Conan Gray has soared to massive success within the last year. Now certified RIAA Gold and a Taylor Swift easter egg himself, Conan is gearing up for a surge of new releases. The latest drop is “Astronomy.” The song is slower and filled with far more emotional revelations than “Overdrive,” signaling that any upcoming album will include a diverse range of sounds.
The track opens with strumming guitar, with chords almost reminiscent of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” or his own “The Story.” Conan sings, “”We drive through the woods/Rich neighborhoods/To watch,” setting a scene similar to his song “Idle Town” which featured him in his car, looping through his Texan suburban neighborhood. He also described driving for hours in that song, “Speed the road on our doubting days/To a place that’s far away.”
He describes difficult home lives and the desire to escape with and into another person. Similar to “The Story,” which centers around trying to survive the most crushing periods in one’s life. On “Astronomy,” Conan’s gentle voice sings, “With runaway fathers/And mothers who drank.” During his time on YouTube, Conan often referenced painful situations with his parents and the instability he experienced.
Conan sings about going through a great deal with someone, but undeniably coming to the conclusion of their journey together. The chorus, “We’ve traveled the seas/We’ve ridden the stars/We’ve seen everything/From Saturn to Mars.” There’s a disconnect between their past and the reality of their present, “As much as it seems/Like you own my heart/It’s astronomy/We’re two worlds apart.” His voice is gentle over the track, rocking back and forth. There’s a sudan instrumental surge, with snippets of his distorted voice layered over, sounding like he’s flying far away.
There are electronic swells, sounding like a spaceship beeping or a star shooting in the sky. Conan sings, “From far away/I wish I’d stayed with you/But here face to face/A stranger that I once knew.” He’s describing a distant longing to have the same closeness with someone and to remain loyal to them, but when confronted with the reality of someone’s presence it becomes clear that there is no longer the same relationship. “The only mistakeThat we didn’t makeWas run,” Conan sings, sounding similar to his song “Grow,” in which he sings, “Only you and me/We made it out, it seems…Oh boy I’m runnin’…”
The track sounds as though it could be about his friend, a former fixture in his YouTube videos and the inspiration of some of his songs about dear friendships during difficult times. Conan departed for California four years ago and has spent a great deal of time touring. Conan sings, “You’re pointing at stars in the sky/That already died/Stop tryna keep us alive/You can’t force the stars to align.” However, there are more romantic themes in the track, “I’d fall back in love/You said distance brings fondness/But guess not with us.” It could be Conan releasing the person who inspired his album, or it could be a fabricated single figure who serves to personify him feeling distant from his past life.
“The Other Side” also talks about similar themes: watching wealthy homes, staring at the sky, full and young hearts, “A black sky…We spend our time thinking ’bout what we’ll be doing/We walk quiet streets…” The connection between Conan’s original songs and “Astronomy,” is impactful, as the track is about growing up and apart. The video shows moments of breathtaking cinematic beauty, break downs and raw emotion. It also shows how much older Conan has become, and these references to his earlier music exhibits the way he is barely tethered to the person he was during his youth.
Conan explained, “’Astronomy’ is about that slow, painful, often denial inducing process of inadvertently distancing oneself from somebody. That moment when all of a sudden you look at that person you’ve loved for years and realize you no longer know them. That you two exist on two different worlds now. I find the worst heartbreaks happen slowly. No blowout fight and slamming doors and showing up on doorsteps while it’s raining. Just a gradual decaying of love with nothing left to do to stop it from slipping away. There’s no explanation, nobody to blame. That hurts the most.”
When stars’ light reaches Earth, it’s the conclusion of a journey that takes light years. By the time the stars become visible to others on Earth, the stars have already died. Instrumental surging demonstrates a concluding shift to the track as the vocals become more intense and insistent, “Stop tryna keep us alive/You’re pointing at stars in the sky/That already died/Stop tryna keep us alive/You can’t force the stars to align/When they’ve already,” Conan’s voice becomes more gentle before he cries, “died!” There is a gravely deepness to his voice on this line that further cements how far he has come as an artist and vocalist. The track concludes with slams to the background instrumentals and Conan yelling layered over.
With over 4 billion streams to his name in three years, Conan’s life has been significantly altered and not everything will be able to adjust with it. “Astronomy” is the resigned feeling of settling into silence with someone who has become a stranger. Some things are simply written in the stars.