There are many reasons to care about Rex Orange County’s WHO CARES?

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Jae Longaro, Contributing Writer

British singer-songwriter Rex Orange County released his fourth studio album, WHO CARES?, on Mar. 11.  The album was produced by RCA Records, a label known for working with stars such as Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys, Kesha, and more.

Alex O’Connor, better known to the public as Rex Orange County, rose to stardom after his first and second albums, Bcos U Will Never B Free and Apricot Princess, were praised by alternative rapper Tyler, the Creator.  The artist decided to feature O’Connor several times on his Grammy-nominated album, Flower Boy.  Since his claim to fame, O’Connor has had several singles becoming viral on social media, such as “Sunflower,” “Loving is Easy,” and “Best Friend.”  In addition to being a singer-songwriter, O’Connor also plays the guitar, piano, bass, saxophone, and drums. 

“I think Flower Boy is some of Tyler and Rex’s best work,” says senior Charlie Bosworth.

Following his junior jazz and indie pop album Pony, which is centered around the mental toll fame has taken on him and how his romantic relationship with his girlfriend Thea helped support him, Rex Orange County and Thea called it quits.  The couple was together for over four years, so when Rex Orange County announced his fourth album in December 2020, fans were expecting songs devoted to heartbreak. 

 “Following a huge breakup, I would assume WHO CARES? would be full of depressing songs,” says sophomore Cami Psaltos. 

But for Rex Orange County, this was not the case.  The album’s lead single, “KEEP IT UP,” caught fans by surprise when it was released Jan. 21, 2022.  It discusses how blessed he feels to live the life he has and how he always tries to keep his head up in times of stress.  The song is filled with an honest delivery of emotion, followed by joyful and nostalgic production brought by orchestral elements and upbeat synthetic piano.  Along with releasing the song, Rex Orange County released a music video with musician Benny Sings, who helped produce the album, consisting of dancing and performing around Amsterdam. 

Quickly after the release of “KEEP IT UP”, Rex Orange County released two more singles: “AMAZING” on Feb.  14, 2022, and “OPEN A WINDOW on Mar. 12, 2022, with a feature by Tyler, The Creator.  All three singles share similar production with both orchestral and synthetic elements.  Fans were excited to see Tyler and Rex Orange County collaborate again, and Tyler’s delivery did not disappoint, combining components from his most recent album, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST with O’Connor’s new sound. 

“They all sound so alike, but they’re so catchy so it doesn’t even matter,” said senior Ellie Shapiro.

WHO CARES? shows Rex Orange County recovering from dips in his mental health, and gaining love for himself as well as an increased love for others.  Highlights of the album include a stripped back song titled “ONE IN A MILLION,” and a synthetic-jazz swing song about unrequited love titled “THE SHADE.”  The album has received mixed reviews from both critics and fans, with fans saying it’s some of Rex Orange County’s best work and with critics saying it’s lackluster in comparison to the rest of Rex Orange County’s discography.

In addition to releasing the album, Rex Orange County has also been performing album release shows across the United Kingdom and United States, including a show at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. On top of the shows, O’Connor has opened two pop-up stores giving fans the opportunity to meet him: one in New York City from Mar. 12-13 and one in London Mar. 16.  On Jan. 28, 2022, O’Connor announced that he will be going on tour across the United States, starting on May 4, 2022, in Miami, Florida.

“It was so interesting to see the album come alive, especially after seeing him a day after WHO CARES? Was released,” says Shapiro, who got the opportunity to see O’Connor Mar. 12.