21-year-old indie pop artist Conan Gray released his debut 12-track album “Kid Krow” on Friday. After years of singles and an EP, “Sunset Season,” fans were treated to a mixture of catchy melodies, angsty vocals and transparent lyrics about his experiences with heartbreak, loneliness and toxic relationships.
The UCLA student has 1.84 million subscribers on YouTube, and his career took off after the release of his EP in 2018. The EP alternated between quick catchy songs and slower soulful songs — a pattern that perfectly captured Gray’s sound.
In “Kid Krow,” Gray implements sarcastic and chaotic energy with his instrumentals and lyrics, with only a few songs that feature slower tempos and a vulnerable tone. The album’s instrumentals remain loyal to Gray’s previous work, but eventually become repetitive. However, the album stands out with a variety of lyrical themes.
The first song, “Comfort Crowd,” addresses a need for social company. The lyrics embrace the desperate mentality of someone who fears loneliness. The instrumentals in this track embody careless energy, making it one of the less serious themes in the album.
Gray opens up about his unconventional romantic life in the second track, “Wish You Were Sober,” where he sings about a past partner who struggled with addiction. The song highlights both the ideal and nonideal elements of the relationship, with the lack of sobriety being the underlying conflict. Despite a tragic theme, Gray does not abandon his catchy pop tempo.
“Maniac,” the third track, takes the fusion of catchy melodies and angsty lyrics a step higher. The lyrics are directed toward an ex who gossiped about him. Despite all the rumors about Gray being obsessive, they continued to want him back. The lyrics and vocals aggressively claim that his ex was the toxic one.
The 37-second song “(Online Love),” is a slow and simple ballad about a digital romance with a lover he was unable to physically be with. Rather than being critical toward his ex, he’s sentimental about how great the relationship was despite only communicating through text and phone calls. The song also features audio of friends talking about how Gray has been distant, suggesting that his online love was a private one.
Returning to the usual tone of the album, “Checkmate” focuses on Gray who’s had enough of the toxic games that an ex plays with him. The sarcastic and wicked tone that Gray embraces in this track implies that it is meant to be taken less seriously despite his real anger. It’s a fun track for anyone who wants to let off some steam.
Toward the end of the album, “Heather” expresses themes of jealousy toward a girl who his crush likes. Despite understanding that the girl is innocent, he has no choice but to resent her. Gray’s artistic style and soulful vocals shine brighter through this vulnerable slow song than in his angsty songs.
“Little League” thrives on the heartwarming feeling of nostalgia. Contrasting the intensity of his current life, he reflects on how young, wild and free he was in the past.
Gray wraps up his album with the final track, “The Story,” a powerful emotionally driven song about where he is in life right now. He manages to give off a view of the world that is both pessimistic and optimistic. The song does a great job of making sense of a chaotic variety of lyrical themes, as well as providing an insight into the future of his journey.
Anyone who’s been in a bad relationship or experienced unrequited love will relate to this album. Gray comes off less as a celebrity with a crazy life and more as an ordinary teenager, appealing to a younger audience.