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Monday, May 16, 2022
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Rex Orange County makes a meaningful return with ‘WHO CARES?’

As delightful as ever, the UK-born artist delivers his first album in over two years

Rex Orange County performs in January 2020.
Rex Orange County performs in January 2020.

Album: “WHO CARES?”

Artists: Rex Orange County

Label: RCA

Release Date: March 11

Rating: 8.7/10

Life is hard. It can bog you down with stress that builds upon itself. But every once in a while, there comes an artist who can acknowledge this pain while offering a glimmer of hope to the future.

Enter Alexander James O’Connor, colloquially known to the world as Rex Orange County.

No stranger to fast-paced alternative joy, Rex’s fourth album, “WHO CARES?,” presents the artist as open and honest as ever, providing an unfiltered portrait of a man who knows how to make some beautiful music.

From the entrancing opening of the introductory track “KEEP IT UP,” listeners are immediately made aware of Rex’s plight. Across the beat, Rex admits how depressed and tired he has become. Yet, no matter how battered he may be, he sings a promising chorus that expresses a positive outlook:

“Keep it up and go on / You’re only holding out for what you want / You no longer owe the strangers / It’s enough, it’s enough.”

Production is handled effortlessly across the entire album by Benny Sings, who had a hand in 10 of the project’s 11 tracks. Fusing a variety of different sounds into each song, Rex and Sings make sure every track caters to a cohesive baseline sound, while still allowing the others to breathe and stand as their own, original sound.

Tyler, The Creator is the album’s only outside collaborator besides Sings, rapping and helping produce “OPEN A WINDOW.” After two verses from Rex on the dread of stagnancy, Tyler comes in smoothly to emphasize Rex’s point while offering up a solution to the problem:

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“See, I concur, I’m modest, I’m Tyler, I’m honest / I never bite my tongue, it’s for the better, I promise / You stuck, then move, because I’m running, like sinus / I knows, they quiet like that last E in ‘silence.’”

One of the album’s most epic moments comes in the form of the introduction to “WORTH IT,” which after a slow opening, turns into an orchestral beat (one that would make any “Flight of the Valkyries” listener drool) before exploding into a beat that would work with any freestyling rapper.

Rex is at his best when he is at his most vulnerable, and he smashes expectations on “IF YOU WANT IT.” Finding himself trying to maintain a relationship, the song’s entrancing production — particularly in the chorus — pairs perfectly with the lyrics, painting a picture of what it is like to be in an uncertain romance.

The album’s title perfectly echoes its tracks, as Rex knows in his head despite the pain he has experienced and the loneliness he feels: “Who cares?”

“MAKING TIME” is easily the project’s most positive moment. Acting as a safe space in a world of engulfing stress, Rex sings about his lover. But this person is more than just someone he sees himself “making time” for. This is someone who makes him feel a level of security and comfort no one else could:

“We’re safe inside / You make things right / Don’t wait up / I’m OK, I’m OK / Making time tonight / Just to see you, no, no.”

The final — and titular — song, “WHO CARES?,” perfectly blends together the two sides of the album’s emotional vulnerability, displaying the positive outlook and dreadful loneliness Rex feels on the daily. The title is both a testament to how few people care, but also a statement that Rex is aware of who does care, showing that he can move on in life as he sings one final ballad.

Rex Orange County doesn’t disappoint, and this album is no exception, creating nothing but further excitement for his next release, whenever that may be.

Alex Falter is the senior arts editor and can be reached at alex.falter@ubspectrum.com


ALEX FALTER
IMG_4613 (2).jpg

Alex Falter is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum.

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