The "Overdrive" Music Video Is The Relatable Escapism We All Needed: Thank You Conan Gray


I wasn't sure what to expect from the teasers that Conan shared on his Instagram last week, but they set the mood for a dark, mysterious, nearly sinister video. What we got, instead, was a direct infusion of joy. With a twist at the end and thrilling journey of fashion, break-ins, and singing in the bathtub, there's something for everyone to fall in love with in the "Overdrive" music video that Conan co-directed and edited with his photographer Dillon Mathews. 

The video pulls together clips we've seen from the teasers and outfits from the many promo photos that have dropped following the song and blends them with new and unexpected scenes. It also ties into a mysterious Insta posts that had fans wondering if Conan was doing okay. 

In reality, the photo didn't come from a crisis. It's a nod to the new music video as Conan starts the video wearing the same outfit with his earbuds in at the train station. While trains might seem like a random setting for a song called Overdrive, if you've followed Conan for a while, you can probably spot a connection. This looks like the train Conan used to frequently take between LA and San Diego to visit his mom while he was in college and still vlogging. It's a cute tie-in because he used to talk about daydreaming while on the train often. 

Carrying a coffee and a sketchbook, in true Conan fashion, he makes his way to the platform. As the train rushes by, he's transported to an alternate reality- off the platform and out on the highway in a full on glam outfit and running eyeliner reminiscent of Euphoria. As the song swells with its opening instrumental, we watch the clip from the third teaser showing Conan's hair blowing in the wind as he reaches his hands towards the sky, flying down the highway. 

As the verse starts, we're flashed out of the larger than life world and into a cramped apartment bathroom. We also get to see the identity of the girl featured in all the teaser. It's Conan's friend from college, Sara Fernadez. As Sara does her make-up, Conan rests his head on her shoulder and watches. In the next clip, he holds her while she scrolls through her phone. 

The scene flashes out to a giant bedroom bathed in hot pink and purple lights that I'm honestly jealous of. When I was little, I always wanted to live in Hannah Montanas room, and now I have a new bedroom to add to my ideal aesthetic world.

They're putting smiley faced metallic stickers all over each other's faces. This instantly sent my mind back to a self-portrait Conan did in high school of his face covered in star stickers and again felt like another sweet nod to a past life. They take pictures of one another and goof around together. 

There's another flash and they're back in the bathroom, sitting in the bathtub with their feet hanging over the end, Conan's guitar laying across both of their laps. After getting tired of cute shenanigans at home, they take their chaos on the road, breaking into a restaurant. Conan is wearing a lace dress shirt and thin tie that I swear I've seen in promo photos somewhere mixed with the corset from the Time Square promo photos that got released yesterday. He also has some kind of fabric hanging off of his pants at the waist that I can't figure out but flows nicely in the wind as they run. They rummage through the kitchen, blowing up gloves into balloons, feeding each other French fries, and indulging in one of the few singing breaks of the music video. Then the chef returns and they have to make a break for it.

In the abandoned dining room, an eerie reminder of the COVID world we live in, they reenact some of my favorite scenes from the Romeo + Juliet movie. They watch each other from opposite sides of the fish tank, dance like they're at the ball, and share a glass of red wine, making intense eye contact, before getting tired of that particular spot.

The next cut is a total "Generation Why" video flashback if you've watched Conan's other music videos. In that video, he bikes alone down the street, haphazardly throwing newspapers spelling the doom of our generation. Here, he's happy, biking with Sara in outfits that looked ripped right off of Jules from Euphoria. In the biking scenes Conan wears a mix of a fish net top and an open back cropped shirt. These biking scenes are intercut with them inside a British style red phone booth. Conan's in a sweater that reads "Love Is..." and Sara is wearing the trendy "I need 70 barrettes in my hair for some reason" style that fits the alternate reality feeling of the music video quite nicely. The phone booth scenes are the only other singing moment we get in the video. As Conan sings aggressively into the camera, you notice the gemstones glued around his eyes. It's incredibly out there but also subtle at the same time. 

As the second chorus swells again, we flash back through all the previous scenes. They dance wearing the stickers in their bedroom together, aimlessly ride their bikes (I was just waiting for Conan to fall off his with all the standing up and flailing he was doing, but that never happens), and do that classic fingertip touching stare into the eye thing that happens in every rom-com ever. Just as the drop of the chorus hits, Conan blows a bubble out of his gum and it pops directly on the beat creating an incredibly satisfying transition into the next scene. The video is truly impeccably edited to match the impacts in the video to the major beat moments in the song. 

In the bridge, we get a look into what transpires before they make a break for the highway as Conan is in the same fishnet, glittery top he's wearing in that scene as they jump the fence to break into a fancy LA mansion. As they press themselves against the wall, waiting for the all clear, they share a look that is just the epitome of partners in crime. As they stand in front of the pool, clinging onto each other and yelling in excitement, you can tell that their getting increasingly hysterical. The strings are unraveling. 

As they throw down their clothes to jump into the pool, there's a cut with the train scenes from the teaser clips that nearly feel out of place in given the rest of the vibe of the video. These clips feel awkward in the moment, but I think it's a small piece of foreshadowing that something is amiss in this hyper-everything world. They fly out of the mansion, Conan hopping over the door to get into the passenger seat. They're both in black, almost super-villain-like outfits that suit the theme of getting chased. Sara drive them out of the neighborhood and onto the highway to make a break for it. 

We get an expanded look of that highway scene of Conan singing the end of the song. There's a mix of elation and almost pain on his face as he sings the lines, and there starts to be a montage of new clips of old moments. Back to laughing in the bathtub, dancing around the room, breaking into the kitchen. The slice of life flashing before his eyes, one last time. You start to realize that something might be truly amiss in this perfect rom-com world. It can't actually be that bright. As the train rushes past them, they hold each other, and Sara tucks her head into Conan's neck while he rests his chin on her head, almost in a resigned way. The train opened the pocket to this other world, but it's also the portal that's about to take it all away. It's almost like in those moments it's a hint that the story doesn't necessarily have a happy ending. 

Then we cut back to the train platform. It's already rushed past and you see it leave as we suddenly see the platform from Conan's point of view. We spot Sara, standing on the other side of the tracks, waiting for the train. There's a quick cut back to Conan pulling out his earbud, same shocked look on his face from the opening scene, and you realize that it was all just a dream in the end. 

I honestly didn't guess that was where it was going on the first watch, but it immediately made me so happy. I am definitely guilty of gathering up all these hyper-specific moments that never will happen in my head to make the perfect romance. I'm definitely guilty of doing that with random strangers. It's very "oh the life we could've lived". All of Conan's work centers around nostalgia in some way, and I think that's why I'm so drawn to it. Here, he comes at it from a different angle, the one I'm most familiar with- the nostalgia of what could've been but never was. The parallel universe you. 

Conan's talked about how "Overdrive" was created as a form of escapism, a way of imaging what could've happened if we didn't spend the year cooped up inside. Unfortunately, I don't think the song itself delivers on the sweeping, romantic, detailed quotes he's given about it to various magazines. His lyrics just don't hold the same specificity as his past writing. It does deliver on pure fun, though. 

The video, on the other hand, is exactly what he set out to make. It's the fantasy in real time. It's a slice into a brain, looking at the daydreams, and it's captured in the perfect light, with the perfect tone. It transports you into a world, and the video carries exactly what the song lacks- an intense specificity to detail. Conan's videos always share an incredibly amount of detail. Everything is carefully chosen, and you pick up on something new every time you watch them, even a year later. That's what makes them consistently incredible. Introducing Dillon as the videographer seems to always unearth a level of personal detail that is sometimes missing from videos directed by others. Conan always co-directs with Dillon, and I think, because of their friendship, there's far more room for vulnerability. There's more safety in sharing specific details. Dillon always knows how to perfectly capture them to convey the soft, the sweet, the confusion, the pain, the internal push and pull that exists in all of us. I hope Dillon is at the helm of Conan's videos forever. 

I think, most of all, this video speaks to what draws all of us to Conan. Sure, the video is technically well crafted. But it also has the honesty of the experience and personal attention to detail. It has the exposed feeling. It's willing to admit that it was all just a dream when the video could've easily just ended on the highway. I think it's those last five seconds that make Conan such a compelling artist. Just like he's willing to admit he hated Heather because she symbolized everything he wasn't, everything he couldn't have, he's willing to admit that even in the escapist reality of "Overdrive", he doesn't actually get the girl. He's larger than life, pulling off impeccable outfits and demonstrating amazing talents, but he always makes it a point to center himself as a messy, flawed human who doesn't always get what he wants in every piece of art he puts out. It's not a struggle to find yourself here. The glitter only aims to accentuate that connection, not become a film between the artist world and yours, like is so easy to happen in pop. This is a video made for everyone who watches coming of age movies or reads YA and wonders why their life never had that spectacular edge that everyone else's seemed to. 

I think I've rambled enough. I just really love the video, and I love all the time and attention that went into it. If you want to see me listen to "Overdrive" for the first time and share all my thoughts, I have a reaction video up on my YouTube channel you can watch! 

Otherwise, I'll leave you with what Conan said in his Instagram post after the video came out, because I think it sums all of this up perfectly. "This video is for all my romantics who plan out their entire lives with random strangers they see on the street... This video was a result of all my wildest fantasies, and was created by just the four of us friends. I really hope you enjoy :)". The best work really does come out of small teams who already speak each other's languages. I can't wait to see what else this new era holds. 

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