Rex Orange County is more than a smooth R&B voice featured on Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy. Although this album may have been the first place many listeners came across his velvety British voice, the 19–year–old had actually released a couple albums before that. Hailing from Haslemere, England, Rex’s real name is Alex O’Connor, but he picked up the moniker from a high school teacher who nicknamed him “the OC.” He’s kind of like Ed Sheeran before Ed Sheeran started making radio pop, in that when he sings it sounds like he’s speaking directly to you. His voice is so genuine that it feels as if you’re hearing a story or the internal musings of one of your good friends.
Rex first released Bcos U Will Never B Free in 2016 and then began to receive more attention. Just 18 at the time, he allowed his teenage emotion and twinkly joy to shine through. The songs range from slow–paced to upbeat, and he successfully keeps the listener interested through authentic, metaphorical lyrics that that evoke feelings of a warm comfort and childhood nostalgia. Much of his music has the sense of euphoria one feels when thinking of running around in the backyard as an 8–year–old kid, while other songs capture that existential sadness teenagers feel when yearning for love. “A Song About Being Sad” tells his experience of putting a girl he loved on a pedestal only to find out she wasn’t the person he thought she was. He details his expectations with her and the lessons he learned from falling out of love with her. His straightforward lyrics in this song and honest account of a sentimental experience are what make Rex Orange County so real and enjoyable to listen to.
One of his music videos for Bcos U Will Never B Free, “Japan,” shows Rex sitting in a grassy plain while his friend shaves his head. He stares at the camera telling the story of losing a girl, likely the same one as in the previously mentioned song. His small figure, somewhat greasy face, and silly expressions give him a relatable character that makes you want to hear and learn from his experiences. Scenes such as him popping out of a green pasture and flashing a mischievous smile show his humor and youthful spirit that allow him to mesh so well with Odd Future.
His second album, Apricot Princess, is a little more heterogenous than his first. He features a greater variety of instruments and vocals, but his genuineness remains prevalent throughout each song. One song on the album, “Television/So Far So Good,” has an immersive blend of snare drums and brief bass solos in its first half, then slows down in the second half to a slow confession, which perfectly displays his flexibility as a pop/R&B artist. “Sycamore Girl” is a love song with vocals from his girlfriend Thea. He details his ecstasy and servitude to his emotion that comes with his love, and it shows the beautiful sounds O’Connor produces while at his most elated.
After discovering him on Soundcloud, Tyler, the Creator reached out to Rex, asking him to come to America and sing on “Foreword” and “Boredom” for Tyler’s next album. Those features put Rex on more people’s radars and began to gain him more attention. Since then, he has released a few more singles, such as “Edition” and “Loving is Easy.” The music video for “Loving is Easy” is personified piano–pop glory. In it, we see a stop motion portrayal of Rex singing cheerfully while the Dutch artist, Benny Sings, performs alongside him. The video is really just pure happiness. The pleasant colors and comfortably decorated room in the video help exaggerate the delight that Rex provides his listeners.
As his career carries on, we look forward to seeing what other sunny ballads and personable admittances Rex will give us in his music. Hopefully he’ll continue partnering with other artists and bringing his youthful spirit along with him as well.