With one foot firmly planted in pop and the other seeking out more mature musical footing, Conan Gray and his third collection, Superache, try for critical acceptance while maintaining commercial viability. The results are mixed.
Throwing a few opening cuts to the pop-hungry masses, “Movies,” and “People Watching” should serve Gray well on tour, adding a couple of easily digestible numbers to his growing song catalog. Both rely on his voice and bubbly boyish attitude to remain palatable, otherwise they are rather forgettable. The album improves as it progresses, as Gray drifts into more personal topics of love and loss, past and present. Perhaps a bit maudlin at times, confessional tracks “Family Line” and “Footnote” still manage to demonstrate Gray’s gifts as a songwriter and help him stake a claim as the preeminent acoustic balladeer in a crowded, internet sea of Gen-Z contemporaries.
Superache’s best moments are also the most distant from pop’s commercial norms. The back half of the set finds Gray more earnest and less contrived, and it is on these tracks where he takes more risks and also sounds more comfortable. Unfortunately, Gray still sounds a bit more manicured than he did on Kid Krow, perhaps due to the loftier expectations placed on his second LP. His fans will love Superache, and Gray haters will hate it, but for the open-minded, the songwriting is good and the underlying talent is undeniable.