Alex O’Connor’s, or Rex Orange County’s, fourth studio album Who Cares? has been highly anticipated since Pony, his last release in 2019. Rex went through a public breakup recently, and many fans of his love songs were eagerly awaiting this new era of music, post-heartbreak. Surprisingly, Who Cares? ended up being an unwavering, feel-good album. All the tracks on the album somewhat blend into each other and into the background, creating an unexpected post-breakup easy listening experience.
Who Cares? is noticeably short — with only 11 songs and a 35-minute total runtime. O’Connor partnered with longtime collaborator Benny Sings for the production on this album. The album only has one feature, Tyler, The Creator, on the track “OPEN A WINDOW.” The rest of the album is carried by O’Connor’s airy, sweet vocals and Benny’s simple bedroom pop instrumentals. Who Cares? sounds like a classic Rex Orange County love album, not changing much from the sounds and themes that made him popular on his first two hit albums, Apricot Princess and Pony.
It’s hard to differentiate between each individual song when listening all the way through from beginning to end, which is both an asset and a deficiency for the record as a whole. It certainly sounds coherent — every song fits in place, and no song sticks out like a sore thumb. Benny Sings and Rex Orange County both know the niche that they’re trying to fill, and they repeat the same catchy, simple beats and lighthearted song lyrics across all 11 tracks.
This uniformity is also what makes the album unmemorable. It will certainly sell records, and big fans of O’Connor will continue to buy tickets to his show and stream his music. What this album won’t do is broaden the fanbase. The album is unremarkable both in sound and lyrics, and it doesn’t seem that O’Connor’s intentions were to push the envelope with this project. Listening through the record a few times is certainly enjoyable. There were songs like “OPEN A WINDOW” and “THE SHADE” that stood out as more interesting tracks, featuring groovier or deeper instrumentals and of course, an exceptional feature from Tyler, The Creator.
Who Cares? is a hard album to hate, but it’s also a hard album to love. It’s a simple, easy record that can’t offend any listeners, but nothing about the project seems like it’s a step forward for Rex Orange County’s discography. While it’s not fair to assume that he is always going to write about all his heartbreaks and deepest emotions, Pony, with songs like “Pluto Projector,” offered more insight into O’Connor’s mind than what we had seen from him before. In comparison, Who Cares? seems like a plateau, both lyrically and instrumentally. After a couple listens, the album might make you ask the question, “Who cares?”
Daily Arts Writer Gigi Ciulla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.