Conan Gray’s new album proves he still has a lot to learn

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Although Conan Gray’s been releasing music since 2017, “Kid Krow” is his first attempt at a full-length album. While it still manages to capture the airy, nostalgia-infused pop from his previous projects here and there, it largely comes off as overproduced and unimaginative. In fact, the project is so formulaic that it was difficult to listen to in one sitting. It’s ironic that something played so safe can warp into a headache-inducing earworm. 

Despite this, Gray comes through with a handful of enjoyable tracks, and consistently scatters playful, napkin-back lyrics and scraps of interesting melodies throughout the record. It’s rare, however, that a track isn’t rendered a nuisance. Either at the hands of the fist-clenching generic production or Gray’s sometimes too-amateurish songwriting, it’s always something. 

I hesitate to call the album insincere- his previous projects, particularly “Sunset Season,” were tangibly autobiographical and heartfelt- but “Kid Krow” fails to inspire in me any significant level of emotion. Rather than improving his songwriting since those projects, he’s regressed. There are moments on the record- lyrically and melodically- that come off childish, and not in a good way. Rather, they sound like they could’ve been written by a child in daycare.

There are still some fun standalone tracks, however. “Maniac” is a pretty run of the mill bop, but features surprisingly fun and exciting production. The addition of a fun melody and a lot of heart makes it the most competent track on the album. Additionally, “Fight or Flight” and “Checkmate” provide healthy doses of variety in tone and performance, although both still suffer from the overarching problems with the record.

Perhaps after three years of releasing music, Gray wasn’t ready for a project this long. He’s spread himself thin and the quality of almost everything has dropped since his last release. Despite this, “Kid Krow” contains a spark of potential, if only Gray would do something uniquely him. I give “Kid Krow” a two out of five.

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