After beginning his career on YouTube in 2013, Conan Gray released his debut album, “Kid Krow,” on March 20, exploring the aftermath of a toxic relationship and broken childhood.
Conan Gray, 21, has made a clear transition from upbeat and carefree music to a more raw and angsty sound. “Kid Krow” sounds like a more pop-influenced and upbeat version of Lorde’s 2013 track, “Ribs.”
“Comfort Crowd,” the album’s first track, is the perfect song to listen to when you are feeling neither happy nor sad, but somewhere in between. Catchy in rhythm, the track’s chorus was the track’s best element: “I just needed company now // Yeah, I just needed someone around.”
“Wish You Were Sober,” the album’s second track, captures the pain of being in love with someone who only says it back when they are drunk. Meant to mimic what someone intoxicated might sound like, Gray layered and slurred his vocals in the track’s intro.
One of the most upbeat tracks on the album, “Maniac,” the album’s third track, incorporates catchy vocals describing a manipulative ex. I fell in love with the track's multi-layered drums and synths and the bluntness of Gray’s lyrics, “We had magic, but you made it tragic.”
The first of two interlude tracks on the album, “(Online Love),” instantly reminded me of listening to a Taylor Swift song, using acoustic guitar and beautiful vocals to describe a long-distance relationship. Just over 30 seconds long, the track incorporates painfully honest lyrics like, “I can’t help but imagine what could’ve happened // If you weren’t just an online love.”
“Checkmate,” the album’s fifth track, uses the metaphor of chess to describe having your emotions be played like a game. Sounding very spunky in tone, the track’s chorus relates back to the album’s theme of heartbreak, “When you tell me you love me then you throw me away.”
My favorite track on the album, “The Cut That Always Bleeds,” sounds angsty and dark. Using monotone vocals and slow production, Gray describes the feeling of letting someone break your heart over and over. The song reminded me of Billie Eilish’s breathy vocal tone, and I related deeply to the lyrics, “Say you love somebody new // Then beat my heart to black and blue // Then they leave, and it’s me you come back to.”
“Fight or Flight,” the album’s seventh track, captures the feeling watching someone fall out of love with you, something I can sadly relate to. Over a simple drum rhythm, Gray describes betrayal through his lyrics, “My eyes are welling up // As you admit there’s someone new.”
“Affluenza,” the album’s eighth track, delves into the influences Gray’s childhood had on his relationship to money, as he openly discusses growing up in poverty. Gray describes his conflicted view of money and happiness through the lyrics, “They say, ‘Money can’t buy you no love’ // But a diamond cheers you right up.”
The lyrics in the second interlude on the album, “(Can We Be Friends),” sound confident as Gray frankly asks for someone to be his best friend. Using a solo electric guitar, Gray creates a love-letter of sorts to his fans: “And if anybody f**** with you // They f*** with me.”
“Heather,” the album’s tenth track, describes the sting of unrequited love so accurately that I had no idea how to handle it. I sat in shock while I listened to this one. A sucker for lyrics with specific references, I started crying from the opening line, “I still remember, third of December, me in your sweater.”
“The Story,” the album’s final track, sounds the most personal on the album, describing Gray’s childhood experiences and his discovery of his sexuality. Stripped back in production, this track showcased Gray’s songwriting skills: “And when I was younger, I knew a boy and a boy // Best friends with each other, but always wished they were more.”
Overall, this album completely shocked me in all regards. I would recommend “Kid Krow,” to any of my friends going through heartbreak and in need of music that puts their emotions into words. Forever on my radar, I am curious to see how Gray evolves through his music career.