Rex Orange County tops charts with ‘WHO CARES?’

Photo courtesy of Spotify

By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer

Rex Orange County released his fourth studio album on March 11, entitled “WHO CARES?” The album is in keeping with the signature sound of Rex Orange County’s — or Alex O’Connor’s — albums. Mellow pop instrumentals and laid-back vocals that chart well are the staples of any Rex Orange County album, and “WHO CARES?” doesn’t break from tradition.

The song that best showcases O’Connor’s vocal talents is track five, “ONE IN A MILLION.” His voice carries a palpable sense of yearning and emotion.

The album makes heavy use of strings and piano, giving the songs a romantic feel. The cutesy nature of the staccato piano instrumentals on “7AM” are very typical of his style. “WORTH IT” opens with a melody reminiscent, in my opinion, of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” “AMAZING” also opens with a chorus of strings, soon joined by a percussive pop beat. “MAKING TIME” is another track that opens with strings, and transitioning into a simple guitar strum with O’Connor’s vocals slightly warped, as if coming from a small speaker. Later in this song, the strings themselves are also distorted as if played on an antique record player. I immediately imagined one of those old-time gramophones, the record players with the massive, curvy speaker that bells out at the front.

Something about Rex Orange County’s music that always appeals to me is the way that he is able to seamlessly mix genres and styles like this, which makes for a really interesting sound. The warping and distorting and other effects added onto the songs keep an album like this, which is so consistent from song to song, interesting.

Also in keeping with his past work, the only artist featured on “WHO CARES?” is long-time collaborator Tyler, The Creator on track two, “OPEN A WINDOW.” These two artists are an unlikely combination, but it works every time. The pair collaborated on Tyler’s own album “Flower Boy” back in 2017.

Lyrically, “WHO CARES?” is similar to his other albums in that it places an emphasis on a romantic partnership and the complications that arise when one or both people are emotionally damaged or struggle with communication. Many of the songs also touch on mental health, much like his past work. On “7AM” he wonders if he’s cut out for a serious relationship, and fears that his own personal insecurities might make him run from the relationship preemptively. Then, on the very next track, “THE SHADE,” he talks about being willing to put in the work in the relationship in order to make it work.

At just over half an hour long, “WHO CARES?” is an album for the mellow and sentimental moments, and is well worth it to listen to again and again.