Not long after singer-songwriter Conan Gray announced the arrival of his sophomore album “Superache” on June 24, he released a heart-wrenching single called “Memories” along with a music video at midnight on April 15. He posted a nine-second teaser five days prior and a 36-second teaser a day prior to the release.
The song revolves around the narrator finally feeling ready to put a heartbreak in the past when suddenly, their former lover comes back, causing all the pain, trauma and heartache that the narrator felt during their time together to resurface.
It begins with a warm piano ballad and Gray singing in a lower register compared to most of his other songs. The pre-chorus introduces a more driving pop feel to the song that also appears in the second verse. The instrumentals slow down for the more indie-like chorus and bridge and have multiple voices singing along to create a choral effect.
The video starts with the longer teaser: Gray is on the phone with a friend who calls out his unhealthy coping mechanisms six weeks after the heartbreak. There’s also a reference to his top single, “Heather,” released in his first full-length album “Kid Krow” in March 2020; he is still wearing his lover’s sweater, unable to get over his feelings for them.
Warm lighting fills the scenes inside his home, indicating that this is now his place of comfort and coping. When his dog comes in through the front door, the area outside of his home is blue, marking a sad, cold emotion.
As the song starts playing, Gray’s shirt says, “D S T R,” which, to me, is likely referring to the disaster he is after the heartbreak. He plays the piano, sits in his closet and opens a box with mementos of him and his lover. He menacingly eyes polaroids of himself and his former love — the same ones he was admiring in the beginning before he got reminded of the lover — as he lights them on fire in a disheveled room.
His dog starts chewing on the aforementioned sweater sitting on his bed, and Gray tries to tug it away. He goes through several of the items in the box throughout the video. As the song progresses, his face strains as he sings certain parts; even if you haven’t experienced a similar relationship, you can feel the misery and anguish.
You can hear the desperation in his voice as he sings slightly offbeat in the first pre-chorus; the same elongated, emphasized enunciation in his words can be heard in the second verse and bridge. One of the most gut-wrenching lyrics comes at the end of the bridge — as the scent of the lover’s cologne floods the narrator’s possessions, he sings, “it makes me feel like dying / I was barely just surviving.”
The production of this song is absolutely phenomenal, along with the way his lyrics effortlessly flow and rhyme with each other.
Two of my favorite sets of lines that sound remarkable with the way he sings them are “You’re all drunk in my kitchen, curled in the fetal position / Too busy playin’ the victim to be listenin’ to me” and “I can’t be your friend, can’t be your lover / Can’t be the reason we hold back each other from falling in love.” The latter set of lines is sung so quickly in the second pre-chorus and just rolls off his tongue.
Gray’s songs have always left an emotional mark lyrically, and his music sonically adds onto that ache. When talking with ET Canada about his fourth pre-release single, “Jigsaw,” that came out in January, he said, “Nothing is more therapeutic than writing this miserable personal song and then singing it on tour for months of your life to screaming, screaming smiling faces… It really changes the way you think of that experience.”
This can also apply to “Memories,” his fifth pre-release single. His style of singing parts of this song particularly emulates the way he belts out lines in “Jigsaw,” which revolves around someone longing for the narrator to change for them, eventually making the narrator develop deeply ingrained insecurities.
“Memories” continues to highlight the theme of “Superache” with references to pain and suffering having to do with another person. With such a beautiful sound and even more intense lyrics, Conan Gray’s masterpiece deserves nothing less than five out of five crabs.