Born in Lemon Grove, California in 1998, the 22-year-old pop sensation Conan Gray is a massive musical success. He has garnered over 3 million YouTube subscribers, over 18 million monthly listeners on Spotify, nearly 5 million Instagram followers and a friendship with his biggest inspiration: Taylor Swift.
Gray has gushed over the 31-year-old pop icon on various occasions, including in a 2020 People Magazine interview where he stated, “I love her so much. I love her music. I love what she does. I love her lyricism. I love how she’s handled her career. She’s just such a f—ing boss. I grew up listening to her music since I was nine years old. I feel like she shaped me so much as a person. She just really blows me away. I think if I were in a room with her, I’d literally evaporate so maybe I shouldn’t do that.”
Following the release of Gray’s debut album, “Kid Krow,” in 2020, Swift reached out on Instagram, complimenting the young pop star on his music, and also promoted his song “Wish You Were Sober” on her personal Instagram.
Now, over a year after the release of “Kid Krow,” Gray has released new music: a soft pop ballad about heartbreak and nostalgia titled “Astronomy.” Following its release, Swift again shouted out the song on her personal Instagram account, saying “This one is on another level!! Support/stream/buy this ethereal work of art. So much love & respect @conangray.”
“This one is on another level !! Support/stream/buy this ethereal work of art. So much love & respect” pic.twitter.com/mOdhQWziNh
— Taylor Swift News 💛 (@TSwiftNZ) May 8, 2021
Amid the whirlwind of support he received from his longtime musical icon, Gray has never been shy about being a Swiftie, talking about the impact she and her music had on him as a child. He even stated that the first YouTube video he ever watched was one of Swift’s music videos.
Gray’s success in the music industry is a direct reflection of his talent, which has been apparent in his first EP, “Sunset Season,” in his debut album, “Kid Krow,” his summer pop hit, “Overdrive” and now, “Astronomy.”
Gray’s new single has already accumulated over 5 million streams on Spotify and Swift has described it as “ethereal.” She seems to have hit the nail on the head: The song is a delicate mix of heartbreak and extended metaphor that makes for a graceful combination of weighty lyrics and diaphanous musicality.
The song opens with acoustic guitar and simple harmonies to complement Gray’s mature lyrics about a love lost. In the first verse, Gray sings: “We drive through the woods, rich neighborhoods to watch / we joked as we looked that they were too good for us / ‘cause socially speaking, we were the same / with runaway fathers and mothers who drank / a tale old as time, young love don’t last for life / and now I know, now I know / it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
Referencing nostalgic memories as well as the finality of the breakup creates a fine line that reflects lived experiences with childhood love. The remainder of the song is just as emotionally evocative and effective.
The chorus situates an extended metaphor that gives way to the title of the song, “Astronomy.” Gray sings, “We’ve traveled the seas, we’ve ridden the stars / we’ve seen everything from Saturn to Mars / as much as it seems like you own my heart / it’s astronomy, we’re two worlds apart / (it’s astronomy) we’re two worlds apart / (it’s astronomy) we’re two worlds apart.
Woven throughout the entirety of the song is a solar system, a whole universe, which encompasses the feeling of one’s first love. Lyrically, Gray’s talent has never been more apparent — look no further than his layering of literary and scientific references, such as “star-crossed lovers” and the reality that stars visible to those on Earth may already be long dead.
There is so much poetry in the lyrics and so much musicality in the composition, it is no wonder that an industry veteran and musical innovator like Swift picked up on it; as she said, “Astronomy” is on another level. It very much is for Gray, whose songwriting capabilities have soared to new heights.
“Kid Krow” was a massive commercial success for Gray with hits like “Maniac” and “Heather,” both of which were extremely popular on the TikTok app. However, “Astronomy” is a subdued, mature ballad in comparison.
Although “Astronomy” shares similarities to “The Story,” the final track on “Kid Krow,” the newer song separates itself with its subtleties and metaphors. “The Story,” though beautiful and poignant, is specific and uses a brutally honest and definitive songwriting style, akin to Phoebe Bridgers or Lizzy McAlpine.
“Astronomy,” on the other hand, is brimming with lyrical complexity and literary devices that make it an artful and ingenious song that shows Gray’s growth as a songwriter and as a musician.