New Music Monday 02/26/2024

By: Rachel Mattingly

Recently, Conan Gray’s newest release is a single called “Lonely Dancers,”and it deviates from many of his most popular songs. Instead of an emotional and sort of wallowing tune, it is an upbeat 80’s inspired disco song. While the lyrics follow a similar tone to the rest of his discography, the single seems markedly different in all other aspects. 

I am not incredibly familiar with Conan Gray’s music, but after listening to this new release, I was a bit surprised. I thought that his music consisted of slower, somewhat melancholic, and stripped down tunes, so I was a bit shocked when electronic instruments started beeping through my headphones. The lyrics of the song, while paired with a cheerful tempo, are a bit mournful in nature, with the singer pleading to another: “dance with me so we don’t cry.” The literal message of the song might serve the same catharsis to fans that many of his other songs do, but because of the drastically different tempo and melody it doesn’t really fall into the same niche as his other music. 

To me, the most compelling thing about the song is the resemblance it bears to “The Safety Dance.” The entire time it was playing, all I could hear in my head was “we can dance if we want to.” The tempo, melody, and the use of synths are incredibly alike in the two songs. I’m curious as to whether Gray drew inspiration directly from this song, because it seems a little too specific for the inspiration to be from 80’s music in general. The similarity is another reason why listening to this song was so jarring. “Lonely Dancers,” feels like if Men Without Hats attempted to write serious lyrics about their exes for “The Safety Dance” instead of leaning into the silliness that so naturally accompanies the song’s sound. Personally, every time I hear “The Safety Dance,” I laugh a little and so taking “Lonely Dancers” seriously was a bit of a challenge, as I imagine it would be for many others. 

Returning to the disco style is not unusual or out of place, with many modern disco songs becoming more popular in recent years. It can be refreshing to see artists blend their own styles with those of older genres and songs, and can sometimes lead to even greater art being made. Nina Simone’s rendition of “Ne Me Quittes Pas” comes to mind. And although I’m not saying Gray was copying “The Safety Dance,” or trying to enhance it, I do think it rings a bit hollow for its proximity, not necessarily through any fault of Gray’s. It is probably just an unfortunate coincidence that his new single almost sounds like a parody of such an iconic song. Overall, the song is enjoyable, but not particularly memorable. Just listen to “The Safety Dance” instead.