Adolescence is a funny thing. On one end of the spectrum you’re feeling unstoppable, creating memories you hope will last forever, and on the other you’re crumbling underneath the weight of the world and wishing that somebody would just understand you. It’s a tipping scale all the way through, years that you consider some of your best and some of your worst simultaneously. It’s angst as an aesthetic, a sense of yearning for something you don’t quite know yet and nostalgia hitting you in puffs of hazy pink smoke.
It’s this untouchable feeling that gives Conan Gray his entire brand. The former-YouTuber-now-star has turned his fans into his friends and lived his life vicariously through them. He’s hit every aspect of teenage fever right on the head. The tinted skies that make everything look as though it’s polaroid ready? Check. The thrifted fashion that replicates 80s pop culture? Check. The complete and total melancholy of living each and every day? Double check. Gray is here to tell you that sad pop is most definitely a thing, and it might be more relatable to you than you think.
The allure of Gray’s sound is the emotion it evokes. Whether the beats are slow or a little more fast-paced, you can picture a moment or feeling where they’re relevant. There are no bouncing melodies or bubbles of autotune, just exactly what you’d expect an adolescent’s diary entry to sound like sonically. With everything he does, Gray aims to make a movie out of it. He’s wrapping his despair around a flower bouquet and lighting a cigarette while taking a bath in rose petals.
But perhaps the true power comes from his lyrics. “This party’s shit, wish we could dip. Go anywhere but here,” he opens with on ‘Wish You Were Sober’ in true teenage insecurity. “Crush culture makes me wanna spill my guts out,” he spits in ‘Crush Culture,’ like he’s just texting a friend. It’s all relatable in its casualness to those going through the same things: his army of Gen Z boppers, but then hidden under all the teenage gloom and doom are themes that could relate to anyone. Heartbreak, the woes of love, and trying to find your feet in any stage of life. “Oh, I can’t be your lover on a leash every other week, when you please,” he begs a toxic lover on ‘The Cut That Always Bleeds.’ “Could I get a rewind? Get another chance, take it back in time. ‘Cause I don’t know what to do,” he pines on ‘Little League,’ a track that’s nostalgic for younger days.
At its core, sad pop is representative of one thing only and that’s the listener. It proves that problems can transcend age and really aren’t as black and white as they’re made out to be. Because we could all use some sad pop at certain moments of our lives, and we could all find solace in the fact that these big powerful celebrities feel just like us too. Conan Gray is assembling his very own brat pack, gathering all the moody teens of the world to unite and express their angst through swirling imagery. And he’d like you to join.
You can listen to Conan’s new album Kid Krow below.