Conan Gray is the breakout chart topping star of 2020. With numerous hits and a wildly popular soundtrack to his name, Lauv (Ari Leff) has been turning heads with his emotional tracks. Now the two happiest indie pop sadboys have joined forces on the radio-ready music video and song “Fake.”
The song “Fake” is the first collaboration of Conan Gray’s professional career (though longtime fans may recall his collaboration with Cavetown, back in his YouTube heyday). Lauv, alternatively, has done a number of high profile collaborations, including BTS and Sofía Reyes.
“Fake” opens with strumming acoustic guitar. Lauv is the first of the pair to begin singing, “Yeah, you and your friends you live on the surface/Act like you’re perfect…You’re just like everyone else except for you’re better at taking photos.” A number of his songs focus on themes like this, most similarly “Drugs & The Internet” and “Modern Loneliness.” He often sings about the isolation of social media, fame and the masks that people wear. The track sounds distinctly similar to Lauv’s music, not Conan’s, particularly his collaboration with Anne-Marie, “f**k, i’m lonely.”Lauv’s voice sounds sad and disappointed in this intro-verse, but the high energy comes in the next verse, the chorus.
A trap beat is introduced to the acoustic guitar and chimes. Conan’s voice is distinctly heard in the chorus, “Man, you’re so f***ing fake/You don’t mean a single thing you say/If we’ve got a problem, say it to my face/And you’re just like all the people that you hate.” Conan’s voice is clearest during the chorus, but the duo shouts, “You’re so fake!” in unison, before Lauv’s voice rings out alone, without instrumentals, “When the real you’s back, I’ll pick up my phone.” The lyrics are similar to Conan Gray’s “Greek God,” from his 2018 EP, as they both focus on gossiping and self loathing people putting down others who possess what they fear within themselves.
Conan takes the next verse, “Calling me up when you’re getting drunk/You say you’re in love but what do you mean…And then we break up, you lie through your teeth/Telling me your perfect lies and wasting all my time.” The lyrics connect to his past song “Wish You Were Sober,” in its themes about drinking blurring minds and lines, as well as “The Cut That Always Bleed” and “Maniac” when singing about someone dragging out an unhealthy dynamic (frankly, a lot of his discography focuses on this). Both Lauv and Conan’s portions of the song focus on the “perfect” lives and lies that people present, especially in their shiny world of the music industry.
Conan and Lauv sing together in the chorus, but in the next verse the instrumentals don’t calm down to just acoustics, like in the previous verses. Conan takes the vocal lead, including an echoey call and response with Lauv’s lighter voice. This creates a more rushed feeling, like someone shoving a person away and charging forward. They sing, “You just want to play little games for attention… Pushing me away so I crave your affection…Calling me insane but you stay in my mentions…” The lyrics throughout the entirety of “Fake” connect to his past songs, but these are very reminiscent of “Checkmate,” which centered around the games people play, as well as “Maniac,” particularly the fact they were “calling [him] insane” but still going desiring him in private. Exhaustion with manipulation is the driving force of much of the track.
Whooping exclamatory phrases and vocal runs makes the outro verse stand out from the other choruses. It also creates an atmosphere of carelessness about the person of whom they’re singing. There’s anger and annoyance in Conan and Lauv’s voices throughout the whole song, but it’s softened by this. It sounds like more fun.
Both artists’ backgrounds are similar – youths filled with moving and finding their professional beginnings as fully independent teenagers. This lends itself to their similar musical styles and even popularity (both are within the top 150 most streamed artists in the world on Spotify). The musical styles of the artists blend well together, and their songs typically focus on the same issues, though this sound is a more saccharine than Conan’s usual songs.
“Fake” is bubblegum pink paint glossing over a cracked foundation. “Fake” is glitter smeared beneath runny mascara and tear-filled eyes with bags below. “Fake” is two friends storming away from a crowd.