Rex Orange County’s, WHO CARES? fails to break away from previous installments

Artist Rex Orange County (Alex OConnor) beaconing in his three dalmations on the album cover for WHO CARES?.

Promotional Material Courtesy of RCA Records

Artist Rex Orange County (Alex O’Connor) beaconing in his three dalmations on the album cover for WHO CARES?.

Rex Orange County’s (Alex O’Connor) new album Who Cares?, released Mar. 11, 2022, stays true to his lo-fi soft rock origins, crafting soft, heartfelt tracks. While the tracks are bound to resonate with the listener, they render themselves indistinguishable with similar beats, tone, and lyrics from one song to the next, repeating a pattern from his prior albums. 

The first three tracks of the album meet the standard set by previous projects. All three feature slower beats, remarkable vocals, and touching lyrics. His last album – Poney, released in 2019 – set the groundwork for this new album, with all of the tracks in Who Cares? following the same soft and upbeat patterns. Much like Pluto Projector in Poney, Rex’s tracks Open a Window and Making Time stand out in Who Cares?, providing a refreshing switch in tempo with irregular beats. 

Rex’s track featuring Tyler the Creator, Open a Window, showcases an immaculate contrast between his soft singing and Tyler’s rapping. The opening verse of the chorus, “Can somebody open the door?… I can barely take it anymore,” resonates with the listener through a sense of anxiety, a theme conveyed throughout the rest of the track. With a catchy string of beats with classical instruments shining clearly throughout, it is hard for the listener not to be happy after listening to the track. That said, the redundancies of the beat are highlighted as the song pushes onto the two-minute and 20-second mark, an issue quickly remedied by Tyler’s addition with raspy, exertive rapping, and a faster beat. The track, while not aligning with the general easy pace of the album, still adds a needed addition to Tyler’s encapsulating vocals.

Following Open a Window, Worth It shines through with a classical tune and new sound. However, the track immediately following Worth It, Amazing, begins repeating the same redundancy issues with songs sounding too similar as exhibited in Poney. Overall, it is a mediocre song, and is too similar to the upbeat vocals seen throughout most of his other tracks in Who Cares?. Seeming the same as any other love song, the track talks about the experience of falling in love and trying to muster the courage to talk to the person. While I would listen to the song if it was featured on the radio, it wouldn’t be my first choice. Amazing would have fared better as a single, concealing how similar it is to the rest of the album.

One in a Million provides a refreshing transition from Amazing, with a slow tempo, soft vocals, and heartfelt lyrics depicting the anxieties associated with a romantic relationship. From One in a Million to The Shade the album follows relatively the same format with consistent tempos, touching choruses, and Rex’s signature soft vocals. While none of the songs in the span alone are anything resembling substantial, strung together they sound too similar.

However, the album finishes on a high note. Making Time features an acoustic beat mixed with strung-out vocals, with brilliantly placed pauses. Choosing to use more of an acoustic beat rather than using electronically conducted beats compliments Rex’s softer tone. The brevity of the song makes it a short listen, and provides the listener with a refreshing break from the prior section of the album. Shoot Me Down shifts away from the touching guitar seen in Making Time, and includes a nice conglomeration of an upbeat tempo, distinct instrumentals, and muffled vocals. This shift allows listeners to prepare for the last track, Who Cares?. This track uses lyrics highlighting the hardships of anxiety and the realization that other people’s perceptions of you don’t matter, and the freedoms that trail this realization.

While some songs in this album might feature many of the same core values as other tracks, individually, I don’t believe any track is a flop. Addressing anxiety and the complications of love throughout the course of the album, Rex creates an enjoyable 34 minute and 55 second listen. With my only complaint being not enough individuality between tracks, I rate the album four out of five feathers.