Conan Gray's "Kid Krow" Soars Above Expectations

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Analyzing the Sun Belt clincher

Aubrey Brumblow

Conan Gray just released his debut studio album “Kid Krow” on March 20, 2020, which has already reached number five on the Billboard 200. Perfect timing to help us all combat quarantine fatigue, right? 

If you don’t know who Conan Gray is, you will probably find out pretty soon as he’s gaining a lot of traction in the music world. So, read this crash course on this singer-songwriter and review of his debut full album.

Here’s a quick run-down of who he is and why you should care.

Conan Lee Gray is a 21-year-old California-born but Texas-raised Japanese-American pop musician and YouTuber who currently attends UCLA. Way back in 2013, he started producing music and posting it on YouTube. His YouTube channel now includes videos about his art portfolios, college advice, music videos, thrift store clothing hauls and more. He’s also pretty active on other social media platforms, such as Twitter, often teasing fans with hints about upcoming songs.

After releasing a debut EP entitled “Sunset Season” in November 2018, including the song “Generation Why,” Gray went on tour with Panic! At the Disco on their Pray for the Wicked Tour.

Gray has garnered attention from other famous musicians as well. On Twitter in 2019, Gray posted about his shock after BTS’s Kim Taehyung or “V” said in an interview with Rolling Stone that he was inspired by Gray’s music. 

MTV even went so far as to label Conan Gray as the “Prince of Pop,” according to Spotify.

Then Gray released his breakthrough single, “Maniac.” By January 2020, he became one of the most streamed artists on Spotify. “Maniac” has over 90 million streams on Spotify alone.

Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of Gray’s new twelve-song hit album titled “Kid Krow.” Some songs are based on the singer’s real life while others are based more on acquaintances or other influences, and all of the songs feature situations that are gender neutral so that anybody of any gender identity and/or sexual orientation can relate to the song.

“Comfort Crowd”

This beautiful, soft song is all about friendship and needing someone when things get tough. In this song, the speaker talks about saying he doesn’t need anybody when deep down he’s really feeling lonely. What he needs is comfort.

I just needed company now / Yeah, I just needed someone around / Yeah, I don’t care what song that we play / Or mess that we make / Just company now

“Wish You Were Sober”

This song has another relatable but poetic theme. The speaker wants someone he likes to like him back–and not just after a couple beers. At its core, this song is about longing and doubt.

I’ma crawl out the window now / Getting good at saying “Gotta bounce” / Honestly, you always let me down / And I know we’re not just hanging out

“Maniac”

Gray revealed in a Tweet that this song was his favorite of the album. It’s also based on an ex’s drunken midnight text. The ex told people that Gray was a “freak” who wouldn’t leave them alone. Gray said, in reality, the ex was the one sending strange late-night texts and showing up at his shows unannounced.

Here’s Gray’s statement on the song’s inspiration and the spooky Halloween-themed music video. 

Tell all of your friends that I’m crazy and drive you mad / That I’m such a stalker, a watcher, a psychopath / And tell them you hate me and dated me just for laughs / So, why do you call me and tell me you want me back? / You maniac

“(Online Love)”

This is one of two “interludes” in this album, indicated by parentheses around the title. They are short and meant to provide more context for those who listen to the album in order.

Surrounding issues involved with long distance relationships, such as with communication, this 37 second interlude begins as if it’s a phone call. The singer talks about their connection with another person but also wonders how things might be different if they were physically in the same place. The song closes with different voices talking about why someone isn’t answering them in a long-distance relationship until, finally, one voice says, “Delete.”

Quirky, but especially relatable for those on dating apps and in relationships where they’re physically apart.

You only pass through my city / Every once in a million seconds on a broken clock / Yet we talk like we’re living / Only miles, only minutes from another just around the block

“Checkmate”

In this angry song about a bad relationship, Gray uses the metaphor of chess to explain how he felt played by a past significant other. There’s a twist here, though, as the singer reveals what the past flame didn’t know: Gray is plotting revenge on the cheating partner. 

The music video actually features a guy and a girl both cancelling plans with Gray, but, when he follows them, he sees them on a date together kissing. 

Honestly, this one could pair pretty well with Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” despite the different genres.

’Cause I’ve gotten tired of the games that you play / When you tell me you love me then you throw me away / So cry me a river ’til you drown in the lake / ’Cause you may think you’re winning but checkmate

“The Cut That Always Bleeds”

This moody, sad track with simple instrumentals captures you early on. It’s about needing to say goodbye but finding it hard to do so.

The singer is having a hard time getting over someone who is constantly leaving and coming back in a push-and-pull, hot-and-cold way. The singer knows it’s not a good situation, but, by the end of the song, he still wants that person to stay.

The song even ends on an unfinished line, showing how it never really “ends,” at least not with any closure: Oh, I could be / Anything you need /As long as you don’t leave / The cut that always

Oh, I can’t be your lover on a leash / Every other week, when you please / Oh, I can’t be the kiss that you don’t need / The lie between your teeth / The cut that always bleeds

“Fight or Flight”

Another song about betrayed love, this chaotic song mirrors a past situation in the singer’s life. In the song, the singer notices his partner doesn’t look at him the way they used to and other details that point toward his lover cheating on him. The singer is in love with this person, but he says he would rather die than tell them that now or show how hurt he is.

You tell me it ain’t what it seems / But, baby, this is lookin’ like a crime scene / There’s clothes thrown on the balcony / And you smell like perfume out a magazine / I’m throwing all your shit outta my window / Telling you I wish we had never spoke

“Affluenza”

Detouring from songs about relationships, Gray talks about unhappy rich kids. Despite growing up in what he describes as a financially-challenged household, Gray said that he hung out with people who were “insanely rich” but also absolutely “miserable.” This song is about how money can’t buy happiness.

Crystal liquor cups and designer drugs / They say money “Monday can’t buy you no love” / But a diamond cheers you right up / Give me none of your affluenza

“(Can We Be Friends?)”

This 58-second track is the second interlude on the album–and it’s all about being desperate for a friend. The speaker begs for another person to be his friend, and the lines come off as very serious. The speaker never gets an answer within the track.

Could you be my best friend? / I’ll tell you all my secrets / I’ll tell you all the times / That I wish that I could die

“Heather”

This slow, moving and poignant song returns the album to songs about love. The speaker is in love with someone who is in love with a girl called Heather. The speaker expresses their pain but admits that Heather is an angel and much prettier. They wish they were Heather because she’s with the person they want to be with.

One fan loved the song so much that she wrote a companion piece from the perspective of Heather entitled “Sucks to be Heather.” Here’s her YouTube video. While the original never states any gender beyond Heather’s, this version shows Heather noticing her boyfriend’s attention is often on another boy.

I still remember, third of December, me in your sweater / You said it looked better on me that it did you / Only if you knew, how much I liked you / But I watch your eyes as she / Walks by / What a sight for sore eyes, brighter than a blue sky / She’s got you mesmerized while I die

“Little League”

A little faster paced, this song is less about baseball than being nostalgic about younger days. Everyone is telling the speaker to act his age, but he just wants to rewind back to the good old days before his friends moved and he felt like he could get away with anything.

When we were younger / We didn’t know how it would be / We were the dumbe, the wild, the free / Little League / And when we were younger / We wore our heart proud on our sleeve / Why did we ever have to leave?

“The Story”

The final song of the album also focuses on childhood and growing up as well as disillusion. Switching between third-person and first-person, the singer tells us stories: one about a boy and a girl who didn’t love themselves so they became “headstones on a lawn”; one about two boys who were best friends and wanted to be more but were too scared; and one about the speaker and his female best friend, how they used to want a better life and how he wonders if she’s all right where she is now.

It’s an emotional piece, and, according to Genius, one that Gray revealed was very personal and related to his own childhood. 

Despite the majority of the focus being on the pain of growing up and looking at the past, the song does have a hopeful note as the singer includes the following lines.

Oh, and I’m afraid that’s just the way the world works / But I think it could work for you and me / Just wait and see / It’s not the end of the story

 

Featuring a host of universal themes, such as needing comfort, longing for an unrequited crush or feeling betrayed by a lover, each song is meaningful and shows a slice of life for modern-day young people. The album is inclusive for everybody. While it doesn’t break any new boundaries, what it does include is done well, using distinctive lyrics and smooth vocals. What’s not to like?

If you made it this far, I think it’s time you gave “Kid Krow” a shot if you haven’t already.