Rex Orange County releases ‘WHO CARES?’

O’Connor’s latest album remains true to artistry and lyricism



“WHO CARES?”is filled with insecurity and cynicism, with melancholic lyrics and song titles like “SHOOT ME DOWN.”

Madeline Bruce, Editor-in-Chief

After a three-year hiatus, singer Alexander James O’Connor, known professionally by his stage name Rex Orange County, released his fourth studio album, “WHO CARES?” on March 11.   

The album, which was highly anticipated by fans, comes after O’Connor sent out postcards containing a phone number that, when called, played a snippet of the first single off the album, “KEEP IT UP,” which was released Jan. 26. 

With 11 songs and a 34-minute run time, the album is true to the artistry and lyricism of O’Connor’s previous albums. My first thought upon listening to it was, “This is definitely a Rex Orange County album.” 

And that’s not a bad thing. The album definitely shows that O’Connor has matured since releasing even his latest album, “Pony,” in 2019. 

O’Connor’s music has always been characterized by warmth and gentility, with lyrics that are both self-depreciating and romanticize another person at the expense of himself. The music and lyrics create a paradox, and that has always drawn me to his albums. 

While “WHO CARES?” certainly doesn’t stray from this, with lyrics like, “Search the definition of shame / I’m sure you’ll see my face” and “I can’t believe you’ve come and saved me” from the album’s second single, “AMAZING,” the self-deprecation is certainly still present. However, it is clear that O’Connor has taken a turn for the hopeful. 

“KEEP IT UP” is also filled with insecurity. It starts out with “Every time I open my mouth / I have regrets in my mind,” and those lyrics hit home for me a little bit too hard the first time I listened to it. However, O’Connor continues the song with a more positive message, both for himself and his listeners. 

Lyrics like “Keep it up and go on / You’re only holding out for what you want” made the song feel like it was a specific call-out to me, especially after the lyrics at the beginning of the song. 

The song continues on like that, with verses that are more cynical like “Now I’m here, and I wish that I wasn’t,” followed by verses like “I guess I’m blessed / I never give myself respect.” 

While listening to “KEEP IT UP,” I can’t help but think about how O’Connor is right. How often do you find yourself holding out for what you want and making yourself more miserable? 

Aside from the singles, “WHO CARES” has plenty of other admirable songs. One of my favorites by far is “IF YOU WANT IT.” The song starts out with harsh violin notes and a discordant synthesizer, which are then joined by an upbeat bass drum. With this musicality, I was instantly hooked. 

The lyrics made it even better, with verses like “Girl if you want it / There’s no good reason not to love if you want it” and “I said girl, if you want it / Let’s just believe that we belong if you want it,” “IF YOU WANT IT” is yet another song that has a positive message among some other, less positive lyrics. 

“7AM” and “THE SHADE” seem to be tied together by their lyrics. 

“7AM” starts out with “7:00 a.m., I’m wakin up / Guess that I shoulda kept the curtains shut / I’m gonna be a better man some day.” Meanwhile, “THE SHADE” starts out with  “I was closin’ all the blinds just so you could sleep the night through / I was stayin’ by your side just so I knew you were okay.” 

While “7AM” can be interpreted as a song about wanting to be independent and break away from somebody who isn’t healthy but being scared of being alone, “THE SHADE” can be interpreted as its counterpart. Throughout the song, O’Connor sings about throwing yourself into somebody and doing everything to please them, only for them to not reciprocate. 

To me, this kind of artistry is what makes good music. 

The rest of the album certainly also has merit, and songs like “ONE IN A MILLION,” “MAKING TIME” and “SHOOT ME DOWN” all follow the theme of more cynical, self-deprecating lyrics followed by positive lyrics with good messages. 

The album ends with its namesake song, “WHO CARES?” In the song, the two words have a double meaning, which can be seen in lyrics like “Now you care about who cares” at the beginning of the song and “Now that I know who cares” at the end of the song. 

Meanwhile, the chorus in between verses repeats, “Who cares?” This repetition has the message of, literally, who cares? O’Connor lets is fans know through this that it is OK to not care about what other people think and that the people who don’t care don’t matter. 

To me, that is the perfect way to end an album like “WHO CARES?” 

“WHO CARES?” is now available for streaming on all platforms. 


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