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An Ode to a New Generation: A Review of Conan Gray’s Song ‘Generation Why’ & Video

Conan Gray is an artist most commonly known for his YouTube channel packed full of stunning original music and covers. His latest song, “Generation Why,” is the first song off of his highly awaited debut EP. “Generation Why” is very exciting for fans, and the power of its release does not seem lost on Gray. The beauty of the song and depth of the video, create a powerful start to his official career.

The video begins slowly. It shows Gray with a friend, surrounded by a sunny atmosphere. It then cuts to Gray being pointed and yelled at by a paternal figure. Then it transitions into flickers of darkness before showing Gray breaking his deadpan expression, slamming the papers down, flipping over his handlebars and being completely engulfed in the night. This could be seen as a metaphor for him hitting a breaking point with world issues, as well as personal responsibilities. Gray begins to bike around in this dreamy dark state, where he looks at versions of himself that are all paralyzed by the sidewalk. Gray then wakes up, bloodied and on his back. He inspects his injuries for a moment, before falling back again, in defeat. The video offers no happy ending.

Gray opens the song with a dazed repetition of “why, why, why,” which sets the hazy tone of the song. The lyrics to the song are dark, angry and downright rebellious. These themes don’t match the highly saturated musical accompaniment and video (for the most part), which paints an even more impressive picture.

Gray’s chorus is a dark one:

“Cause we are the helpless, selfish, one of a kind

Millennium kids, that all wanna die

Walking in the street with no light inside our eyes

We are the worthless, cursed with too much time

We get into trouble and lose our minds

Something that I’ve heard a million times in my life

Generation Why.”

These lyrics are sung in such a light manner you’d think he’s sharing nothing but an airy pop tune, and even the video mirrors this brightness, paralleled by darkness. 

The video has Gray riding his bike around, as he is seen doing in his earlier songs “The Other Side” and “Idle Town.” “Idle Town” earned him over 10 million views on YouTube, a spot on Spotify’s top charts and settled him into the position of a professional musician. This time, Gray is tossing newspapers onto the pristine grass. Contrasting the brightness of the lawns, the thrown newspapers read dark headlines such as “World On Verge Of World War Three.” The simplicity of the font (just small enough that you could miss it) and Gray’s monotone expression illustrate the numbness many members of his young generation feel.

Lyrics such as “Talk about how fast we grew/And all the big dreams that we won’t pursue” and “Walking in the street with no light in our eyes” portray the overwhelming feelings and situations with which the youngest generations must cope. Gray pairs worldly worry with domestic difficulty, employing a suburban setting with props such as parental discipline, big family cars, and playgrounds, with the shocking but believable newspaper headlines.

“Generation Why” will remain one of Conan Gray’s most important songs and videos for the remainder of his career, and he did not miss the opportunity to make an impressive debut. Gray’s talent, passion and poignancy make this work a painfully accurate representation of today’s youth’s experiences.

All images via Conan Gray on Youtube

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Written By

Helen Ehrlich is a writer who enjoys politics, activism and charity work, music, and all things literary. She lives in America where she attends school.

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