As a fan of Conan Gray’s discography, I was more than excited for a new single. And so, when “Astronomy” released on May 7, I was thrilled to listen. What I found, however, was more than a little disappointing.
The track is nothing special, and blends into the rest of his discography. With typical and somewhat cliche lyrics and themes, the song is nothing different than what Gray has released in the past. Lacking any of the personality present in his older works, like the cynicism of his debut EP “Sunset Season” or the self-awareness and clever themes of his 2020 album “Kid Krow,” “Astronomy” is nothing special. A typical story of lost young love, Gray has spent too long raising his standards and increasing the quality of his works to release a track this lackluster and it be expected.
While the idea is nice, it feels as though Gray gets too caught up in the aesthetic value of a song utilizing space imagery, and subsequently lacks substance. This is unusual for Gray, whose clever lyrics and catchy melodies often challenge the perceptions of songs marketed to teenagers and young adults. For this reason, “Astronomy,” in which Gray sings of growing out of a teenage relationship, feels bland and stretched out for its 4:03 minute runtime.
This is not to say that the entire song fails, however. The instrumentation not only fits the tone of Gray’s previous work, but is increasingly complex from songs he has released in the past. It feels like he has grown in terms of his technical understanding of music and is willing to experiment. With dreamy instrumentation and vocals, and a brilliantly composed bridge, “Astronomy” feels like a much more successful exercise in technical composition than in lyrics.
Despite this definite success, the quality of the lyrics is impossible to move past. While it can be argued that music is more important than lyrics on principle, Gray has always been an artist notable for his clever, relatable ideas and effectiveness in telling a story through song. As such, this song, which noticeably lacks these qualities, is a major disappointment. The expectation is for artists to grow in skill and quality over the course of their careers, yet this feels like the opposite. This is especially upsetting when compared with his other most recent single, “Overdrive,” a track which felt both musically interesting and narratively rich.
With this being said, it has little impact on my respect for Gray as an artist. As a young musician who achieved near instant breakout success, it is to be expected that he will experiment with different types of music and storytelling over the course of his career, and some attempts will be less successful than others. As such, I view this simply as a natural part of a larger, more refined and interesting discography. Despite this relative disappointment of a song, I maintain almost entirely positive feelings for Gray’s discography as a whole, and cannot wait to see what comes next from him.