Gray exudes teen angst on debut album Kid Krow

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Caleb Goss

Kid Krow, a nickname given to him by friends and the title of his debut album, has grown up now. Though not much has changed besides a record deal, relationships and millions of fans across the world chanting his name since the release of his EP, it is clear Gray has grown into himself as a distinct artist and has created a body of work where he is no longer reigning as the the prince of pop, but gunning for the king. You can get the vinyl at https://shop.conangray.com/

Caleb Goss, Visual Content Editor in Chief

Known on the internet for thrift halls and song covers, Conan Gray left his small town life in Georgetown, Texas to enroll in the University of California, Los Angeles in hopes to pursue music, where he would go on to be crowned prince of pop after releasing his first EP, Sunset Season. An album inspired by his senior year of high school. 

But Kid Krow, a nickname given to him by friends and the title of his debut album, has grown up now. Though not much has changed besides a record deal, relationships and millions of fans across the world chanting his name since the release of his EP, it is clear Gray has grown into himself as a distinct artist and has created a body of work where he is no longer reigning as the the prince of pop, but gunning for the king. 

Comfort Crowd

Comfort Crowd acknowledges the feeling of missing your friends and their shoulder to cry on. Layered with simple acoustics and vocals, Gray encapsulates that moment of utter loneliness; when no void can be filled by endless scrolling through social media or buying yourself a new shirt. It’s an anthem for platonic love, not materialistic, but company. 

Wish You Were Sober 

Everyone has their own love language. For some, it’s physical touch. For others, it could range from acts of service to gifts. Expressing love only when drunk, is not one of them. On the second track of Kid Krow, Gray delivers the truth of expectations vs reality. Neither means anything if those words and actions are washed away from the mornings hangover, leaving the other to deal with the mess. Wish You Were Sober is a song best fueled by screaming. Car rides and kisses are great, though when it’s all said and done, it’s “real sweet, but I wish you were sober.”

Maniac 

Written about someone who’d never met him, Maniac calls out Gray’s experience with delusion. Delusion, that is, in the form of a person. Combining 90’s beats with pure pop, Gray finds the perfect balance between telling a story and producing a pop banger. Like Wish You Were Sober, Maniac is the perfect anthem to scream along to. Whether you have someone delusional in your life to get rid of, or you yourself are that delusional person, track three of Kid Krow is the perfect song for those who exude and get high off of teen angst. 

(Online Love)

With many different ways to meet new people, the internet has served as a main source for making friends and falling in love. Recorded and produced by himself in a hotel room, Gray delivers a stripped down interlude for his fans. Through the strum of his guitar, coffee shop convos with friends, and his unavoidable voice, Gray “can’t help but imagine what maybe would have happened if we weren’t just an online love.”  

Checkmate 

The epitome of teen angst, Checkmate brings out Gray’s playful side. Singing “Cry me a river till you drown in a like”, Gray taunts and lashes out. Reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space resembled best during one of his many fiery rampages “Set fire to your lawn. Just like you did to my heart. And I’ma wreck your car, and max your credit cards. A lover on the large. You’re gonna wish you never harmed me,”  Gray makes it known, if it’s a game you want to play, he’s going to win. Not only are his lyrics tongue in cheek, the youtube star raises hell with his own vocals, only to bring it back down as he transitions into a somber cry for help with his next track, The Cut That Always Bleeds.

The Cut That Always Bleeds

Opening with “I don’t love you anymore, a pretty line that I adore”, Gray makes it clear that this song is not for the faint of heart. The Cut That Always Bleeds is a prime showing of Gray’s signature: guitar, drums, and breath taking vocals. Layered with melancholic harmonies and vivid metaphors, Gray has constructed the perfect ballad for being strung along. Though he acknowledges the reality of the situation and all he’s had to overcome, Gray accepts defeat and ends the song abruptly, because as he states in an interview on the Zach Sang show “The cut is still bleeding”. 

Fight or Flight 

After discovering that his lover had been talking to someone else, Gray is given an ultimatum: Fight or Flight. Traveling through rock themed production and cell phone muffled vocals, the singer meets the home wrecker “They’ve got eyes like mine, a pretty smile and they’ve been crying for a while. ‘Cause they also didn’t know. That out lover let us go.” Gray takes flight as he reaches the world of Affluenza

Affluenza 

On April 11th, 1997, A sixteen year old named Ethan Couch drove and killed 4 people under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Though convicted of four counts of intoxicated manslaughter, Couch was granted ten years of probation and sentenced to therapy after his attorney argued the teen had affluenza; the inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions as a result of financial privilege. After moving to LA to pursue music and enroll at UCLA, Gray finds himself in the world of affluenza after being surrounded by people born into riches. In Affluenza, Gray gaslights the reality of the lives of those around him and how they act without consequences. Though a serious topic, Gray blends his words with playful production and synced harmonies all in a successful attempt in providing a harsh truth; all the money in the world means nothing if you don’t have love.

(Can We Be Friends?)

The second and last interlude on Kid Krow, Can We Be Friends, is a promise to Gray’s friends and fans. In this track, Gray gives insight to what being his friend actually means, and the promises that come with it. Though a lot is said in the 57 second interlude, the lyric that speak most true to Gray’s loyalty and friendships needs no explanation. “And if anybody f**ks with you, they f**k with me. And if anybody f**ks with you, I’ll knock their teeth out.” 

Heather 

After saying “I’ll tell you all my secrets” in the previous track, Gray takes this moment on track ten, to let us in as he confesses guilt in a heart wrenching ballad, about a person named Heather. It’s not easy to watch your crush fall for someone else, but through haunting harmonies and faint echoes, Gray makes the feeling unbearable. Although he appreciates and envies Heather’s beauty, the guilt stems from less about hating Heather, but rather wishing he was Heather and how he’s everything she’s not. Gray continues to compare himself to Heather, belting in the chorus “Why would you ever kiss me. I’m not even half as pretty. You gave her your sweater. It’s just polyester.” But even in juxtaposing, Gray concedes, knowing he can’t win. “But you like her better. Wish I were Heather.” Much like The Cut That Always Bleeds, Heather ends abruptly, insinuating that he will always wish he were Heather. 

Little League 

A brief look into Gray’s teenage years, Little League, covers the hardships of growing up. The soundtrack to a coming of age movie rooted in nostalgia, track eleven exudes the nothingness that is suburban life. Gray takes this time as a way to analyze how things have changed singing in verse two “where did all my friends go? Standing on our street but nobody’s home. Swore we’d never move away, but now I’m going ninety-five on the interstate” and longing for the days when things were arguably easier. “Could I get a rewind? Get another chance, take it back in time. ‘Cause I don’t know what to do. With everything I’m going through”. Whether it’s the soundtrack to your graduation video or you’re driving with the windows down, Gray sends a valuable message. No matter how hard things get, you’ll always have little league.

The Story

There are a lot of ways to tell a story in a song. Some paint pictures with upbeat breakup anthems, others pour their heart out. Gray does both in his own way, but where this prince of pop shines, is what he’s done time and time again. Just him, a guitar, and his heavenly vocals. Each verse tells a different story of his life and those who’ve played a part. One of bullying and suicide. One of two boys who fall in love, but are too afraid of what everyone thinks, and one of seeking a better life after leaving a toxic family. Like a trance, his voice and the words he speaks are the only thing that matters in that moment. A master of storytelling, Gray finishes the song and his freshman album on a high note, singing “it’s not the end of the story.”

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