‘The Internet’s Favourite Sadboi’ Conan Gray is paving the way for more Asian representation in the USA’s music industry


By Buro247

‘The Internet’s Favourite Sadboi’ Conan Gray is paving the way for more Asian representation in the USA’s music industry

Meet Conan Gray: The Internet’s Favourite Sadboi. Known for his candid lyrics, the singer-songwriter has made a considerable mark both on and off social media with the release of his debut album, Kid Krow earlier this year.

Since his debut, the Texas-based pop sensation has garnered an impressive following, claiming the likes of BTS, Brendon Urie, Billie Eilish and The 1975 as ardent fans. You’re likely to recognise his hit single ‘Maniac’—a high-energy bop that has made rounds on TikTok and earned Gray a gold certification.

Here’s a refresh, in case you forgot. Psst: For any of you The End of the F***ing World fans out there, it features a very familiar face.

Don’t let his unofficial title fool you, though—he’s not actually very sad. In fact, he’s quite the contrary! Behind the sombre words penned to catchy tunes is a bubbly personality with a disarming disposition. So, where do the lyrics come from?

According to Gray, his more morose lyrics are born as a “coping mechanism”—they reflect the most pertinent emotions he’s feeling at the time. It’s been the same since he was twelve years old: “I grew up very fast; I moved around a lot as a kid so there were a lot of friends that I’d lost at that point. So, I’d been through a lot by twelve. I thought I was very deep, and I had a lot that I wanted to say.”

“I just try to write about what I’m going through, and apparently, if you listen to Kid Krow I’ve been through a lot of sad things the past couple of years. I’m perfectly fine, though! I wrote a song about it so now I’m over it,” he laughs.

His songwriting journey started a lot earlier than his 12th birthday, though. In fact, Gray has always had a knack for composition, with the first song he wrote actually having been about losing all of his save progress on a beloved Pokémon game (a feeling we can all empathise with). And if he couldn’t think of a melody? He’d simply “change the words to other songs” to make them more relatable to him.

Can you blame him, though? Indeed, as a mixed-race kid it’s difficult to connect with lyrics when you don’t identify with the songwriter; when you don’t see yourself ever sharing their experiences. It comes as no surprise that Gray had turned to improvisation then and that he continues to find inspiration for many of his lyrical ventures in his personal experiences now.

If you ask him to describe his experiences growing up mixed, the word he’d use is “difficult”. “I grew up in an area that was predominantly white, so it was just confusing for a long time. I didn’t know where I belonged—it’s hard to really understand where your place is when you’re growing up. I always felt like a bit of an outsider—it’s like I spent my whole childhood observing people and cliques while not really participating.”

It’s all in the silver linings, though. Gray credits his growing passion for songwriting to his complicated background. In fact, he reckons that if not for the hardships he faced as one of the only Japanese kids in Texas, he may never have started writing music in the first place.

So, you’ll have heard him sing about the feeling of isolation, or even the savage feeling of losing a love you never even had. However, one thing you won’t have heard him describe in his music are the blissful highs of actually being in love. The way he describes it, it actually explains a lot about why his music sounds the way it does; he’s “never fallen in love before”, so as he puts it, ”prior to falling in love, a lot of the strongest emotions you feel are along the lines of pain, or sadness.”

That’s not to say that he thinks he won’t ever experience love, though. In fact, he’s banking on it: “One day when I do [fall in love], it’ll probably be all I ever write about because love seems incredible.”