Social-media-star-turned-superstar Conan Gray has unleashed his debut album Kid Krow. The record comes after almost two years of dropping original music and has been preceded by a stunning run of singles including Maniac. All signs are pointing to him being one of the next big popstars but let’s see if the album stacks up.
We know this one and we love it. In the context of the album, it’s a slinky, enticing opener that moves at an intriguing pace. As it moves on it opens up into something grander.
Wish You Were Sober
The next single off the record is an absolute smash if you haven’t heard. It’s the most straightforward pop song on the record offering up a hook that will swirl in your head for days. Thematically, this record very much paints Gray as an outsider but here he is (unsuccessfully) attempting to assimilate. He’s in love but he can’t quite connect with his drunk lover – “real sweet but I wish you were sober.” It feels like a darker, less filtered version of Taylor Swift’s sound on Lover and reputation, particularly the subtle vocal production.
Easily one of the best pop songs of last year and one that continues to get bigger globally. It’s a pulsating, chaotic song that manages to convert anger into something that’s ultimately very cool. The way the chorus bounds with energy is something that few writers can do right now. A bold, blistering song.
A sweet, acoustic number with chatter in the background. Gray’s voice is great and moments like these show it off uninterrupted.
From one of the album’s gentlest moments to its most anarchic. Gray has a very consistent sound but he’s able to dip in and out of genres with ease. This is an alternative moment with more charisma and chaos that most of the stuff going on in the alternative rock scene right. The way the music dips out when he sings, “checkmate,” is pure genius.
The Cut That Always Bleeds
Finally, we’re onto the new stuff and it’s a slow beginning. The Cut That Always Bleeds begins with just Gray and a guitar. The lyrics are very dark with lines like, “‘cos you kept me on a rope and tied a noose around my throat.” There are some really haunting quiet moments here surrounded by loud climaxes. The way it rises and falls is stunning.
Fight Or Flight
We’ve been saying guitars were back in pop for a while and Gray is proving it. The guitar is back here and it delivers some pretty gritty climaxes. Lyrically, Gray has the melodrama of somebody like Lorde. It’s all hyperbolic with a hook like, “Fight or flight, I’d rather die than cry in front of you.” It could be a bit much in the hands of anyone else but he commits to it both vocally and instrumentally.
Now we’re getting very Lorde with a cheeky stab at the rich. This one’s all about trust fund kids and it’s all done over a slow, cocky beat. “Money, money when you get what you want life is a breeze,” he sings before heading into the chorus – “Give me money or affluenza.” Fans are going to love this one. It’s a little silly both in lyric and production but once again he pulls it off.
(Can We Be Friends?)
Another stunning interlude. It’s amazing how he can take on the role of a mammoth popstar but then pull it all back and give us Sufjan Stevens intimacy. “If anyone fucks with you I’ll knock their teeth out,” he sings. There’s that melodrama again.
Heather starts acoustic but it builds into a stirring orchestral moment. It’s all about a girl named Heather as the name would suggest and how the person he loves, loves Heather. At this point, it would be nice to have something a little more uptempo but it’s hard to deny that this is a nice moment.
We’re back into pop territory here and Gray is getting a little nostalgic about his childhood. The bridge on this one is pretty flawless, twisting into a flickering chorus of beauty. It absolutely bangs, possessing the same energy as Maniac. I’m so excited about this chorus that I’m typing faster than I have for any other song. This. This is the one.
Another song we know and love. This one was always destined to be an album closer and it feels even more emotional having been through everything with Gray on Kid Krow. There’s an intimacy to his voice that just draws you in even if you’re not enamoured by the songwriting.
Kid Krow is a great pop debut. It’s an introduction to everything that Conan Gray is. He has many different dimensions but he’s an emotional guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and he doesn’t shy away from it here. It’s not just lyrical, he mimics it with the instrumental on every song as each possesses furious climaxes and spine-tingling moments of silence. Hardcore fans are going to love this and even though there’s no song that has stronger single potential than Maniac, there’s a chance that songs like Little League will come close.