Citrine by Hayley Kiyoko 🤔 EP Review


Written by Tia

Hayley Kiyoko, singer of the popular, poppy, queer anthem, "Girls Like Girls," has come out with an EP fully dedicated to the wonderful world of "gal pals" (and by that I mean, of course, girls who love girls). If anyone can do these songs right, it's Kiyoko, but Citrine doesn't deliver in the way This Side of Paradise did with its unique, thunderous, sweeping sound. It's an EP for fans craving more lyrics about girls in love and that's a really cool thing, but the music is only a lovely echo of Kiyoko's previous work—and not one that surpasses its originals.

This review may sound critical despite the reasonably strong heart count I've given it, but it's only because I feel like I know what Kiyoko is capable of from her previous music, and she's brought herself up to a standard that I want to see her meet again. I loved This Side of Paradise, so I knew I'd be buying Citrine. But I wanted it to be more memorable than it's turned out to be.

On that cheerful note: Here's my song-by-song breakdown of the EP!

"Gravel to Tempo" is my least favorite on the album. There's nothing bad about it—none of these songs are bad—but I also think it's the least interesting of the five. It's fun to sing along to with easy vocals, a nice beat, and a great message about overcoming the insecurity that hides under your skin and makes you lonely and afraid. It seeks to inspire, but what should be big powerful drops in the music prove to be little more than repetitive words and melodies. The music video is light and fun and suits the song—in that it doesn't feel all that special.

"Ease My Mind" starts with a weird, crying-instrument sound (for complete lack of a better word) and builds into strong vocals. Even though I find the main melody kind of unexciting (and the "doo-doos" a bit dull and typical), I think Kiyoko's voice is at its most fun in "Ease My Mind," playing with affectionate lyrics ("I need you to be here / I need to see you crystal clear / Like diamonds in a coal mine / In the moonlight when you appear") and shifting from impassioned high notes to hungry whispers. It's another light and fun song that's easy to listen to and even easier to digest, but Kiyoko's voice dominates the instrumental in a delightful way, injecting it with fire.

"Pretty Girl" is the most unusual song on the album and dominates with some of the best sounds, beats, and haunting reverb. It's a song for a mood, and if you're not in that mood, it's the wrong song to play, but when you're daydreaming at night, or driving beneath cold white stars, or lying on your bed with a photo of your crush clutched to your chest, then it's the perfect song to listen to.

I feel like "Pretty Girl" can't be compared to the other songs on the EP because it seems to transcend a measurable quality that the other songs fall into so easily. You'll either love it or hate it, but I can't tell you which—because depending on who you are and how you are, it might bore you, or it might sound like magic.

"One Bad Night" is my second favorite on the EP, not because it does anything interesting or unique, but because it does the typical really, really well. It feels like a simple pop song to me—it's fun, it follows melodic patterns and beat drops that suit it perfectly, and its silly romantic lyrics do really good work being both relatably generic and different enough to not be directly comparable to other romantic pop songs.

All that said, I think the music video really elevates the song into something far more complex and interesting. I won't get into the video too much, because it's a different beast entirely, but I will say that I don't think the two are obviously, lyrically connected. So when I say the song doesn't feel far from typical, I definitely do not mean the music video is generic as well.

Watching the music video, I can see the connection between song and visual portrayal, of course, but part of the awesomeness and devastation of the video is how interestingly it twists the easy lyrics into something darker and harder and more difficult to consume. There are linked words and linked ideas between the song and music video, but "One Bad Night" (the song) carries more of a sexy and romantic tone, and "One Bad Night" (the music video) covers the emotional complexity of a different sort of affection—a contrast between words and image that draws the social issues portrayed in the video to the forefront as something very real, and very painful, and very outside most people's minds—although it should not be. One bad night for the girl in the video is nothing like the bad night that the lyrics of the song alone describe. It's not playful or fun. It's a cold reality with a glimmer of hope. And that juxtaposition is what makes this song and video combo work so well.

"Palace" is my absolute favorite on the album. It's a song to scream along to in the car. It's loving and lyrical and passionate and builds up to a beat dropping chorus that will make you want to dance and spin and bounce. It's the perfect end to the EP—pounding, magnificent, opulent—and will make you forget how you shrugged through and forgot all about "Gravel to Tempo." It might seem a bit repetitive at times, but the chorus is so good that you won't mind hearing it over and over again.

Citrine can be downloaded on iTunes and played on Spotify.

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