Courtesy of Conan Gray
Conan Gray believes that if he were an animal, he would be a crow. Perhaps all of us have two sides to ourselves; perhaps for Gray, a crow perfectly represents his inner and outer personas—his carefree and serious sides.
“You’re a crow,” Gray’s best friend told him once, inspiring his title of his debut album, “Kid Krow.” He revealed this in an exclusive interview with People on Jan. 10. “And that makes plenty of sense,” Gray said. “I’m very broody and a little mysterious. I don’t let people in very much.”
Even if that’s true, Gray reveals several secrets on his debut album. The 12-track album was released on Mar. 20. To the delight of his fans, this served as something to look forward to during the quarantine, and further excited fans with its traces of Gray’s previous 2018 EP, “Sunset Season.” Similar to Gray’s EP, which was written about Gray’s senior year of high school, his debut album has a nostalgic view of youth, several catchy tracks and the wisdom of someone who has learned from his experiences but understands that there is still much more to learn.
“Wish You Were Sober” is one of the 12 tracks on the album, and to put it bluntly: it’s a total bop. It’s an anthem for the loners, the misfits, the wallflowers, and the ones who don’t fit in at a party and are okay with that. When Gray sings the lyric “I’ma crawl out the window now, ‘cause I don’t like anyone around,” he describes that familiar Gen-Z idea of sometimes needing to escape from the noise and trying to find one’s place amongst the chaos without being alone.
Gray’s music idol Taylor Swift mentioned “Wish You Were Sober” in an Instagram story post on Mar. 26. “Obsessed with this whole album, but this song right here is a masterpiece. Not trying to be loud but this will be on repeat for my whole life. Volume all the way up.”
Another song that should only ever be listened to with the volume all the way up is “Little League.” The song is perfect for all high school seniors who are already starting to look back at their childhood years through a sentimental lens. Gray sings, “When we were younger, we didn’t know how it would be. We were the dumb, the wild, the free. Little league.” The beat hits hard during the chorus, and it feels only natural to start singing along or tapping your foot.
Track seven, “Fight or Flight,” stands out because of its dynamic structure. The song starts out with a few simple guitar chords as Gray begins telling his story through the lyrics. However, the song soon lunges into a production-heavy chorus with several guitars, as Gray becomes more emotional. When he sings, “I’d rather die than have to cry in front of you,” all of the noise around him stops momentarily, further emphasizing his voice and the meaning of his words. For its creativity and clever lyrics, “Fight or Flight” deserves to be replayed.
“Heather,” the tenth track, is one of the saddest songs that Gray has ever written, and should be listened to whenever one feels especially low. “Heather” sets up a bisexual love triangle, where Gray is jealous of a girl named “Heather” because the person he loves is in love with Heather and not him.
His most Taylor Swift-esque line in “Heather” is when he sings, “You gave her your sweater, it’s just polyester, but you like her better.” Swift is well-known for her attention to specific details in her songs, and it seems that Gray understands this. Both pop stars seem to know that the secret of great songwriting lies in the depth of the storytelling.
“The Story,” the last track on the album, is a gorgeous, slow-tempo acoustic song with different stories within it. In the first verse, Gray tells the story of two boys who loved one another but committed suicide because they were afraid of their love. In the second verse, he gets autobiographical, using details from his troubled upbringing to explain his side of the story while connecting to his cynical worldview. He then sings, “Oh, and I’m afraid that’s just the way the world works. It ain’t funny, it ain’t pretty, it ain’t sweet.” Every chorus feels like a revelation where Gray accepts these stories as sad and ugly truths about the world that haven’t yet changed but need to. Perhaps the point of the song is that he is hopeful that someday they will.
“I distinctly remember being six years old, sitting on my bedroom floor, just wishing I didn’t have to exist anymore,” Gray said in an Instagram post on Jan. 10, as he talked about the song. “No matter how much life can hurt, I promise, it’s never the end of the story. There’s still so much happiness and love you’ve yet to see.”
And he’s right. If I had to summarize “Kid Krow” in two words, it’s “youth” and “hope.” Listening to this album is like taking a long ride with Gray through the ups and downs of his high school years and talking about the things that he might normally tell to a very close friend. My only complaint is that the ride ended a little too soon.