Revisiting Conan Gray
Posted on April 23, 2021 Posted by Athena Scalzi 19 Comments
Back in August, I recommended some songs to y’all by an artist named Conan Gray (which you can find here). Though I generally like all his songs, I recommended four that I particularly loved, and today I’m here to talk about just one.
The one I want to recommend and discuss today is called “Generation Why.” While I like and can sometimes relate to Conan Gray’s other songs, this one in particular just hits different. It’s painfully relatable, and so catchy!
Here’s the lyric video:
So let’s break this down.
Starting with the title, “Generation Why”; this obviously is referencing Generation Y, aka Millennials. Being the age I am, I am the very youngest of Millennials, and pretty much the oldest of Generation Z, or the Zoomers. This is something I struggle with, and I know other people my age do, too. We don’t fit. We’re the inbetweeners, and don’t know who we should try to be like. Do we follow the trends of Generation Z, or are we too old and look like total dorks? Do we include ourselves in the blame when older generations call out Millennials for “ruining everything” and spending too much money on avocado toast?
So, “Generation Why” is relatable straight off the bat.
“This town don’t got much to do”. Hmm, what does that sound like? Oh yeah, my hometown. The whole area I live in, honestly. There’s nothing to do! It’s so boring here all the time (this is also why his song “Idle Town” is relatable, as well).
“Cause we are the helpless, selfish, one of a kind,
Millennium kids that all wanna die,
Walking in the street with no light inside our eyes.”
I mean, that’s so real! Everyone my age has this innate desire to just, not be alive. Not all the time, usually, but our humor is very death-centered, at least. We joke about jumping in front of buses and “committing not alive”. It’s just how we cope with all the trauma and death around us, I think.
“Cause at this rate of Earth decay,
Our world’s ending at noon,
Could we all just move to the moon?”
Again, so real! Our planet is dying, more and more everyday, and we are experiencing the effects of climate change and global warming in this very day and age. It’s such a big deal that it’s impacting my decision, and many of my friends’ decisions, about whether or not we should have kids. Should we really bring children into a world that is burning alive?
Not to mention all this talk about colonizing Mars so future humans can live off-planet. Like, we’re really considering moving to a whole other planet instead of just fixing ours?!
“We’re livin’ night to night,
Since we’re bound to die.”
Uh, yeah, that’s like my whole mentality. It’s hard to picture the future when, like I said, the world is dying and everything seems bleak and hopeless. And it seems like I’m not the only person my age who has this mindset. So we take it day by day, live night by night, because the future is not guaranteed. We’re hyperaware of our mortality.
Anyways, this post was really just to dive deeper into the meaning behind a song I really like, and explore what the lyrics mean to me. I hope you enjoyed the song, regardless of if you can relate to it or not. And have a great day!
I can identify with being between generations: depending on exact definitions, I’m either one of the youngest Boomers or the oldest Gen-X. On the whole, I feel more like a Boomer because I have vivid memories of such key Boomer events as the assassination of Martin Luther King, the first Moon Landing, and Watergate. But I was an infant when JFK was elected and a toddler when JFK was shot, so I don’t have primary memory of those key Boomer moments.
I’m all the way on the other end as an “Elder Millennial”—old enough to remember when the culture hasn’t really settled on that title yet. I’m also part of the “Oregon Trail” sub-generation—those of us born right at the end of Gen X and start of Gen Y who grew up with computers but no internet. And I indeed played a lot of that game on my elementary school’s Apple IIe’s during “Computer Class”. In the “Computer Lab” because they were too expensive to put in every classroom.
I think growing up at one of those tipping points show how generational stereotypes really are sort of silly. I wonder if they are getting more so as technology changes faster and faster. I didn’t have a cell phone until college, Facebook didn’t hit until I had graduated, and I never dealt with the trauma of active shooter drills. Plus, I was already a young adult when September 11 happened. During the 2000 campaign I remember arguing with my brother saying I didn’t trust Bush to deal with a crisis and him replying that there was no way anything major would happen on his watch!
For Gen Z, I’m guessing the pandemic will be just as impactful. Going remote during kindergarten must be way different than going remote as a college freshman. Speaking of which, what cut off years are you using, Athena?
Leading age Gen X (1965) here. My kids range the “official” Millennial range (born 1981-1996). My oldest granddaughter turns 18 this year and is firmly in the Zoomer generation.
Your post spurred lots of thoughts, but when I tried to capture them it started getting extremely wordy. I do appreciate the song, though. I wanted to thank you for sharing it.
As a straight up early Boomer, I can certainly relate to getting the blame for ruining the country and/or the whole world, but since we know that is total BS, we just don’t care! At least I don’t.
I do have that problem of what to think since my brother and I are definite Boomers, and my sisters are generally considered Late Boomers, yet seem like another generation to me, being 10 and 13 years younger than I am. If Gen X doesn’t start until 1965, they are definitely still in the Boomer generation, but they didn’t go through what we did – the draft, the anti-war movement, etc.
I’m probably a year or 2 younger than Bruce, so the age where I’m definitely not a millenial! But like half my friends are millenials and most of my values more closely match the typical millenial than a typical Gen-Xer. And I was Gen Y before Gen Y = millenial, but now that they’re the same I’m not Gen Y. So yes, I’m also an edge case.
In terms of the song I relate to the part about being called selfish since I’ve gone with more modern life choices vs traditional. And older people just consider you selfish if you don’t follow their ways and do exactly what they think you should be doing.
I don’t think in general that my peers have been openly hopeless or death obsessed and I personally am not a YOLO or FOMO type. That’s maybe the part where I deny being a millenial.
This whole generational thing is kinda overblown. Also, the world is ALWAYS two days from destruction.
First World War, some breathing room during the 1920’s, Great Depression, World War two, Cold War, brief period to take a breath during the 1990’s (unless you lived in Somalia, Bosnia, etc…), War on Terror and climate change getting ugly. Donald fucking Trump.
I’m only slightly younger than your dad. Our lifes started in the Cold War, when imminent death through a nuclear exchange was a constant. At some point in the early ’90s, that faded and, just for a little while, it looked like the world might NOT be fucked!
Didn’t last. As you know, because you were around for that part.And, well, it’s not like gallow’s humor was invented this century.
What WAS invented this century was being able to talk about mental health candidly. We ALL have days when jumping in front of a bus doesn’t look like the worst option. I know I have, and I betcha my boomer parents do too.
But nowadays people just TALK about that shit! We didn’t! I dunno WHY, because talking about it, and joking about it, is WAY healthier!
You kids are doing pretty well! The world is probably fucked, but it has always been thus, and you’ll find a way through. Y’all are pretty smart, and once we get out of the way you’ll find a way to at least partially fix our fuck-ups.
Now get off my lawn!
Mid-range Generation Y here. I never use the term ‘millennial’ for myself because a) it’s so often a disparaging catch-all term for Damn Kids These Days, meaning it’s lagging behind the actual cohort, and b) well…mid-1999 to mid-2001 was my exact period of being 12 to 14, i.e. ADOLESCENT AAAAAAANGST. I snapped out of it by the time I started high school, but obviously I don’t see ADOLESCENT AAAAAAANGST as anything even slightly relevant to the rest of my life (which has been largely free of tumult, though most of that is thanks to luck and privilege).
Since I age at the usual rate, I’m now in my mid-thirties. Adult-me teaches college and is only a decade and a bit older than her students, but they’re solidly Gen Z kids, and I find them super impressive in general. I think the de facto Y-Z Joint Social-Change Brigade is already doing incredible things, and this idea often leads me to mentally envision a cross-generational high-five. I feel much less pessimistic about the world in general than I did in 2015.
I’m in the same boat as (comment 1) Matthew D Healy, born in 1961 the tail end of the boomer generation. Technically in it but never felt a part of it. I’m trying to make things in the world better for my kids, but everyone else needs to get off my lawn.
When I was in high school and college, I was convinced I was too young for Gen X and too old for what they were then starting to call Gen Y. (I probably saw one article that placed Gen X as being born from 1965-1970 and took it as gospel.) I’m definitely Gen X, but it’s taken a long time for me to really feel that.
In a sense, I agree with previous commenters that the world is frequently (maybe usually, maybe always) in crisis … but most of what’s usually cited are immediate crises like the world wars, without accounting for the steadily accreting long-term disasters like the climate/pollution that have been building in addition.
We’ve all also had our own generational versions of protest and “mood” songs, too. I don’t really connect with this song personally — part of that is the first five words putting my back up, but I think another part is that I don’t feel like I can afford to sink into that kind of hopeless mindset anymore. I spent a lot of time there during and after college, but I’ve also spent time with anger, and strangely, the latter feels safer. (“Desperate Times” by Jim’s Big Ego, 1995, is my go-to song for “wake up, prior generations, things aren’t okay!” Google’s version of the lyrics is wrong, but Genius and the band’s website both have the correct version.)
I’m Gen-X for sure, albeit on the later side. But I find that I identify with the values of early born Millennials now that they are older. I don’t like my own generation quite as much anymore overall, but of course there are many exceptions. Individual results may vary.
So, I’m a member of an older generation (Gen X, yes we exist, lol) and I don’t think millennials ruined everything. Actually millennials (and Gen Z) are why I still have a significant amount of hope.
Not that what I think matters. (See, I told you I was Gen X.) But I guess I just wanted to point out that a lot of older folks like millennials.
I 100% agree!!! (and i love conan!!!) I myself am recently out of high school with no clue of what to do with my life. Unfortunately, the universe generally sucks extra at the moment, so I’m killing time by going to college and procrastinating the inevitable launch of my adult life. The world is pretty depressing all the time lately and I can hardly stand it at the best of times. I don’t want to ignore it because then I’m abusing my privilege but I also don’t want to be so sad all the time! Life is just hard and we’re doing our best out here.
One comment you made caught my eye:
‘the planet is dying’
No, actually, it’s not. We’re certainly wrecking our habitat and causing species extinction at a huge rate, but the planet itself is not dying. Were we to go extinct, life on this planet would find another way, as it has time and time again.
Something about this song was really reminiscent of Mattafix to me – mid-00s electronic/hip-hop duo. Big City Life was the breakout hit, but some of their other stuff is pretty good as well.
There have been songs on the theme ‘The world is a shit-show’ for as long as I can remember, and likely before.
‘Eve of Destruction’ and ‘Ohio’ were boomer darkness at its lowest. Hardly surprising that we ‘tuned in, turned in and dropped out’ for the pleasures of ‘sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll.’
Funny thing tho’, the world keeps chugging along. Most people adopted an attitude of ‘do what you can, and live.’ The only real failure is quitting before the game is over.
I start to feel hopeful when I read that young people are deciding not to have kids, but then I look around and see all the young people having kids and I think it’s too little, too late.
Since I have been pretending to be human for most of my life, and getting quite good at it, of course I wore masks and social distanced and preached against overwhelming the medical systems, but my unfiltered thoughts are more like Even if everyone who got the COVID had died, it would still just be a drop in the bucket compared to how much we need to reduce human population before we destroy all life on the planet.
I am old enough to be pretty sure I won’t see the truly bad times coming, but I think humanity is going to go down in pestilence and famine, because we have no self-control.
All you young people who realize there’s a problem, instead of just deciding not to have kids, maybe you could devote your life to (ugh) politics and see if you can keep everyone from having more than one kid.
(Of course I realize I’m just suggesting more work for SOMEONE NOT ME, which has always been a very bad habit of mine.)
You’re right, it is catchy. It always helps to have really depressing lyrics set to bouncy music. I’m reminded, responding to your post, of some autobiographies I’ve read where men describe their angry, rebellious, self-destructive youth, and really can’t account for it, having had fairly loving, supportive parents and little in the way of abuse. But I’m also thinking about Baden-Powell’s introduction to the Boy Scout Manual, where he’s worried about the kids nowadays who need to find their center, as everyone always does. It isn’t easy, for most of us. It is sometimes triggered by something someone says, but mostly we kind of grow into it. The Scouting message is still pretty relevant. Take a look at your immediate surroundings. See what needs to be done. Figure out what you can do. Do it.
Beautiful piece of introspection!
This makes me think and makes me hope that these younger generations as an aggregate will do better than mine did at saving this awesome planet. Thank you in advance for trying.