monolith is pretty gross, tbh.

    I get the desire to not have straight people stray from their lane and talk about queer issues when it’s not their place but … I also am not super comfortable with a compulsory requirement that we declare our sexuality constantly in order to prove our credentials.

    I think in general people here are open to discussion and debate and being called out for being wrong in their interpretations of music, but believe it or not, queer people can have different perspectives on queer issues and the fact that they disagree with you about a particular song or failed to consider things from the same perspective as you or messed up in some other way doesn’t suddenly make them straight.

  15. and to be fair, I have yet to hear this track but I wrote a far more dismissive review of MIKA’s Good Guys this week and while I can understand that there are teen guys coming to terms with their queerness who might find validation from that MIKA song, it doesn’t change the fact that I find it saccharine and trite. I don’t need to rubber stamp approval of any and all positive representations of queerness just because they’re a force for good and I’m queer if I dislike them as music.

  16. I apologize for assuming, you’re right to be upset about that. And I fully understand that not everyone who’s queer will have the same opinion. However, I will say that I’m left a little (a lot) more confused about some of your comments now, and I still find much of what you said to be entirely contrary to the point and the message that the music video was trying to convey. Either way, thank you for at least responding.