Search The Line of Best Fit
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Conan Gray’s Found Heaven is an all-encompassing revisit to the familiar wreckage of love

"Found Heaven"

Release date: 05 April 2024
Conan Gray Found Heaven cover
05 April 2024, 09:00 Written by Tanatat Khuttapan

Three album cycles in, one thing’s absolutely clear: love is Conan Gray’s favourite subject.

Sunset Season EP and Kid Krow set their anchors in the slippery trenches of teenage romance. Songs like “Greek God” and “Heather” are drenched in blooming lovesickness that’s sometimes worth writhing out of. Superache, released two years later, is a confident step-up both in style and commerce; “Memories” and “Astronomy” showcase his considerable improvement in songwriting while being some of his most streamed tracks to date. With these major releases, Gray’s tender synths have formed a niche in the romantic pop scene, which makes this third album sound a little off at first glance. Why such a sudden shift?

“I was just bored,” he answered in an interview with an indifferent shrug. “There’s so much music right now that kind of sounds the same.” Regardless of how much he meant that, new wave has been on an upsurge since the dawn of the 2010s, and remakes of A-ha’s “Take on Me” are still going strong (the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights”, Harry Styles’s “As It Was”, the Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber’s “Stay”). So when he shares the lead single that’s structurally – and literally – of the same origin, the bold statement seems to hold little relevance. Found Heaven may be a sonic overhaul for him, but not for the current landscape.

But even if it doesn’t offer any new perspective on the genre, the production still boasts its expensive mirrorball that reflects garish light in every direction: Max Martin does it again. Found Heaven is an authentic emulation of carefully curated artists from the time, sounding so stripped of modern-day twists and turns that a fair few might be mistaken as theirs. “Boys & Girls” can be on a Pet Shop Boys record, and the title track’s grooves are essentially Prince. These cathartic beats carry him on as he treks through unsuccessful relationships and their subsequent loneliness. A temporal escape to the glitzy 80s sounds about right.

Gray’s low-register voice is a new charm to relish. Other than a gesture to the era’s dominant vocal style, it adds to his yearning for long-term romance – his rasp annunciation a sign of the tiresome search for it. “I chase as you’re chasing another man,” he sings in “Killing Me”, exhausted, knowing his partner won’t listen anyway. If Kid Krow and Superache are collections of high-pitched torch songs, this builds on their foundation and manifests its earned maturity in his deep voice. “Bourgeoisieses”, an absolute must-listen that dips into the hardships of the non-rich, wouldn’t have hit as hard if he’d sung it otherwise.

It’s a shame that he doesn’t broaden his subject more than he does now. That song and “Family Line” from the previous album are refreshing to hear because they’re glimpses of an intriguing possibility. He has it all already: a wide vocal range, expensive-sounding production, and moving songwriting. What else is impeding him from exploring other areas of interest? “Alley Rose” and “Killing Me” are stadium singalongs, but their messages feel too similar, too one dimensional, like a déjà vu that keeps recurring in his discography. On Found Heaven, the wreckage of love overstays its welcome; sadly, profundity gives in to frustrating familiarity.

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