Conan Gray’s ‘Found Heaven’ evokes ’80s nostalgia

By Jay Roberson

Conan Gray’s new album “Found Heaven” belongs in an ’80s action movie with its synth-filled songs featuring electric guitar and layered vocals alongside lyrics in each track guiding listeners through a heartbreak. 

Gray is mostly known for his indie-style, instrumental ballads revolving around unrequited love and jealousy. His third studio album “Found Heaven,” released on April 5, breaks him out of that stereotype as he sings about a lost love, but in a way that makes you want to get up and dance. 

Opening up the album is the title track where he reassures the listener that all forms of love are beautiful despite those who demonize it, referring to his identity as an LGBTQIA+ person. Gray says, “You’re no demon … Don’t be scared, little child/Of that feeling/You’re in love/You found heaven.” Gray sees love as a form of heaven bringing serenity and bliss. 

One of his singles and the next track on the album is “Never Ending Song,” which is reminiscent of the sound of The Killers; he sings about a connection with someone that is never ending, although he has tried. Gray says, “Tried to turn the page, but our story wasn’t stoppin’/And it goes on, and on, and on/Like a never ending song.” As much as he tries to move on, he stays stuck in this relationship. 

By Maggie Kleiner

A majority of the album is spent settling for a love that is less than what Gray deserves. In “Alley Rose” Gray says, “You told me, ‘I’m just so nervous, dear’/Well, how the hell do you think I feel?/I waited all year at your feet/Like, maybe you’d love me.” 

“The Final Fight” follows as he says, “Tried to bite back, but I couldn’t, I just stood and cried/For the lost time, for the hurting, for the love that died.” In this song Gray wishes he could’ve gotten in a last word with his partner whose love faded away. 

One of my personal favorites was “Bourgeoisieses” which mirrors the song “Affluenza” on Gray’s first album, but from a different perspective. In “Affluenza” he judges the higher class, but “Bourgeoisieses” mocks them by singing about wanting that lifestyle. Gray sings, “The men at war, they draft the poor/No time to mourn, I’m on the dance floor/Mom and Dad got my back/But I don’t need that, I need a Maserati.” He critiques social structures and the priorities of those who are rich. 

In “Boys & Girls,” Gray makes references to ’80s icon David Bowie when talking about the person he’s admiring. He sings, “Ch-cherry hair, so super Bowie/Kissed me but swears that you don’t know me/You wouldn’t care if I fell over and died.” Gray explains an almost parasocial relationship he has with the person. Gray raises tensions again when reflecting on a toxic relationship in “Killing Me.” The percussion builds up to the chorus as he sings, “You’re killing me (Killing)/I just want you to free me (Ah-ah-ah)/And though I’m cryin’ and bleedin’ and barely breathin’/I can’t let go of your heart.” Though this relationship is killing him, he doesn’t want to let go of it.

To close out the album, Gray goes back to his roots beginning the song with soft piano and reflecting on the hardships of his childhood in “The Winner”. The synthesizers and drums begin to pick up comparing this trauma to “The Winner” who is the person that hurt him the most. Gray says, “‘Cause there’s no one/Who has ever done better/At makin’ me feel worse/Now you really are the winner (Winner).” Gray almost doesn’t want to admit to this truth and repeats, “You don’t really want to hear the truth, do you?” 

Though it was unexpected, “Found Heaven” made me want to dance along the whole time, despite the themes being tragic. Gray finds a way to take this pain and heartbreak and turn it into a nostalgic, pop album that anyone would want to sing along to. 

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