rex orange county


Annabel McLean

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The traditional British idiom, ‘stiff upper lip’, is becoming a dying phrase as we move closer towards a place where talking about our feelings is readily accepted. We are encouraged to collectively celebrate the good times and, as individuals, speak up when we feel sad, angry or alone. Alex O’Connor, better known as Rex Orange County, embodies the positivity of this new generation. The nineteen year-old singer-songwriter is happy yet humble and this jubilance permeates his latest album, Apricot Princess. His style is refreshing and unselfconscious, a visceral representation of his thoughts.

In 2015, O’Connor released his first compilation; bcos u will never be free, a mix-tape of sorts, and a work that reflects a more melancholy time. A Song About Being Sad reveals a raw character and an acute awareness of emotions that undoubtedly led him to quick success; for it was after this that Tyler, The Creator, picked him up and asked him to collaborate on his latest album Flower Boy. Unsurprisingly overwhelmed by this response, Rex Orange County admits, “it wasn’t like this was a regular thing, it was pretty crazy,” but after jumping on a flight to LA, they’d recorded the tracks in a few days. Whilst their styles differ, both artists draw heavily upon their own experience, as the driving force behind their music. It is this connection with, and recognition of instinct, that resonates with listeners, celebrating sentiments we might otherwise try to suppress.

Photos by Nina Manandhar for  Fader Online

Photos by Nina Manandhar for Fader Online

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His intuitiveness gives his work a particular elasticity; he moves seamlessly between a conflation of genres, intermittently splicing his hip-hop and pop influences with moments of jazz or the occasional punctuation of rap-verse. Apricot Princess is an effortlessly colourful collection, a reflection of his musical education – Alex studied at the BRIT School for two years, but also, having grown up in the age of the Internet, he has had everything at his fingertips. The latest album is a candid portrayal of his feelings towards his girlfriend, Thea. A singer herself, she also features on the album in Sycamore Girl. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea; this sincere rendering of being in love, could be one with too many sugars for some, but writing off his work as overly saccharine would be doing him an injustice, for he himself concedes that he is a “walking emotion.”

Rex Orange County’s frankness is uplifting; he confidently celebrates his happiness in love and for life itself, and his latest single Loving Is Easy featuring Benny Sings, continues to revel in this joy. His laidback approach allows him to create music organically, without worrying too much about how his audience will receive him. It is exciting to see what will come next, as he positively assures us, “it definitely feels like it’s meant to be, it’s now the right time and the right place.”