Seeking solace in ’80s synth: ‘Found Heaven’ album review

Conan Gray depicts messy emotions and sparkling sadness in “Found Heaven”. Photo courtesy of Clash Music



Singer-songwriter Conan Gray has delivered indie-pop sensationalism since 2017 with the release of “Idle Town”, backed by his small but dedicated online cohort. Gray began his media presence as a YouTuber in 2013, documenting his life in small-town Texas. He gradually established an intimate community that has since greatly evolved, while never losing sight of his relatability. 

Since then, Gray has amassed nearly 27 million monthly Spotify listeners and over 1.5 billion streams of his beloved song, “Heather“. Gray’s third album, “Found Heaven”, released on April 5, 2024, confronts the brutal reality of the 21st-century dating scene in vivid color and retro reminiscence. 

Before the release 

Before the release of “Found Heaven” came five singles including “Never Ending Song”, “Winner”, “Killing Me”, “Lonely Dancers” and “Alley Rose”. The ’80s electronic motif embedded within these songs previewed Gray’s entry into a new era of his pop music expedition. 

In an interview with Rolling Stones, Gray shared his thoughts on creating this album. 

“This whole album is letting myself feel all of my emotions, and letting them hit me like a wave rather than running away from them,” Gray said. 

“Found Heaven” is a bold, dynamic turn for the songwriter, especially given his history as a steadfast icon in the singer-songwriter, bedroom pop scene. Gray’s previous albums “Superache” and “Kid Krow”, produced by Dan Nigro, featured songs about hypothetical heartbreak and the chilling feeling of isolation. After his visceral encounters with heartache, Gray is ready to tell a different story about the convoluted emotions that accompany acrimonious breakups. 

The transition from “Kid Krow” and “Superache” to “Found Heaven” is abrupt, and if not prepared, the switch from booming ballads to electronic pop may cause whiplash. However, the change is not necessarily unwelcome from fans. In previous albums, romance was a fictitious subject for Gray, constantly being spoken about hypothetically, but here he speaks from the opposite position, having been mangled by its tangible consequences. This distinctly dissimilar theme is reflected in an exceptionally different sound from Gray, for better or worse. 

Inspiration and execution 

Welcome to the saddest ’80s club in Los Angeles, where all 13 tracks of “Found Heaven” play on repeat. The album’s first song and title track, “Found Heaven”, opens with a chorus of eerie, melodic chanting that serves as an enchanting introduction. Seconds later, Gray diverts into a hypnotic rhythm with addictive lyrics, a theme that persists throughout the album. 

Produced by Max Martin, “Found Heaven” pulls from beloved ’80s artists in an eccentric approach. Gray found inspiration when Doris Sanberg, Martin’s daughter and close friend, broadened his musical horizons into a new musical era. 

In an interview with Nylon, Gray talks about how he settled on this sound. 

“[Sandberg’s] my closest, closest friend, and I love her so much,” Gray said. “And she’s also a huge inspiration for this album because she just showed me unbelievable amounts of ’80s music.” 

Bourgeoisieses”, a standout on the album, explores the clash of socioeconomic status in an extremely distinct new sound from Gray. He sings from the perspective of a man envious of the wealthy, carefree lifestyle enjoyed by many, detailing sharp injustices in a danceable tune. The juxtaposition of these elements, combined with the hypnotic layering of sound within the song, creates something unique to Gray’s usual sound. 

Each song on “Found Heaven” pays attention to luminaries of ’80s pop, with Track 11 “Boys & Girls” directly referencing David Bowie. Gray’s inspiration for this album is immensely potent, also including “Eye of The Night”, which strongly echoes the sounds of Michael Jackson and Survivor. Drawing from the past has proved to be a powerful form of storytelling, but is this bold choice of Gray’s bettering his career or abandoning his fanbase? 

“Found Heaven” is available now on all major streaming platforms and in stores


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