by Lauren Sanchez
This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern Lauren Sanchez. Find her on Instagram at @lauren.sanchezz. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buckle up, grab your tissues and get ready to feel complete emotional ANGST when it comes to listening to Conan Gray’s second album, “Superache.”
Released two years after his debut album, Kid Krow, Conan Gray takes his listeners back to what it feels like to have your heart broken, twisted and shattered right in front of your eyes and leaving just yourself to pick up the pieces. I know this sounds incredibly dramatic, but one thing about Conan Gray that you must understand is that he lives and breathes the theatrics when it comes to performing — and what better way to be dramatic than in a song?
As a huge Conan Gray fan, his songs speak to the absolute core of my soul and when I found out that the album was released, I knew that the chance of having a Hot Girl Summer was thrown out the window. This goes without saying that his songs are probably some of the most relatable yet emotionally painful songs you will ever hear. Songs about heartbreak, growing up and unrequited love are essential components of Gray’s songwriting and no song would be complete without a tear-jerking lyric.
After taking a listen (or if you’re like me and have had this album on repeat since June), you’ll learn that “Superache” offers listeners the chance to dive deep into what heartbreak and loss mean to us in our platonic and romantic relationships, how we handle “coming of age” epiphanies and how we define our self-worth.
Throughout this Conan Gray Superache review, I’ll be discussing the key themes that are scattered across this discography and how Gray turns his vulnerability, insecurities and complicated journey with love into a narrative that we can all relate to in our lives.
The Catastrophic and Frustrating Nature of Heartbreak and Unrequited Love
Having a crush on someone is an experience that we can all understand. Whether your first crush happened in middle school when you prayed that your teacher changed the seating chart so you could sit next to the person you were crushing on since the beginning of the semester, or in your mid-twenties when you liked the way the barista at your local coffee shop caught your eye as they made your iced lattes, having a crush is a universal “butterflies in my stomach” inducing experience. Yet, it can also be the most incredibly painful experience if that infatuation is not reciprocated in the way you want, and Gray is no stranger to this.
Unrequited love and the heartbreak that comes with it are extremely prominent in songs like “Disaster” and “Yours.” Both songs deal with the anxiety of opening up to somebody you’re so desperate to have that you back out of fear of rejection, while also addressing the self-doubt and insecurities that come with not receiving the same amount of love you give back. “Disaster,” which is easily one of my favorites off the album, masquerades the sadness with an upbeat pop sound, whereas “Yours” dives deep into the angst with a piano ballad.
And for those of you who are fans of Taylor Swift (Swifties unite!), inspiration from some of Swift’s songs are sprinkled throughout Gray’s songs — one, in particular, being “Tolerate It.” Swift’s “Tolerate It” and track 10 of “Superache,” “Footnote” explore the idea of trying to remain in someone’s life, even when your affections may not matter to them in the slightest.
Within these few songs, listeners can see how disastrous and how difficult dealing with heartache can truly be. While these songs consider different aspects relating to heartbreak and one-sided love, they help Gray’s case in showing that heartbreak is completely abstract, three-dimensional and more than just a simple rejection.
How Familial Trauma Can Shape Our Self Identity
One thing I absolutely love about “Superache” is that Gray is not afraid to be vulnerable with his listeners. He shares stories about drunken mistakes, complicated decisions and insecurities that only he can see and understand. Yet in this album, he shares glimpses of his childhood and adolescence that illustrate just how much dysfunctional family dynamics can affect a person’s worth and identity.
In “Family Line,” “Summer Child” and “Jigsaw,” he writes about family problems and how he creates a version of himself that is easier to digest and appreciate for others while risking the version of his true self. Within “Family Line,” Gray writes, “How could you hurt a little kid?/ I can’t forget, I can’t forgive you/‘Cause now I’m scared that everyone I love will leave me,” — immersing his listeners in the pain that surrounded Gray’s childhood and showing us how this pain can alter a person’s well-being.
These alterations are then manifested and sung in “Summer Child” and “Jigsaw” where Gray struggles with self-identity and not being able to pick up the pieces of himself that he has lost, or metaphorically struggling with putting his puzzle back together with the wrong parts. Despite one being a soft guitar acoustic sound and another being a soft rock ballad, both show sides of vulnerability and the frustration that comes with trying to figure out yourself while trying to pretend that everything is okay.
The Ups and Downs of Friendship
In Gray’s previous works of “Idle Town” and “Little League,” Gray pays tribute to the friends he calls family and finds comfort in nostalgia and simpler times. Flash forward a few years later and his friends still play an important part in Gray’s artistry and inspiration for songwriting. After listening to many songs about how his romantic relationships and/or pursuits of such that either end or fail miserably, it’s clear to see how Gray relies on his friendships to keep him sane.
Track four, “Best Friend,” tells the story of the platonic relationship and the unconditional appreciation and admiration for such a friend. This song speaks of things many of us have experienced with our best friends — talking about getting married to each other if we haven’t already by the time we are thirty, talking about exes and reliving the moments when you and your best friend went absolutely crazy (but in the best way possible).
Yet it wouldn’t be a Conan Gray album if it didn’t have the other perspective of a friendship, the one that makes friendship breakups hurt more than the romantic ones. In my absolute favorite song on the album, “Astronomy,” Gray writes about a friendship that fizzles out and causes both members of the friendship to drift apart. Not only is this song so beautifully written, but just a fair warning, it will have you in tears by the end. Gray writes about how his friend and him are “two worlds apart” and how the two cannot “force the stars to align” for their friendship to last.
As revealed in an Apple Music interview, Gray admits that one of his biggest irrational fears is losing his best friends and that is something Gray and I can relate to. Listening to these two songs on friendship and how drastically different they are in perspective highlights the importance of friendship and how difficulties are inevitable. But unlike other songs where Gray is forced to deal with the problem or celebrate the occasion by himself, Gray makes it apparent that he and his friends will work through it together.
How Being An Observer Of Life Will Leave You Unsatisfied With Your Own
Diving into the last two remaining songs on the album, “Movies” and “People Watching,” both show Gray’s observant nature when it comes to looking at life outside his own.
In “Movies,” he craves a love like those shown on the big screen where he and his significant other “kiss under the stars” and dance together in the dark. Yet in “People Watching,” Gray remains a spectator of other people’s relationships while he remains single and alone. In both songs, Gray feels unsatisfied with his love life but in two different ways: one where he’s unsatisfied with a relationship that he is currently in and another where he is upset about not being in a relationship while everyone he knows is.
After listening to all of Gray’s discography, it is easy to see how Gray makes a lot of comparisons between his life and those around him, and those comparisons leave him questioning the reasons these “good” things aren’t happening for him. Being an astute observer of life is both a blessing and a curse for Gray. A blessing in the sense that he understands what he wants and needs out of life, and a curse that leads these observations toward jealousy and constant misery, making these songs so relatable to anyone who wishes, yearns and/or hopes for something better to happen to them.
Music is all about connecting with others and putting our feelings into words that we often can’t find ourselves, and Conan Gray does exactly that with his music.
While “Superache” emotionally wrecked my chances of having a Hot Girl Summer, I can’t deny that this album has taught me so much about what it means to be a twenty-something-year-old who has yet to figure it all out. As heart-aching and emotional as it is to listen to “Superache,” it encompasses the abstract ideas of love, loss, identity and human connection into 12 songs so incredibly well.
Having personally dealt with unreciprocated love, the struggles of understanding yourself and wondering why all my friends are in relationships but me, Conan and I are more alike than meets the eye, and I am so grateful to have someone like him writing and singing songs I can feel and understand. So, thank you Conan Gray for giving the hopelessly romantic, confused and rightfully dramatic people the chance to feel seen and heard!
What do you think about this Conan Gray Superache review? What do you think of the album? Let us know in the comments below!