I Care About Rex Orange County's 'WHO CARES?,' and You Should Too
Photo: Eva Pentel
Alexander O'Connor, better known as Rex Orange County, is one of those artists that feels like a best friend every time you hear his voice. Ever since the release of his debut project Bcos U Will Never B Free, the bedroom pop pioneer proves himself time and time again, tackling themes of love and heartbreak in a way that is sweet and relatable as ever. The first album since the release of 2019's Pony, WHO CARES? proves to be well worth the wait.
To introduce us to the world of WHO CARES?, O'Connor released a string of three singles throughout January and March: "KEEP IT UP," an charismatic ode to self-worth, "AMAZING," an anthem for the lovers, and "OPEN A WINDOW" - throwing it back to the Flower Boy days - where Tyler, the Creator and O'Connor reunite to offer their opposing perspectives on being stuck in a relationship. Beyond displaying a playfully, creative cartoon aesthetic, these singles demonstrate the thematic multidimensionality of the album. This is an album about love, but it is simultaneously so much more than that.
The 11 tracks on WHO CARES? are linked by love in all of its forms, with an overarching theme of self-acceptance both in and out of romantic relationships. For example, in "IF YOU WANT IT," O'Connor admits and accepts his personal flaws in the beginning of a relationship, and in "THE SHADE," he reminisces on a past relationship, unpacking his regrets in an effort to move on. Whether you've experienced a platonic or romantic relationship from beginning to end, you are bound to find a piece of yourself within this project.
Instrumentally, WHO CARES? is an amalgamation of everything we know and love about Rex Orange County: bouncy pop guitars, retro-nostalgic keys, and semi-monotonous yet wholly whimsical vocals. String instrument solos float throughout the album, creating a beautiful breath between tracks - most notably demonstrated through "WORTH IT," a two-and-a-half minute tune beginning with a forty second earworm embellished in orchestral strings, church keys, and horns that crescendo into a call for action as O'Connor joins in. While O'Connor has a penchant for incorporating symphonies (i.e. "Pluto Projector," "4 Seasons") WHO CARES? shapes them into a new mold - and an optimistic one at that.
Overall, WHO CARES? is a nostalgically relatable journey into the self, dealing with love and heartbreak and flipping them into an uplifting narrative. The album serves as a blissfully freeing reminder that you, me, and everyone in between are doing a little better than we might initially think we are. Give yourself a hug, you deserve it.
Listen to WHO CARES? below: