Conan Gray’s “People Watching” Sees Him Turning His Deeply Personal Songwriting Outward

Photo: Dillon Matthew

For Conan Gray, an artist who found his start sharing his life and dreams on YouTube and who now stands at the cusp of worldwide stardom, the journey thus far has been documented at each and every turn. In many ways, the rapidly rising pop star's life has been one that is constantly on display, which is why his latest single arrives as such a refreshing perspective shift.

"People Watching" turns Gray's deeply personal songwriting on its head, lending his affective lyricism to the outsider, to the mundane passerby. Over a restrained backdrop, Gray opens up his latest inevitable pop anthem with a series of confessions that could belong to anyone, "She wears a ring, but they tell people that they’re not engaged / They met in class for metaphysical philosophy /He tells his friends 'I like her' / ‘Cause she’s so much smarter than me / They’re having talks about their futures until 4 AM, providing kaleidoscopic glimpses at lives outside his own.

These series of observations soon give way to a grand, sweeping emotional deluge as Gray and the pristine production soar to heavenly heights. "I wanna feel all that love and emotion / Be that attached to the person I’m holdin’," belts the budding pop star in one of the most infectious choruses of recent memory. Yet, there is a tinge of melancholy to be found in Gray's role of the constant outsider, "Cut people out like tags on my clothing / I end up all alone, but I still keep hoping." 

The new single also arrives hand-in-hand with a Joe Mischo - directed music video that sees Gray playing the role of a barista, arguably the best job there is to have for someone who loves to spend hours people watching. Gray spoke further on the music video, sharing, "The best place on earth to people watch is the cafe. The perfect couples talking about their mornings, students studying, sweet couples who've sat at the same table for decades. It's wonderful. My best friend Ashley and I used to joke about the idea of us working at a cafe together, how terrible we'd be at our job because we'd get so distracted staring at people. So for the people watching the video I brought Ashley to LA and thought I'd play the situation out, really show how much of a beautiful disaster it would be if I were to work at a cafe as I always say I should've."

"People Watching" is so much more than an anthem ready for radio takeover; it's a sublime testament to Gray's emotional depth, a space for his inherent gift for universal songwriting that extends far beyond himself to spread its wings and soar. 

Watch the "People Watching" video below: