21-year-old Conan Gray solidifies his place in the indie-pop world with his debut album, ‘Kid Krow.’ Following a string of successful streaming hits like “Crush Culture,” “Generation Why” and the ‘Kid Krow’ single “Maniac,” the former YouTuber proves himself as a singer-songwriter with something to say on his latest effort. Notably, Gray has a songwriting credit on each of the 12 songs, half of which he’s the sole songwriter.
The album feels very of the moment yet still unique to Conan’s signature small town hero aesthetic, with on trend minimalist pop influences that mix touches of dreamy, classic rock. In a nutshell, ‘Kid Krow’ feels like a John Hughes movie crafted in the age of Tumblr, “Perks of Being a Wallflower” and the alt-pop stylings of Lorde. Underscoring all 12 tracks is a sense of un-earned nostalgia, though, that makes for a delightful yet occasionally shallow journey.
‘Kid Krow’ shines when Gray goes unapolegtically pop. “Wish You Were Sober,” a track that feels like the 80s love child of a Bleachers and Taylor Swift pop anthem, proves Gray has everything it takes to be a crossover star. “Maniac” is another pop achievement that highlights Gray‘s twisted sense of humor, while the standout track “Affluenza” captures a youthful sense of cynicism that calls to mind Lorde‘s “Royals” and Frank Ocean‘s “Stupid Rich Kids.”
On tracks like the interlude “(Online Love)”, Gray successfully speaks on Gen Z anxieties in a genuine way without the try-hard tendencies of some of his contemporaries. The same can’t be said of “Little Leagues,” a track that feels relatively cookie-cutter in its nostalgia for backyard baseball and the good ol’ days of adolescence .
As a self-described weirdo, Gray plays it surprisingly safe elsewhere on the album. On the meandering “The Cut That Always Bleeds,” Gray delivers a perfectly fine song that can’t hit the intoxicating highs reached on “Comfort Crowd,” “Maniac” and other tracks. “Fight or Flight” is another track that, like its title, is relatively uninspired on an otherwise exciting project.
The high points on ‘Kid Krow’ more than make up for these filler tracks, though, as Gray’s charisma as a songwriter and performer prove him to be a formidable pop force. Let’s hope this promising debut is just the beginning of a successful, crossover career for Gray.
Stream ‘Kid Krow’ in full: