But in a session with co-songwriters Owen Thomas and Lily May-Young, Kiyoko was asked a very simple question: What’s something that scares you? In that moment, she came out of the closet to her co-workers, and found her voice. “They were like, ‘All right, if you felt fearless and weren't scared, what would you say?’” she recalls. “And that's where ‘Girls Like Girls’ came from.”
“Girls Like Girls” was unlike anything that Kiyoko had written at the time. While the track maintained the singer’s synth-pop sound that early fans had come to expect, the song’s lyrics delved into her queer identity with a brazen confidence that had remained unseen on previous songs. The lyrics operate as a statement to a man that she’s out to steal his girlfriend from him, as she plainly states that “Girls like girls like boys do,” before adding with a vocal shrug, “Nothing new.”
In the four years since its release on February 3, 2015, “Girls Like Girls” has gone on to become the defining song of Kiyoko’s career -- upon its release, the song quickly gained traction both in and outside of Kiyoko’s small fanbase, as the views on the music video (which was Kiyoko’s first time directing her own work) quickly climbed.
Witnessing those views climb was a shocking moment for Kiyoko: prior to the track’s release, the star had only seen middling success with her music, and was being asked to consider alternate paths to popularity. “People were watching my videos, but I think I only had 9,000 subscribers,” she says of her YouTube channel. “The numbers just weren't climbing, and everyone was telling me to do remixes and covers. I was just like, ‘That's not me.’”
This video, however, struck a nerve. Kiyoko recalls a fond memory of when she first saw how popular the song had become just before a show she performed in Lansing, Michigan. “I was performing for like 50 people, we didn't have a green room, and I was sitting in the trunk of the minivan that we were driving across the country. That's when the video hit 500,000 views,” she says. “That was out of my hands, because it was other people sharing it. That's what was so beautiful about the whole situation, is that ... people felt connected to it.”
Today, the song is still shaping the star’s career path — in December of 2018, the YouTube video for the song hit 100 million views, and in the months since, has added another 13 million. “It's insane,” Kiyoko says, laughing, of the song’s continued relevance. “It says to me that people are learning and growing and accepting themselves. People need that.”