One of my favorite things about the music landscape these days is how many genre-bending artists there are out there. There are so many people who grew up listening to a wide variety of music, and now draw inspiration from so many different genres. Rex Orange County is an artist who fits this mold very well. Rex is an Indie music star whose musical style is difficult to define; he can not be put into a box. He draws a lot of inspiration from Acoustic Pop and Bedroom Pop but also has a major R&B feeling to the melodies and overall sounds of most of his music. A lot of his vocal deliveries have a Hip Hop feeling to them that almost have a Rap flow, making his version of Indie Pop stand out. Rex Is also known for his encapsulating lyricism. He is able to draw listeners in through relatable songwriting that makes the listener feel what he feels. Rex Orange County originally broke onto the scene with his contributions to Tyler the Creator’s album Flower Boy in 2017. This coincided with the release of his album Apricot Princess, which received critical acclaim and garnered him a sizable, growing following. He followed up this record with the release of Pony in 2019, which also received critical acclaim as it improved his signature sound and style interestingly. With all of that being said, here is how I feel about Rex Orange County’s newest album WHO CARES? Please let me know in the comments how you feel about this record, and also comment what your favorite songs are from WHO CARES?
WHO CARES gets started with one of my favorite songs of 2022 so far. ‘KEEP IT UP’ was released as a single back at the end of January, and it made me anticipate this album even more than I already had been. This song has such a motivating and uplifting feeling sonically and lyrically. The melody for this song is so warm and fresh. It is driven by a synthesized keyboard that reminds me of 70s disco and R&B music, and it is complemented by some violin and guitar riffs. The beat matches the uplifting melody and makes the listeners want to bop their heads and dance along. On ‘KEEP IT UP,’ Rex is preaching to the listener and himself that things are okay and they are doing fine. He is imploring that they don’t let the small things get to them because life is too short and there are so many good things to enjoy. Following this, we get ‘OPEN A WINDOW,’ which features Tyler the Creator. This song has an old-school R&B sound to it. The melody and beat remind me a lot of music by original R&B artists like Al Green and Bill Withers. The synthesized keyboard melody makes me think of the best music from that era. One of my favorite things about this instrumental is the bass line. It is so funky and brings so much texture to the track. I like how Rex Orange County’s delivery is a bit off of the beat. It makes you focus on what he is saying more. Tyler the Creator’s rap verse provides a great contrast to Rex’s vocals, and it gives the song a modern flare towards the end. On ‘OPEN A WINDOW,’ Rex and Tyler are talking about being stuck in a relationship. They are tired of trying to make it work even if that would be the more simple thing to do. This person is dragging them down and they just can’t take it anymore. ‘WORTH IT’ is a song with a sound that is honestly pretty tough to describe. The drum pattern, pacing, and vocal delivery have a bit of an Alternative Hip Hop feeling to them. The melody has a bit of a grand and theatrical Pop theme which one wouldn’t usually associate with Hip Hop, though. Even though it’s weird, it works. The song does flow so well. On ‘WORTH IT,’ Rex is talking about moving on after having gone through a difficult break-up. He knows that even though he is lonely it’ll be worth it in the end. The next song, ‘AMAZING,’ has a sound that sounds minds me a lot of ‘KEEP IT UP.’ It is another very warm and sweet upbeat Indie Pop track with a classic R&B tint. This is another track with a funky bass line that makes me want to dance. I love how the synths are layered throughout this instrumental. The synth arrangement along with the chime sounds sprinkled throughout the song give it such a cozy feeling. On ‘AMAZING,’ Rex is singing about the start of a budding beautiful relationship. This new person he is with is saving him from himself, and he thinks they are amazing for that.
Out of everything on this record so far, ‘ONE IN A MILLION’ is the most modern sounding. I could see this one becoming a sleeper hit; it has the kind of funkiness and charm that is very popular in the Alternative R&B scene at the moment. The beat for this one has a bit of a Trap feeling to it, which helps it fit well into the modern R&B landscape. The melody and overall production of the song have a bit of a Frank Ocean feeling to them. There is a futuristic Synth-Pop and Neo-R&B tone to this song. On ‘ONE IN A MILLION,’ Rex is singing about how infatuated he is with his new lover. They mean everything to him, and he can’t stop thinking about his great they are. The next track, ‘IF YOU WANT IT,’ is another one that is a bit outside of the box from what one would normally expect from Rex Orange County. This song has a beat and pace that makes me think of 70s disco, but a melody that reminds me of 80s Synth-Pop. It seems like Rex took a page out of The Weeknd’s playbook and went with his take on New Wave music. I love the synth-heavy bass line on this track. It makes me think of 80s groups like The Human League or Flock of Seagulls. On ‘IF YOU WANT IT,’ Rex is imploring his girl to take a chance on him despite his apparent shortcomings. He knows he’s not perfect, but he knows he can be great for this girl. He just needs the opportunity to prove this. ‘7 AM’ is another track that has a beat and pace which has an Alternative Hip Hop feel. The melody, however. Once again has an old-school R&B sound to it. Once again, this track’s melody reminds me a lot of artists like Al Green or Bill Withers. Though the beat has a Hip Hop feel, the vocal delivery for this song is decidedly R&B and Pop. On ‘7 AM,’ Rex is expressing his doubt in himself. He only sees all of the mistakes that he makes, and thinks that he screws things up way too often. ‘THE SHADE’ is another song with a sound that stands out from the rest of the album. It does have a bit of a funky modern Indie Pop feeling that is not too different from the rest of this record, but the riff makes it stand out. The melody for this song makes me think of 90s Alternative Rock. When I hear this melody, it reminds me of “Slacker Rock” bands like Vertical Horizon or Sixpence None the Richer. It is a welcome switch-up from the mainly R&B or Synth Pop sounds that have been prevalent on the record to this point. On ‘THE SHADE,’ Rex is singing about a failing relationship. He would do anything just to make it work with this person because the good times eye great. Ultimately, it just wasn’t meant to be.
‘MAKING TIME’ is the shortest song of the record to this point, and it is also the most old-fashioned(which says a lot for this record). It has a cozy Folk-Pop sound that reminds me of music from the early 1960s. Even the production has a crackling feeling to it that makes it feel like it was recorded 60 years ago. This is another song with a very warm and cozy melody. This song has the kind of riff that just makes you feel good when you hear it. On ‘MAKING TIME,’ Rex is talking about his significant other always makes him feel better. He knows he needs to spend more time with this person because they just make him feel good. ‘SHOOT ME DOWN’ is yet another song that has an old-school R&B flavor to it. Similar to some previous songs on this album, it is driven by a funky bass guitar riff that is so groovy it gives me a “stank face” when I hear it. The piano riff on this track has a very intense and emotional tone. It gives the song a heavy and serious feeling. On ‘SHOOT ME DOWN,’ Rex is pleading for his partner not to leave him because of his shortcomings and insecurities. He knows he needs to be better, and he is hoping his partner doesn’t leave before he has a chance to improve. The album closes out with ‘WHO CARES,’ which has a modern Indie Pop feeling to it. It reminds me a lot of Clairo’s early morning. This track has a cozy and laid-back feeling that makes it feel like it could have been made by someone on their computer in their bedroom or office. Similar to so many songs on this record, this track has a super funky and fun bass line that drives the song. The melody for this one sticks out as well. It reminds me a lot of Piano Pop artists from the 2000s like Andy Grammar. On WHO CARES, Rex seems to be falling into a pit of despair. This record definitely does not have a happy ending. Ultimately, Rex can not get over his feelings of self-doubt. He has so much trouble having confidence in himself. He just wants to be happy, but he struggles in figuring out how to make that happen.
One of the best things about Rex Orange County is how consistent he is; he does not miss when it comes to his music. On this album, he dabbles in old-school and modern R&B, Hip Hop, Acoustic Pop, and Synth Pop. There is even some music on here inspired by New Wave music. No matter what, though, every song has that warm and fuzzy feeling which comes from Rex’s vocal style. He is the kind of person who can make the saddest song sound upbeat and happy. Overall, WHO CARES? is a diverse and eclectic Indie Pop album with something for so many kinds of music listeners. It is fun and easy to listen to, and it once again shows Rex Orange County is one of the best Indie Pop artists out there right now.