Have you listened to Rex Orange County's latest record yet? We've had time to check out WHO CARES?, and it's made us think about how far the English-born artist has come in the music industry.
For those who don't know, Rex Orange County (a.k.a. Alex O'Connor) is a 23-year-old singer/songwriter from Hampshire who rose to fame as a late teen when he was heavily featured on Tyler, the Creator's Grammy-nominated 2017 album Flower Boy. Since then, he's released three studio albums, achieved three platinum hit singles, and has been a staple music choice of artsy young adults everywhere.
O'Connor's music is very eclectic and unique in sound. It's a quirky, bright mix of bedroom pop, jazz, soul, and even some hip-hop undertones. Even if you've never heard it before, you can easily identify a Rex Orange County song due to O'Connor's distinctive vocal quality, sunny music production, and his music's relatable themes.
Today, we'll be taking a look at O'Connor's entire discography - from his debut 2015 mixtape Bcos U Will Never B Free to his following studio albums - and ranking our Top 10 favorite Rex Orange County hits. We hope you enjoy our list!
10. "Loving Is Easy (feat. Benny Sings)"
A cute little toe-tapper, we will never fall out of love with "Loving Is Easy." This breezy tune was made in collaboration with a big influence of Rex's, Benny Sings. It was released in 2017, certified platinum by the RIAA in 2020, and recently featured in the Emmy-winning TV show Ted Lasso.
"Loving Is Easy" perfectly captures that blissful moment of falling in love with a good person for the first time. It's not Rex's deepest song, but we adore it for its swelling strings, heartfelt vocals, and chill piano bits and beat. Simple, yet so sweet!
9. "KEEP IT UP"
We can't tell you how much this new song by Rex has been getting us through the rough days. “KEEP IT UP” was released as the first official single from WHO CARES?, and it can be described as a dreamy, retro, regal, and ultra-positive ode to self-worth. Need a pick-me-up or a reason to keep going? Just play this tune.
From its opening classical sounds (so pretty!) to a danceable beat throughout every verse and chorus, this song may make you cry and smile at the same time. Rex first promoted it via special postcards that were mailed to customers of Rex’s merchandise on January 12, 2022, with the text “Keep it Up.” The phone number attached to it, when dialed, would play a short snippet of the song.
Additionally, the song's new video was shot in the beautiful city of Amsterdam - possibly because that's where Benny Sings resides!
8. "It's Not the Same Anymore"
Growing up, depression, even the price of fame..."It's Not the Same Anymore" covers a lot of emotional ground. This is a song that feels like it's smiling at you while hurting on the inside. Thankfully, the song comes to a hopeful conclusion where Rex states he seems to be okay with what has happened in the past. He focuses on a better future, even though it won't be the same as the past he misses.
Sonically, "It's Not the Same Anymore" feels like reading through the chapters of a book: even though all the instruments stay the same, this song has distinct "parts." The diversity of notes is such a pleasure for the eardrums. Rex's pretty vocals and the poignant lyrics tie it all together.
We feel "Happiness" and "It's Not the Same Anymore" are very similar in tone, but we have to rank "Happiness" higher due to the track feeling a lot more "classic." It's a ballad accentuated with elegant strings that sees Rex asking a lover if she'll stay around. It almost sounds like a Billy Joel track. Add in that rockin' electric guitar solo at the end, and you've got one of the best bops on Apricot Princess.
On the song, Rex told Highsnobiety, "It pretty much sums up Apricot Princess as a whole. I’ve recently been really lucky and found someone amazing for me and "Happiness" is simply about my core feelings on my relationship with her and how my life has been for the past year and a half."
6. "Pluto Projector"
“Pluto Projector” is the second single released for Rex’s 2019 studio album Pony. It's got a dreamy, delicate melody heightened by the gentle guitar strings and well-placed drum and piano bits that appear during the song's middle. You'll easily get lost in the orchestra of sounds, as well as the imagery of a 70-millimeter film projector.
In terms of meaning, "Pluto Projector" is pretty deep. While it's mostly about Rex fantasizing about life with his then-girlfriend, the artist Thea, it also sees Rex making subtle remarks about fame as a teenager. The line, "I'm still a boy inside my thoughts / Am I meant to understand my faults?" asks a big question: did being pushed into stardom as a youngling stint his growth when it comes to making responsible decisions as an adult?
While Rex remarks that he isn't meant to understand himself and his flaws, perhaps his girlfriend does. And it's just another reason why she's worth keeping around.
5. "Corduroy Dreams"
This jazzy little song is one of the many standouts on Rex's debut mixtape, Bcos U Will Never B Free. Not only is it the first song Alex O'Connor ever wrote, it's arguably the song that made Rex Orange Country mainstream. “Corduroy Dreams” was initially released on SoundCloud before it was put on Rex's mixtape. Subsequently, the song placed O'Connor on Two Inch Punch’s radar - providing him a management team - as well as Tyler, the Creator's radar, which gave him the gig on Flower Boy.
With its jumpy guitar melody, "Corduroy Dreams" is a tune you can easily whistle to. While it starts off romantic (and even humorous with that "daddy" line), it slowly turns into a song about Rex holding onto feelings of loneliness despite being happy with a partner. It's implied that this leads to the demise of their relationship.
Melodically, many have compared the chorus of this song to King Krule's "Out Getting Ribs." It’s likely the similarity in sound between Rex's line "Girl, well don't you worry 'bout me," and Krule's line, "Girl don’t you worry ‘bout a thing" was purposeful, as Rex Orange Country has cited King Krule as one of his influences.
4. "A Song About Being Sad"
Need to quickly get over a crush you know isn't good for you? Just listen to "A Song About Being Sad." Trust us when we say this Bcos U Will Never B Free slow jam is the equivalent of musical medicine.
As the title suggests, yes - this is a sad song. But it's also very level-headed and relatable. It sees Rex recounting a past unrequited love and the torment it put him through. As it progresses, Rex speaks to the audience, offering tough love advice to future suitors who may be interested in this girl.
"Here's what I'd say to any young man that's still interested in you," he speaks after singing the entire song. "Do you prioritize the things in your life? / The things that you hope to do? / 'Cause if not, then / Mate, you'd better trust me when I tell you that / It's not worth forgettin' about yourself / Because of one f---ing girl."
A good piece of advice, indeed. Although Rex specifically speaks to men interested in women throughout this tune, the message feels universal for any gendered human interested in any other gendered human. You may even find yourself coming back to this song heartbreak after heartbreak.
“Sunflower” is dedicated to Rex’s former girlfriend Thea, who he previously lived with in South London. This song is great for two reasons. First: the production is sunny, groovy, and gives you a warm feel like a nice summer's day. This song is tailor-made for the hotter months.
Second, "Sunflower" sounds like a simple tune about being obsessed with a girl, but it's a little deeper than that. It's actually about the development of an anxious attachment style, which can be described as a person who falls into highs and lows all depending upon the whims of the person they love.
It's lyrics like, "'Cause I don't wanna feel like I'm not me / And to be honest, I don't even know why / I let myself get down in the first place" that makes you wonder if Rex is okay amongst the cheery song production. "Sunflower" is another great Rex song that sounds positive, but has a dark undertone. Fans love it so much, it's attained platinum status by the RIAA.
2. "Best Friend"
Ah, the friendzone. It's not a great place to be, but Rex's song "Best Friend" makes it sound kind of fun.
This song is an exploration of the intricacies of love, the feeling of loss that comes with unrequited love, and the wisdom of knowing that the end of a romance isn’t the end of knowing someone you love. This song is Rex's third platinum RIAA certified single, and it's not hard to hear why: it's equal parts emotional, positive, and catchy. First it will make you cry, then make you realize the value of yourself, and have you dancing by the chorus.
Being in the friendzone is a tough pill to swallow, but Rex proposes that it's not so hard to digest when you have confidence in yourself. Plus, it's not like your crush has to leave your life. In a way, Rex is implying that working on yourself may help you get out of that zone with a crush. If anything, it'll help you attract other cool people along the way.
1. "Television / So Far So Good"
Our #1 spot goes to this banger off Apricot Princess. We're not just calling it a banger because it sounds good: it's got banging drums, bass, and piano keys that come and go. The fluctuating beat and Rex's raw vocals force listeners to pay attention to the tempo of this song, thereby causing the powerful emotions he describes in this track.
Furthermore, Rex - or Alex, as he refers to himself in this track - describes the infamous complications of relationships. He likes a girl, but she may be interested in other guys, so he goes for it despite his anxiety...and she remains in his life! It's like the plot of a rom-com but in song form. If anything, "Television / So Far So Good" proves Alex is doing better than he was on Bcos U Will Never B Free, since he sings in the bridge, "The last time that you checked, I was probably so sad and confused."
Another reason why we bow down to this song? The smooth ending and key change. Once this thing gets to Part II, Alex slows down and admits that "so far, everything's good." It's a happy little ending, since the lyrics "But if I could just be happy by the end of this song," precede the change in tone. Whether the girl stays in his life or not, we know Alex is doing well. We love character growth, authenticity, and a mastery of story and style. This song has all three of those things.
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