I’m a major fan of Conan Gray and recently have been longing for more music from him, but “Fake,” which he co-wrote and sang with Ari Staprens Leff (Lauv), was not what I wanted whatsoever. It was frankly disappointing, and I genuinely hope future music from Gray does not follow the same pattern.
The first six seconds of the song were the most enjoyable, with a catchy bar or so of acoustic guitar from Lauv that was reminiscent of ’90s rock. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there. After those six seconds, the music became much more electronic and very run-of-the-mill-sounding with the addition of a drum machine. In my opinion, Gray’s best work is acoustic, so I was displeased with the amount of production on this record. The melody was overly simplistic and bland, and overall the song was virtually indistinguishable from any other on a pop radio station.
Additionally, the lyrics were much less profound and relatable than Gray’s other music, and while this may be because the song was a collaboration, it is still upsetting that the quality of the songwriting was subpar. When compared to the lyrics from songs like “The Other Side,” “Little League ” and “The Story” (all by Gray, all beautiful songs), “Fake’s” chorus of “You’re so f***ing fake / you don’t mean a single thing you say” seems especially shallow. The call-and-response portion of the verses was odd and didn’t fit well into the song, and the whole thing felt forced and, ironically, fake. Even compared to Gray’s songs like “Checkmate” or “Maniac,” which definitely have a pop sound, “Fake” falls flat.
One of Gray’s biggest strengths is his ability as a vocalist, and while that did shine through in a few places, most notably in the final chorus, for the most part “Fake” was lacking in the haunting sound and vocal quality that he is capable of. While Lauv is a good singer, Gray is better, and it was difficult to distinguish his vocals from behind Lauv’s for most of the song. Their voices didn’t mesh well together, and I feel that Gray would be better off writing and singing his own music without others’ input.
Under ordinary circumstances, I would complain about the song’s very brief two-minute 26-second run time, but these are not ordinary circumstances. As it is, I appreciate that the song was mercifully short; I don’t think I could have taken listening to the chorus another time, let alone any more call-and-response verses. What could have been the song’s only downfall is actually its only strength: it ends quickly.
“Fake” was a disappointment. Conan Gray and Lauv could have created a meaningful piece of music, but instead we were graced with yet another basic radio pop song that will (with good luck) be forgotten within a year. I only hope that Gray reverts back to his previous style after this letdown of a song.