Musicality – Hayley Kiyoko, Universal Love, Matt Alber, Ariana Grande

Hayley Kiyoko

Expectations

(Empire/Atlantic)

Hayley Kiyoko is not hiding her love of women. She’s so honest about it that her fans have nicknamed her “Lesbian Jesus.” Some have criticized her for her choice of song topics – mainly love and women. To defend herself, she said the situation was comparable to Taylor Swift singing about her relationships with men. After some backlash, Swift sent out a message of support for Kiyoko. Someone doesn’t have to be a lesbian to enjoy Kiyoko’s music. The lyrics are largely general, and the music is pop with some R&B touches. She’s a woman of many talents – an actress and dancer who turned into a pop singer. This seems to be her calling. The album is excellent. It’s meant to be listened to as a whole instead of as individual songs. The way the songs move into one another is masterful. If I’m forced to choose, my favorite tracks are “Mercy/Gatekeeper,” “Curious,” and “Let It Be.”

 

Universal Love: Wedding Songs Reimagined

(MGM/Legacy/Sony)

This collection of remixed classic wedding songs reverses the gender roles that were in the original songs. It’s been a few years since all Americans were granted the right to marry, regardless of sexuality. Before that day in 2015, this album could have been used at a same-sex wedding in only a few states. When I was growing up, I remember, I replaced the “he” in the songs to fit my sexuality. I never did it out loud, though. Now I’m glad that artists like the ones on this album aren’t afraid of doing what I was nervous to do. These tracks feature Bob Dylan, Kesha, Ben Gibbard, St. Vincent, Valerie June and Kele Okereke. My only complaint is that it’s just six tracks. The artists combine their personal styles with the original, so they’re vastly different. My favorites are “Mad About the Girl” and “And I Love Him.”

 

Matt Alber

How High the Moon

(Independent)

Thirty seconds in, and I’m in love. Matt Alber’s voice lends itself perfectly to the style of the Prime Time Big Band that joins him for this album. The songs are newly recorded renditions of classic jazz songs, and the album truly does these songs justice. It sticks to a moon theme throughout; 11 of the 13 tracks have the word moon in the title. Proceeds go to the El Sistema Aeolian Youth Program in London, Ontario, which provides free music lessons to kids. Alber is out and proud as a gay man. He was born in Wichita, raised in St. Louis, and is now based in Portland, Oregon. He’s a true crooner with an impeccable voice. My favorites off this amazing album are “The Moon Was Yellow,” “Don’t Let That Moon Get Away” and “Blue Moon.”

 

Ariana Grande

“No Tears Left to Cry” Single

(Republic)

After three platinum albums, it seems there is no stopping Ariana Grande. Her voice is in tip-top shape. I’ve never called myself the biggest fan, but I cannot deny that her voice is like none other. I knew this song would have incredible vocals, but the combination with the backing melody is what really sold me on it. The bass melody is simple and strong, but there is a higher melody that sounds like bells. It stands out, even though it’s meant to be subtle. She might have gained a new fan with this song. The video is amazing, defying the laws of gravity and physics as she walks on walls and ceilings. Her recent Twitter posts have been upside down, too. Pop lovers are probably already loving it, but if you haven’t seen the video, it’s a must.