The Gen Z King finds fun in wrapping heartbreak in bubblegum
Conan Gray’s music serves as a beacon for the sad folks. Case in point: his most-streamed hit Heather, from his debut album Kid Krow.
Releasing them early into 2021, Gray’s songs like People Watching and Astronomy revolve around yearning, pain and melancholy, delivering hard truths through every verse he croons. This plaintive mood and mindset put him in the same league as Olivia Rodrigo and earned their mother, Taylor Swift’s, approval in creating songs about vivid heartbreak.
But come October this year, Conan Gray was no longer crying about traded sweaters or elusive love in Telepath. Instead, he wipes his tears and emerges victorious after confronting a fling that treated him like a safety net.
This single shows an older, more mature Conan Gray. He sings bolder and braver lyrics, nipping any attempt of reconnection in the bud. Telepath doesn’t follow the somber brand of pop he’s known for. Instead, he offers an upbeat electropop dance track almost reminiscent of the 80s. Addictive basslines and heavy synths make it an anthem best played after hitting the block button and going on with your life—business as usual.
“The message for Telepath, for one, is just to kind of be able to be a bit lighthearted about heartbreak,” he shares in an exclusive Southeast Asian press conference. “It’s a way of me poking fun at the fact that people always act like they’re going to leave, but they always come back over and over.” Conan Gray says the story behind the song was a time in his life when people from his past tried to reconnect with him. But rather than entertaining their attempts, he went to town and Telepath was made. If anything, isn’t that an experience we know all too well?
Many think that the new sonic direction for Telepath serves as a step towards experimentation for Conan Gray. However, he shares that the 80s-inspired sound of the single just feels right. “I remember distinctly writing the chorus first, with that note [for] ‘I got a feeling’ and needed to kind of have that 80s vibe. Or else it wouldn’t just feel right, you know?” he explains. In the same light, Conan Gray refuses to be boxed by genre. What he does is have fun as the process culminates into a song instead of sticking to a singular style.
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Since the pivotal release of Kid Krow and the way Heather resonates with many of his listeners, Conan Gray realized that many of our experiences are universal. We all go through the same issues, and music serves as a way for him to talk about it. He cheekily admits that he finds fun in taking sadder topics and “wrap them in bubblegum, because it’s more fun to have a song like that.” Yet, he still experiences hesitation in sharing his life through his lyrics. It’s something Conan Gray tries to get over because “people just aren’t gonna relate if you’re not honest.” And this authenticity guides his music—both old and new.
Next to his upcoming world tour, Conan Gray has a lot up his sleeve for the coming year. Telepath serves as a prelude to his highly anticipated sophomore album. He shares that new problems and issues transpired during the gap between Kid Krow and the present, which push him to cover new ground and new themes that he’s sure his listeners will relate to. “I think these days I am looking for someone to listen to my troubles and say, ‘Yeah, yeah. I felt that, too.’”
Stream Telepath on Spotify.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver