Conan Gray is yearning for something more on his vibrantly realized sophomore album, 2022's Superache. Once again produced with longtime collaborator Dan Nigro (along with some production by Cirkut and co-writing contributions by Julia Michaels), Superache is a bigger, more robust record than 2020's Kid Krow, while still retaining, and in many ways expanding upon, the heartfelt diaristic qualities that made Gray such a poster child for sad Internet teens. What's especially compelling about Gray's work on Superache is just how well he combines big pop hooks with believable and personal lyrics. Much like his idol Taylor Swift, Gray has the knack for crafting hooky, infectious anthems that also feel explicitly born out of his own life experience. At the core of the album is "Family Line," a poignant ballad about child abuse and generational trauma, all filtered through what clearly feels like his own personal story. It's the rawest song on a record full of openhearted honesty, one that grounds Superache in an inescapable realness. Gray brings an equal amount of authenticity to even his frothiest, most playful cross-genre moments, as on the driving, '80s dance-rock-sounding "Disaster," or the wry country hip-hop of "Best Friend." Particularly engaging is "Jigsaw," a song about the myriad ways people try to change themselves to please someone else in a relationship. Marrying his dove-eyed vocal coo to his band's chugging, '90s-style Pixies guitar and drum wallop, Gray sings, "Killin' parts of myself to fit you/Clear as sh*t I was not the issue/If I made you like me, would I even like myself?/Pointing out all my flaws doesn't help." It's that balance Gray strikes on Superache between plumbing his own candidly intimate fears and simultaneously pulling together all of his musical influences into his own distinctive sound that lends the album such magnetic, transformative power. On Superache, Gray isn't just a charismatic conduit for young heartache; in the best sense of the term, he's a pop star.
by Matt Collar