Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.
Conan Gray’s sophomore album “Superache,” released on June 24, takes us through the longing and loss the 23-year-old experienced in the past years and shows his evolution as an artist since the debut of his 2020 album “Kid Krow.”
Gray started uploading videos to YouTube in 2013 at the age of nine, completely oblivious to the fact that he would one day explode in popularity. In 2019, he won a Shorty Award for Best YouTube Musician, and the next year, his first album, “Kid Krow” was released. Gray has collaborated with many peers such as Lauv and Julia Michaels, and is a growing and changing artist that is one to watch.
On “Kid Krow,” Gray explores strong feelings of anger and rage – a feeling that Gen-Z typically refers to as “teen angst.” Tracks on the more aggressive side, such as “Checkmate,” “Wish You Were Sober” and “Affluenza,” are prime examples of this.
The singer-songwriter brushes a good portion of this anger off the surface to reveal multiple layers of sadness both lyrically and musically on “Superache.” Most of the songs on “Superache” use soft guitar and light piano chords, with the only other accompaniment being Gray’s vocals. These songs reflect a subdued sadness, a drastic contrast from the ones on “Kid Krow.”
The more subtle sounds should not be mistaken for a lack of emotion. We see him in this album at his strongest as he embraces painful experiences and emotions and lays them out in front of us — raw and unvarnished for all to see. The result? Twelve deeply personal, achingly relatable tracks from an evolving artist who has found his style.
While the entirety of the album excelled, a few tracks stood out in particular.
“Disaster” is musically quite different from the rest of “Superache,” making it one of the more memorable tracks. This catchy, upbeat pop song is one that you’d probably dance to rather than cry to as it’s more likely to lift you up than bring you down. While Gray has had his fair share of upbeat songs like “Kid Krow”’s “Maniac” and “Checkmate,” “Disaster” marks his ultimate evolution from bedroom pop to something a bit more mainstream.
By contrast, “Yours” is one of the darkest and saddest songs on the album. If “Disaster” was a dance song, this would be a sob song. The piano instrumental captures the sadness in lyrics such as “‘Cause I could give you all you want, the stars and the sun But still, I’m not enough.” With Gray’s raw, soulful singing, the song is guaranteed to bring out anyone’s emotions.
Another great song from the album was “Memories,” an instant hit when it came out as a single on April 15. While the song is unmistakably catchy, it is still able to maintain the somber reflection on the end of a relationship. Gray repeatedly uses the line “I wish that you would stay in my memories” as a refrain describing his desire to move on. Listening to ”Memories” provides an opportunity to dwell in a space of comfortable misery – a haven where you do not necessarily want to feel better but just want to be sad in peace. “Yours” reflects a similar sentiment. Gray’s trademark style gives the listener space to contemplate their emotions through music, which is exactly what he does throughout this album.
We also see Gray share more about his personal life with his audience in “Family Line”. This stunningly personal ballad shows Gray being vulnerable and opening up about his family life. He discusses his upbringing and how a rough childhood environment can impact a person as they grow.
The instrumentals and tune of the song complemented one another, but the theme was what stuck out the most. Gray has lightly touched on his suboptimal childhood in 2020’s “Kid Krow,” but we see him delve into a bit more detail here. The pain in his voice as he sings, “All that I did to try to undo it / All of my pain and all your excuses I was a kid, but I wasn’t clueless / (Someone who loves you wouldn’t do this)” is relatable for anyone who faced difficult familial relationships as a child.
As Gray stated in an interview with Paper Magazine, “The very fact that it’s uncomfortable for me to talk about it is the reason I have to talk about it… It’s better to feel something than to just live your whole life hiding from feeling anything.”
Overall, “Superache” is a fantastic album, possibly one of Conan Gray’s greatest releases to date. The variety in the instrumentals provided a consistently interesting listening experience– the songs ran the gamut from dance pop to quiet piano to soft guitar. This ensured that there was something for everyone on the album and also avoided repetition. Additionally, the raw emotions expressed in the lyrics of each of the songs made them both relatable as well as comforting to listen to – songs to seek shelter in during a rough time. “Superache” is a strong record that left me impatient for Gray’s next release.