Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Conan Gray has ‘Found Heaven’ in ’80s synth sounds

<p>Conan Gray has taken an &#x27;80s synth pop route with his new record, “Found Heaven.”</p>

Conan Gray has taken an '80s synth pop route with his new record, “Found Heaven.”

I’ve been a fan of Conan Gray since the release of his song “Comfort Crowd” in 2019 — I even have the track’s title tattooed in my best friend’s handwriting. With that being said, I was intrigued when I heard he’d be releasing a new album this year.

Gray’s career began on YouTube, where he began making content at the age of 15. Alongside casual videos and vlogs, Gray recorded covers and shared his own music. His channel quickly gained popularity, eventually landing him a deal with Republic Records in 2018.

In 2020, Gray released his debut album, “Kid Krow,” which would quickly become a staple in my quarantine soundtrack. “Heather,” one of the album’s tracks, skyrocketed to popularity on TikTok; its success has since led Gray to declare Dec. 3 “Heather Day.”

Gray released his sophomore album, “Superache,” in 2022, and on April 5, his third album, “Found Heaven,” dropped.

Gray cites artists like David Bowie, A-Ha and Cutting Crew as inspiration for the record. As a big fan of ’80s music myself, I was excited to see the direction Gray would take, especially since his sound up until this point has consistently remained mellow, indie pop.

I’m not necessarily disappointed with the outcome, but I was left wanting a bit more.

The album’s titular track, “Found Heaven,” serves as the opener. It begins with an angelic-sounding choir, then delves into deep, synthy sounds. Gray’s vocals are as pleasant as ever, which is part of the reason why I love his music so much.

On the surface, the lyrics carry themes of religion, but they also explore living on your own terms and doing what makes you happy.

“Never Ending Song,” the record’s first single, fully embraces the ’80s sound that Gray is going for. He compares a troubled relationship to a never-ending song, constantly stuck in a loop of trying to make things better and, ultimately, failing.

The beginning of the third track, “Fainted Love,” sounds like it came straight out of the ’80s. The instrumentals are poppy and upbeat, but Gray sings of dealing with a one sided relationship. Despite the pain embedded in the lyrics, it’s a catchy tune with a great chorus that showcases Gray’s vocal skills.

“Lonely Dancers” was released as the album’s fourth single. I heard this song when it came out in February, and to be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. I’m still not too fond of it — it’s repetitive and I don’t really like the way the chorus is sung.

“Alley Rose” is my favorite song on “Found Heaven.” It’s a beautiful ballad reminiscent of Elton John’s music, and Gray’s vocals are simply amazing here. The lyrics explore a devastating breakup, and I love the anguish present in Gray’s voice, especially in the bridge.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

The lyricism on this track is astonishing, as Gray practically wails, “And I don't even care if it makes me sound insane … I ran my fingers through your hair … And I thanked God to touch the flame.”

As follow-up tracks to “Alley Rose,” “The Final Fight”and “Miss You” feel somewhat underwhelming. I understand that all songs on the album are not meant to be in the ballad style, but Gray does it so well, which is probably why “Kid Krow” is still my favorite record of his.

“Bourgeoisieses” feels somewhat out of place on the album — not sonically (it’s very ’80s) — but lyrically. “Found Heaven” is about a breakup and finding yourself in the aftermath. This track is about wanting to belong in a high class society, and Gray has a better song that deals with this subject on “Kid Krow”: “Affluenza.”

Gray returns to ballads on “Forever With Me,” which instantly became another standout track for me. Although he’s looking back on a failed relationship, Gray has no regrets, and he still cherishes the time spent with his former partner.

“Eye of the Night” and “Boys & Girls” both fall a bit flat for me; I don’t necessarily dislike them, but I don’t think I’ll be returning to either of them.

 “Killing Me” is a catchy song about an unfaithful partner that Gray is unable to let go of. The instrumentals are synthy and upbeat, and Gray’s vocals are better displayed here than on the previous two tracks.

“Winner” functions as a good closer, and it’s the saddest song on a record all about heartbreak. I was immediately struck by the powerful, instrumental surges between the verses and chorus, and Gray’s vocals feel almost like a punch to the gut — just how I like them.

Maybe I’m permanently stuck in 2020, but “Kid Krow” will remain my favorite album by Gray to date. I love the homage to ’80s synth pop in “Found Heaven,” but I wish there was more to it, especially because the genre itself is full of unique sounds that make every act and song different.

Rating: 7/10