Today anyone has access to creating the next viral song mediums like Youtube and TikTok. It’s no surprise when those artists make the jump to music. However, on his debut album, “Kid Krow,” 21-year-old Texas native Conan Gray proves that his foray into music is not just a pastime but work with substance.
Gray originally found fame in 2013 on YouTube, where he posted vlog style videos from his bedroom. Since launching his channel, he has garnered millions of followers across various social media platforms. His success has continued to grow with signing a major record deal with Republic Records and appearing on the shortlist for “Best New Artist” for the 2021 Grammys.
On his first full length project, “Kid Crow,” he explores themes such as poverty, childhood trauma, love and friendship. His melancholy vocal styling is the perfect companion to his indie pop sound and impassioned lyrics.
Album opener “Comfort Crowd” is a breathy number that is reminiscent of tunes performed by reigning pop queen Billie Eilish. The song is a love letter to Gray’s childhood friends, pulling inspiration from his move to UCLA from his small Texas town. Gray revealed to Genius that he wrote the song when he was feeling homesick and missed his friends. “They’re the ones who keep me sane, so I just wanted to be with them and hang out with them the way we used to,” he said.
“Wish You Were Sober,” a power pop anthem, is one of the most compelling tracks on the album. The song tells the story of one of Gray’s love interests who reveals their feelings for him during a drunken night. Pop superstar Taylor Swift, Gray’s idol, praised the song via her Instagram stories writing: “Not trying to be loud but this will be on repeat for my whole life. Volume all the way up.”
Despite being a 37-second interlude, “[ONLINE LOVE]” is another stand out. Gray’s melancholy voice and the song’s serene production left me wanting it to graduate from an interlude into a full blown song.
“Checkmate,” an uptempo guitar driven banger, takes aim at a former lover who treats relationships like a game. “‘Cause you may think you’re winning but checkmate/Yeah, you may think you’re winning but check—mate,” he chants as the song’s chorus unfolds. The guitar riffs that assemble during the chorus are similar to the inescapable pop punk tinged music from the early to mid 2000s.
On the acoustic ballad, “Heather,” Gray touches on an unrequited love from a crush more interested in a girl named Heather. “I hated Heather with all of my heart and soul,” Gray revealed to Apple Music. “I had no reason to hate Heather. Heather is a perfectly nice girl. She’s sweet and she’s pure and she smells like daisies—she’s perfect, but I hate her. It’s this humiliating thing to admit, but it’s just true.”
“Little League,” which was crafted by producing trio Captain Cuts, is one of the album’s standout tracks. The song’s lyrics and production give a coming of age movie feeling. On the track Gray sings: “We were the dumb / the wild / the free / We wore our hearts proud on our sleeve / Why did we ever have to leave? / Little League.” The lyrics elevate the track’s nostalgic feel and transport you back to early adolescence.
Album closer “The Story” is a ballad that uses a first- and third-person approach to narrate Gray’s tumultuous childhood. The song’s vulnerable storytelling makes it one of the album’s most tear-jerking songs.
For most major label recording artists, their debut album is a stepping stone to where their musical identity could take them. On “Kid Krow,” Gray’s vision as an artist is present throughout the entirety of the album. His lyrical talent is that of someone who has several albums under their belt. If “Kid Krow” is an indication of where his next musical project could go, he is poised to soar.