who cares

In "WHO CARES?" Rex Orange County delves into the tumultuous, emotional ride of relationships and the feelings juxtaposed with them.

“WHO CARES?”

It’s a question that can encapsulate many negative thoughts.

For Alex O’Connor, however, trading as Rex Orange County in the musical industry, the phrase has more duality than many may think. 

O’Connor released his fourth album on March 11, his first release in three years. 

The album, titled “WHO CARES?” is slightly alternative lo-fi pop — a sound O’Connor has perfected over the duration of his discography. While many of the tracks are aimed at feelings experienced during a relationship, there’s also an emphasis placed on individuality and the beauty in learning to be alone in one’s thoughts and actions. 

“WHO CARES?” opens with “KEEP IT UP,” a soft rock song accompanied by the melodic hum of an orchestra that flows and dips with the lyrics. It’s the perfect introduction to an album preaching a disregard for the public eye, saying “Keep it up and go on/ You’re only holding out for what you want, you no longer owe the strangers.” The lyrics speak on not giving up despite the difficulties that can seemingly dictate life and persevering in the face of impediments. 

While O’Connor shied away from featured artists on most tracks, the second song is made complete with the addition of Tyler, The Creator. 

“OPEN A WINDOW,” another upbeat and methodical play on soulful lo-fi beats, introduces the frustrations of living during the pandemic. O’Connor, joined by Tyler, the Creator, touches the audience almost through spoken word, amplifying the relatable inner thoughts of many. 

Then, O’Connor proceeds to delve into the tumultuous, emotional ride of relationships and the feelings juxtaposed with them. 

“ONE IN A MILLION” celebrates the fresh feelings of falling for someone, mixed with dazed confusion about balancing obsession with respect. O’Connor sings, “It’s my one and only wish/ It’s such a crazy way to be,” communicating the rollercoaster of emotions that can come with love.

While “ONE IN A MILLION” expresses the exciting nature of new relationships, “SHADE” explores the darker side, addressing the anxieties mixed into the elated happiness. 

The 11-track album closes with “WHO CARES?” a 2 1/2 minute track that brings the album title’s duality full circle. 

“What are you supposed to do?” O’Connor sings. “Now you care about who cares?”

The line poses a question full of meaning, a reflection of society, and the internal monologues some create as a means to shield themselves from others’ perceptions of their individuality. 

The song closes out with a mirrored — and more positive — meaning of the original line. 

“I know what I’m supposed to do,” he says, “now that I know who cares.”

This gives dual meaning to the phrase “who cares?” O’Connor expresses one, a negative statement associated with the harsh cruelties of self-reflection and self-comparison, contrasted with the other, a positive and happy-go-lucky mantra meant to brush off negativity. 

Rex Orange County’s newest tracks prove to be perfectly appropriate for the events of the recent past and present. O’Connor unapologetically expresses the reality of the loneliness that came with the pandemic, paired nicely with the rawness of new relationships emerging after isolation. 

Rex Orange County has created a composition filled with soft rock melodies, broken up by the sweetness of the orchestra — a touch that adds to the emotional ups and downs seen throughout the album. 

For some, the songs may appear repetitive in sound. However, what’s seen as repetitive is made up for in the art form.

Rex Orange County has yet again released a beautiful symphony marked by raw emotion and honest words, proving to all that everyone needs a break now and then to ask themselves, “WHO CARES?”

Contact Emma Johnson at johns7ek@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts, and lifestyle of JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram at @Breeze_Culture.