Pride

A Grand Finale: Hayley Kiyoko Performs A Pair of New Singles to Cap Off Billboard’s 2021 Pride Celebration

The singer-songwriter-director illuminated the stage with renditions of "Chance" and "Found My Friends"

Bravery has always been part of Hayley Kiyoko’s story. The international pop star knew she identified as queer from a young age and struggled to come out to the people around her, fearful of what the reaction would be or if she could find happiness. “Nobody wants to be brave,” she lamented to a packed house at Billboard’s 2018 Women in Music ceremony. “We’re all terrified. I am the artist that I am out of necessity.”

Bravery through necessity has defined Kiyoko’s meteoric growth over the last decade. She’s become a tireless advocate for LGTBQ+ rights and has given her global community of fans a confident, relatable queer icon to which they can look up to. That relatability is vital. The personal stories that Kiyoko transforms into euphoric, kaleidoscopic pop tracks define her artistry.

Advocating and fighting for LGTBQ+ rights has also led Kiyoko to be a visible, vocal presence during annual Pride celebrations. She recently partnered up with Billboard and Facebook to perform live versions of her new singles “Chance” and “Found My Friends,” two tracks that showcase Kiyoko’s intimately personal storytelling.

“Chance” is pure yearning set to a pulsing, joyful beat. Kiyoko sings about the pain of unrequited love and how desperate the feeling of wanting someone who doesn’t want you back can be. “I was a no, never maybe / I knew she’d never take a chance on me / How did it go? We’ll never see / I knew she’d never take a chance on me,” she writes. It’s a familiar depiction of heartbreak that shows just how deft Kiyoko is at making such deeply personal songwriting feel universal.

“Found my Friends” sees Kiyoko turn her focus to her community of friends, the people she turns to when she needs love and support. The lyrics bound between feelings of loneliness and exhilaration, and Kiyoko’s artful honesty about isolation is immediately resonant with anyone who has needed to lean on their friends in times of need. “Swimmin’ deep in a pool filled with swirlin’ thoughts / Come on, stay, be my company / I see someone else talkin’ to themselves / Maybe it’s a mirror lookin’ down on me,” she sings. The song is a personal portrait of seclusion, solitude, and community that only Kiyoko could paint.

Whether it’s her close-knit group of confidants or the legions of LGTBQ+ fans that she’s amassed across the globe, community is a vital part of who Kiyoko is as both a person and an artist. In a forthcoming short film that documents the days leading up to her Billboard Pride performance, her friends’ pivotal role is made abundantly clear. From motivating pre-show video chats via Messenger, to assistance deciding on an outfit to hit the stage in, Kiyoko shows that it takes a village to cultivate a career as decorated as hers.

Renae Wootson
Hayley Kiyoko and best friend Marla Vasquez

Pride is rooted in bravery. The courage of LGTBQ+ activists 50 years ago launched the community’s cause into the mainstream, and you can feel those decades-old ripples propelling the cause today. Being brave isn’t easy, but for artists like Hayley Kiyoko, it’s the only thing they can be.