Conan Gray is a talented artist who gained a large following on YouTube for his genuine personality, art, and music. Sunset Season is Gray’s highly anticipated debut EP, and he clearly delivered upon the expectations of the hype. The cover art shows Gray clutching trophies, award ribbons, wearing what appears to be a homecoming court sash and crown, and standing in front of an outdoor basketball court. Even the album’s art creates a slightly nostalgic and suburban feeling, pairing excellently with the album’s contents. With old favorites and exciting new songs, Gray captures the essence of today’s youth, whilst ensconcing himself as a mature and professional voice.
“Idle Town” is appropriately the first song on Sunset Season, seeing as it was the song that sent Conan Gray into stardom. The original song, released March of 2017, earned 11 million views and was produced in a makeshift studio in Gray’s closet. The Sunset Season edition of “Idle Town” is a slightly cleaned up version production-wise, though it doesn’t abandon the song’s original sound. The song uses light piano, repeated chorusing in the background, and percussion that resembles the sound of bike gears shifting (Gray can be seen in multiple music videos on a bike). Idle Town was written as a farewell ode to his small hometown in Texas. This is clear, as it’s jam-packed with details and stories, “Yeah we invent our own little games (in our idle town)/And everybody’s trying to escape (in our idle town)/Killing time at the yellow café (in our idle town)/And curfew’s at midnight (in our idle town)…” “Idle Town” is the perfect familiar welcome to any returning fans, as well as an introduction to any new listeners to Conan Gray.
“Generation Why” was the first single to be released exclusively for the Sunset Season EP. It was his first officially professional song and established Gray’s indisputable competence as an artist. The song opens with a hazy repetition of “why, why, why,” which sets the dreamy tone of the song. The song’s lyrics are angsty and anxious, though it would be difficult to tell that if you only listened to the lightness of Gray’s voice. The song utilizes a simple beat for the majority of the song to emphasize the uplifting sound of the chorus and beat drop. Despite the happy sound of the music, the lyrics express the pain of bearing parental figure’s ridicule, the planet, and pressures of the future. Generation Why truly connects with younger generations as they attempt to handle the responsibility of the heavy subject matter Gray expertly explores in “Generation Why.”
“Crush Culture” is categorically, a bop. With bouncy and synthy beats, you can’t help but want to jump around to Conan Gray’s lamentation. The lyrics reach out to those who are alone (in terms of romantic love) and are watching those around them pair up. The lyrics explain how this culture of partnership suggests that they who is alone, should admit their feelings to their crush. “Crush Culture,” says, “no way!” and celebrates the struggles and joys of being by oneself. Crush Culture is described by Gray as a “song for the loveless”, and it delivers on that promise, as it is a song many can relate to while dancing along.
“Greek God” opens with a humming chorus, which continues throughout the song. The humming’s melody is almost reminiscent of a caricaturistic rendition of the god-like tunes of Grecian stories. With a very heavy beat, Greek God sounds like Gray is going to war. The punchy pulsating synth in the background of the song creates a noise that draws upon a sound of a chain, or metal hitting the ground, further emphasizing the fighting theme. The song’s lyrics are cutting and call out those who are cruel. The bridge’s lyrics are particularly striking as they appear to be direct digs at people in his life and former high school, as Gray references occurrences of which he spoke about in his videos, “All the kids and your clique are pretend/ I don’t mind when you play with my head/I flip around, play with yours instead/I don’t like what you said to my friends/One day you’re gonna regret/Ever messing with them…” Gray’s use of the term Greek God is incredibly clever, as popular kids in high school are often referred to in pop culture as the gods of a school. However, those interested in Greek mythology would understand that Greek gods didn’t actually do a whole lot. Furthermore, Gray grew up and remains invested in his Christian faith (even concluding each video with the phrase, “God bless and goodbye!”), typically Christians brush off Greek gods as characters in stories that can be used for life lessons, but are ultimately deemed as “false gods”. This comparison takes a strong swing at whoever this song is directed. Gray goes on to sing of his song’s subject’s flimsy confidence and power, once again drawing from references to the falsehood of their godliness. “Cause I know what you really want /A little more confidence/ This is where it’s got to stop/ I’m tired of hearing it/You’re just gonna be a fraud…”. “Greek God” is Conan Gray’s battle song.
“Lookalike” is the melancholy conclusion to Sunset Season, and is Conan Gray’s edition of a ballad. “Lookalike” features a vulnerable and wounded Conan Gray, like he’s never been heard in his music, before. He sings of a relationship that remains in the past, one that never fully formed. He sings of what could have been but never was. He sings of hurting, and replacements, and memories, “But when you look in his eyes/Do you think of mine?/And when you look at that smile/Do I cross your mind?/I know in your head/You see me instead/’Cause he looks a lot like I did back then/Baby don’t lie/He’s just a lookalike.”. “Lookalike” is a song wrought with detail and anguish. With bold piano, pained lyrics, and an emotional performance, “Lookalike” will have you in tears.
“Sunset Season” is here.
I began this EP in the bedroom of my tiny town, recording on a mic i’d taped to a broken lamp. Five songs and a lifetime later, I hope it’ll play in your bedroom.
I hope you laugh, dance, and cry.
— conan gray (@conangray) November 16, 2018
Conan Gray’s debut EP expresses the very feeling of running under a sunset with your friends on a summer evening and savoring the sensation of being young. Sunset Season is nostalgia, joy, rage, heartbreak, and most importantly: perfection.