Can somebody open a window?
On Mar. 11, English singer-songwriter Rex Orange County released his fourth studio album WHO CARES?.
The album comes after a three-year hiatus where the artist mostly laid low with the exception of a small number of features and singles. O’Connor described his situation in 2020 to Apple Music as one filled with cabin fever and overall poor mental health. The singer’s hiatus may have been caused by this, but the lockdown also propelled his fourth studio album’s production.
But, the time away may have been best for Rex. WHO CARES? is a solid piece in his discography and is certainly his best work since his breakout LP Apricot Princess.
The beauty of WHO CARES? lives in the album’s simplicity. The singer–-born Alex O’Connor—found a pocket of success in his first two albums and appeared to divert from it in his second most recent release, Pony. Pony was in no way a poor album, but it lacked the signature sound Rex curated so well on his first two releases. O’Connor thankfully returned to his old sound on WHO CARES?, consistently maintaining a melodic, slow-paced alternative pop song.
The album begins with the lead single “KEEP IT UP,” a great transition with a solid beat and decent lyricism for the album. O’Connor undoubtedly establishes in this song that he is back to his old sound with a rather upbeat song that still carries nostalgic tones to listeners.
After the opening track, Rex joins frequent collaborator Tyler, the Creator for the standout song from the album. On “OPEN A WINDOW,” the two exchange well-put-together verses about letting loose and being free from the shackles of everyday stay-at-home life in the ongoing pandemic. Tyler’s verse focuses on being stuck on a proverbial freeway with no hope of escape, trapped on a figurative road. The song has a quality of relatability as even most celebrities felt the cabin fever that nearly all people felt in 2020 and 2021.
After some tracks that may be a bit forgettable but stay consistent with the theme O’Connor is going for, Rex puts two amazing songs back to back with “7AM” and “THE SHADE.”
Rex sings about self-improvement on “7AM” and his struggle to maintain relationships because of his lethargy. A recurring theme on his albums is a willingness to be vulnerable in his songs, allowing his music to be more redeeming and real.
On “THE SHADE,” Rex sings about his lover and the tender care he takes for them. Typically a sappy, sad artist, Rex really delves into his heart for this song. He explains his deep-rooted love for his significant other while begging them to stay. “THE SHADE” challenges “OPEN A WINDOW” for the best song on the LP, but the Tyler, the Creator verse puts “OPEN A WINDOW” over the other standout track from this album.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album is relatively filler and does not hold too much value. The four songs discussed were well worthwhile, however, and will likely be on replay for me for the coming weeks. The album was only 11 songs and 35 (!) minutes, so for four very good songs to come out of the LP is very impressive for Rex.
Overall, the album is likely worth a few more listens to really let the music sink in. I doubt the change will be significant, but I really disliked most of his discography on first listen, and it all has mostly grown on me since (except Pony). O’Connor’s establishment of his vintage sound paired with enhanced lyrics and overall flow made this album the solid piece it turned out to be.
To put it plainly: O’Connor is back to his standards, and his fans are all there for it.
Rex OC is going on tour to accompany his latest work with an American tour kicking off in Summer 2022.