In an article for song People Watching An illustration of Conan Gray
In "People Watching," Conan Gray writes about observing love from a distance. (Illustration by Sonja Vasiljeva, San Jose State University)

‘People Watching’ Proves Longing Can Exist Without Loneliness

Conan Gray’s newest single about yearning for companionship without being interested in a relationship is something that can resonate with single people everywhere.

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In an article for song People Watching An illustration of Conan Gray

Conan Gray’s newest single about yearning for companionship without being interested in a relationship is something that can resonate with single people everywhere.

Conan Gray recently released his latest single, “People Watching,” and let’s just say it’s found a home in the hearts of both single and taken people. The song is composed of lyrics worthy of being scripture and is well on its way to becoming an anthem for singles who do and don’t want to be in relationships. The people that are watching, referenced in the title, are observers, those who hold perspectives of their own. Each line is a piece of poetry describing moments that happen as well as highlighting the moments that don’t.

But I wanna feel all that love and emotion

Be that attached to the person I’m holding 

In the world we live in, it is common for couples to display their affection toward each other in public places and especially on social media. Of course, there will be those who use criticism as a mask for their envy, but there are also people who yearn out of admiration. Relationships lacking true connection exist nowadays because being too selfish to be alone is all too common. Some people prefer being unhappy with someone else to being single because being alone seems more saddening than wishing you were. These lines hit close to home for the people wishing they could experience the love and emotion viewed from a one-sided perspective. If all they see is two people holding each other, it is hard to discern whether they would rather be holding different people.

Someday, I’ll be falling without caution

But for now, I’m only people watching

The theme of acceptance is evident in this song. With acceptance at the forefront, hope is not too far behind. The observers view everything in stages. It is all a process to them. Right now, they may just be the onlookers, but it is only a matter of time before it’s their moment to love and be loved as intensely as others do. These lines encapsulate the present stage of killing time by viewing how other people spend theirs. They show that the waiting stage is here for a reason. Rushing into a relationship is as risky as letting opportunities for love pass you by. A lack of trust or being too eager for passion is why caution is a necessity when it comes to love.

I’m only looking just to live through you vicariously

I’ve never really been in love, not seriously

Gray doesn’t sugarcoat here. Living through others vicariously is more of a gift than most know, or even understand. A person’s desire to share in the experiences of someone else gets to be fulfilled to an extent. Even if it’s just in the observer’s imagination, the experiences of another person being in love is enough to keep the longing at bay. There is truth in people admitting they’ve never been in love. Although they might not know what it feels like, they are very aware of what it doesn’t. That’s a lesson only life can teach you because you’re sure to take it seriously enough in real-life circumstances.

Cut people out like tags on my clothing

I end up all alone but I still keep hoping

Knowing your worth means sometimes letting go of relationships — platonic and romantic — that are not worth your time. It is perfectly fine to be picky about those you allow near you or within your circle. The instances where there are more people undeserving of your love than the opposite can sometimes leave you isolated. You might end up questioning why things must be this way, but you remember you’re not responsible for accommodating everyone else at the expense of your peace of mind. Cutting people off is a way of ensuring your security, and even if you end up all alone, you still have something to look forward to. After all, the more “no’s” you put behind you, the less you have ahead.

I won’t be scared to let someone know me

Life feels so monotone but I still keep hoping

Fear is often the obstacle standing between where we are and where we want to be. Often, it seems easier to be skeptical of others than to afford them an ounce of trust. It is as though questioning their motives will prepare you for anything, but that is seldom the case with love. Letting people in involves putting fear aside. Being optimistic while life feels so bland and unchanging is key. Be sure to make the colorful additions that suit your needs first. Your craving companionship still allows you to prioritize yourself, which is most aptly done when you’re by yourself.

The people watching are not just the people alone. They are the people who long for more than what they already have and the joys they are yet to experience for themselves. A person can long for the things they see and can still be content with where they are. It takes patience to continue on the road to where they’re going, and Gray has expressed frequently on his TikTok how happy he is to be alone despite longing for all that love and emotion. Gray uses “People Watching” to establish common ground for those of us who are and aren’t interested in love. Whether we see it as something we’re ready for or something worth the wait. The necessary message of his song is that being alone is not the same as loneliness, longing is not always laced with envy and empathy can be felt for the joyful things too.

Writer Profile

Fatima Sani

Rollins College
Psychology with a Creative Writing minor

Fatima Sani is a New York-born Nigerian storyteller attending college in Florida. She enjoys writing poetry and short stories when she’s not intensely analyzing movies and television series. Her favorite place in the world is anywhere family can be found and she believes the beach is prettiest in the early mornings.

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