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How Britney Spears, The Crown , and Ready Player One influenced Hayley Kiyoko's new album

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The Musical Moodboard is a recurring EW feature where musicians run down the inspirations behind a new album.

In an industry where sounds and trends are constantly changing, Hayley Kiyoko has been bringing something new to the music scene since she burst onto it some seven years ago. The Los Angeles native — known for her fun, pop music that celebrates women and the LGBTQ community — even directed the music video for her 2015 single "Girls Like Girls," a visual that brought the words of her angsty pop song to life in a message that LGBTQ women could feel represented by. Fans got to know her through a series of tracks just like that one on a trio of EPs before she dropped her 2018 debut album Expectations.

"It's about breaking the stereotype of, 'Hey, I'm a girl and I'm just as worthy.' It's about inspiring other women to feel sexy and to feel confident and attractive and worthy of attention and love and excitement and options. That's not something I grew up feeling," Kiyoko told EW in 2019. Expectations hit Billboard's Top 200 chart and garnered positive reviews. In the process, her fans gave her the nickname "Lesbian Jesus."

After a stellar freshmen album, Kiyoko is back with Panorama (out today), an album driven by as much emotion as her first but from a more mature singer. "Panorama is a more refined version of who I am," Kiyoko says about learning how to appreciate life's highs and lows, and learning to love herself. "We wait to get to the top of the mountain to celebrate or take in the view. Why not celebrate the moments when we're climbing?" The singer-songwriter hopes listeners feel "seen, heard, and understood" after listening to Panorama, singling out "Underground" and "Panorama" as tracks about moments of clarity.

EW got some clarity from Kiyoko about the albums, films, and more inspirations behind Panorama.

Hayley Kiyoko Moodboard
Hayley Kiyoko Moodboard

Jive Records; Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.; TREVOR FLORES; DeAgostini/Getty Images; Des Willie/Netflix

1. The Basilica of Sacré Coeur de Montmartre

"When I write music, I see color," the 31-year-old musician explains. That influence is seen in the music videos she directs, even in Panorama's cover art. Color palettes are integral to her process, and for this album, a street artist's painting of The Basilica of Sacré Coeur de Montmartre was a key touch point. "I got it a couple [of] years ago and it's in my bedroom, so I've been staring at it for a few years now," she says. Deep purples, orange, and pink are used in the painting's "romantic," bold sunset, making it the perfect palette for Panorama.

2. Ready Player One and Passengers

Kiyoko says she loves to re-watch movies for comfort, so she often plays films in the background when producing music. While making Panorama, she found herself gravitating to 2016's Passengers, as well as Steven Spielberg's 2018 film adaptation Ready Player One. "That film was on repeat in the studio as we were producing 'Forever' and 'Deep in the Woods'," Kiyoko says about the sci-fi adventure.

The singer wanted to convey a sense of heroism and hopefulness, both of which she found in those stories. Describing it as a "colorful film with such cool imagery," Kiyoko drew inspiration from the abundance of creativity in Ready Player One as Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) traveled through a world full of pieces from a myriad of pop culture favorites including Star Wars and Freddy Krueger. "[It] created space for me to stay creative and open to new ideas," she says. As for Passengers, Kiyoko highlights a scene where Jennifer Lawrence's Aurora is in a pool that flips over as an example of the unique visual storytelling. "[Passengers] has an interesting love story where you want them to be together, but it's so complicated," she explains.

3. Topanga Canyon

Kiyoko wrote the foundation of the album in Topanga Canyon, a mountain community outside of L.A. that gave her space to create. "It's such a magical place. I love being in nature," she says. Kiyoko recalls sitting on a couch, looking at the moon through a big, clear window. "That's what inspired the album, specifically the song 'Luna'," she reveals.

4. Blackout and FutureSex/LoveSounds

Two iconic pop albums influenced Panorama: Blackout by Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds. "Both of those albums were iconic in my mind. They're timeless," Kiyoko says. As it happens, Panorama executive producer Danja worked on both of the albums. "I was very grateful to have him as part of the process and it was pretty cool to have him be my EP knowing that both of those albums inspired me in the past and have stood the test of time in the pop world." Kiyoko appreciates how Timberlake's 2006 album takes listeners on a journey, and she was inspired by the punches of percussion on Spears' 2007 album — all making their way onto Panorama in songs like "Sugar at the Bottom."

5. The Crown

In addition to "Girls Like Girls," Kiyoko also directed the video for her most recent single "For the Girls." A new era of music means a new (and hopefully memorable) visual component — and for this, she found inspiration in The Crown. "I love the cinematography of the show because during a very emotional scene the camera would be a wide shot the whole time [when] normally they do close-ups [of] people's faces," she says of Netflix's historical drama about Queen Elizabeth II's reign, noting how the framing chose to convey the bigger picture of the scenes. That perspective ultimately helped her put together Panorama's collection of songs.

6. Iced Matcha Latte

"I was swirling my drink and trying to get the sugar at the bottom so it would taste better. And my co-writers and I looked at each other and were like, sugar at the bottom. That's a song. We wrote it in 45 min," Kiyoko explains.

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