Conan Gray dropped his long-awaited debut LP “Kid Krow” on March 20th, and the result is an incredibly nuanced body of work that tackles numerous topics engulfing Gen Z – topics such as growing up on the internet, coping with mental illness through excessive drinking, online dating, and feeling robbed of any chance at pursuing a semi-normal life because of the current social and political climate.
The beginning of the album consists of infectious bops with undeniably catchy hooks and sad lyrical undertones. “Wish You Were Sober,” tackles unrequited love as Gray laments over a double-edged romance where his feelings for someone are only reciprocated when that person is intoxicated (“Kiss me in the seat of your rover/Real sweet but I wish you were sober”).
The album’s biggest highlight is the emotionally-charged “The Cut That Always Bleeds,” with lyrics that go, “Oh, I can’t be the kiss that you don’t need/The lie between your teeth/The cut that always bleeds.” It perfectly encapsulates the cycle of a toxic relationship that works like a broken clock, and each stage of grieving; the sigh of relief when you finally begin to move on, the short-lived excitement when they pop back into your life, and the final twist of the knife when they inevitably betray you again.
The album reaches its emotional peak on “Heather,” with Gray grappling with the fact that he’ll never be good enough for the person he’s in love with and has decided to direct his jealousy and resentment at “Heather,” the person’s significant other (“Why would you ever kiss me?/ I’m not even half as pretty”). The song climaxes with Gray wailing in anguish “I wish I were Heather!” and it feels like such a cathartic release that will hit the listener over the head and leave a lasting impact.
Gray cites Lorde and Taylor Swift as his biggest inspirations, and their influence is all over the album. “Wish You Were Sober” would fit perfectly in the “1989” catalogue and the song “Affluenza” touches on similar subject matter as “Royals” by calling out the lack of substance in the culture of wealth and excess, while also touching on the ways growing up privileged can have an effect on mental health.
When we look at the at the current state of the world, our generation is passing into an adulthood that provides little to no opportunities for advancement like it did for previous generations. The recent stock market crash is leading to another recession, and we are in the middle of a global pandemic that feels like yet another reminder that the earth probably won’t be inhabitable in twenty years. Conan Gray has taken the widespread angst and existential panic of the disaffected youth and beautifully packaged it into a twelve-track masterpiece. “Kid Krow” is the product of a 21 year-old who has experienced the ills of growing up in Gen Z first-hand, and has claimed his rightful place in the pop music canon.