Welcome to “...for Ya Old Ass,” an occasional series in which Jezebel endeavors to understand things that very young people like. In this edition, we learn about Rex Orange County.
There comes a time in every person’s life when the behaviors and interests of young people incites such unwarranted rage that you experience a small-scale version of the five stages of grief: denial (“It’s the children who are wrong”), anger (“And they are idiots for feeling this way!”), bargaining (“Perhaps I could show them something better and no longer feel threatened by this thing?”), depression (“Dear lord, I am old and I will never feel the enthusiasm associated with youth again”), and finally acceptance (“I am old, that is fine, and if I care to learn about the interests of the children, I will do so of my own interest.”) Perhaps you’ve experienced this on more than one occasion. I have, countless times, but never as deeply as the moment “Rex Orange County” infiltrated my brain space. How dare there be a musical artist with nearly 8 million monthly Spotify listens that I have never heard of before? How had those three words never crossed my path before a few months ago? How dare I continue this intro paragraph when you so clearly just want me to get on with it and uncover who or what this thing is, and why you should care?
Born Alex O’Connor a short 21 years ago in Surrey, England, Rex Orange County is a musical artist best known for collaborating with Tyler, the Creator on his 2017 album Flower Boy. The “Orange County” in his stage name is taken from his last name, O’Connor—“O.C.” became “The O.C.,” like the teen drama, which begat “Orange County.” To date, he has dropped two albums, both of which were self-released: 2016's bcos u will never b free (which did well on SoundCloud, and is how Tyler learned about him), and 2017's Apricot Princess. Last year, he placed in second on BBC’s Sound of 2018 poll, which, according to the website, is an annual survey where “UK and international tastemakers” are selected to vote on “the most exciting new artists they are tipping for success” within the year. My invite must’ve gotten lost in the mail.
Musically, he sounds like... R&B bedroom pop-rock Mac DeMarco, and sometimes rapping? If you squint, you can make out some Frank Ocean influence and some pop-punk-meets-Michael Jackson song structure. It is almost like easy listening, with the unfortunate addition of the dreadful rap interludes. The songs are entirely about mundane teenage things like hating your parents and doing drugs in the afternoon with your friends, which makes me feel positively prehistoric. It is very lovely, apathetic music, but it is not inherently sexless, which is nice. Part of me wants to call him cool Ed Sheeran, but that feels rude.
His best known track is “Loving Is Easy,” which currently boasts of 162 million Spotify streams. The music video has 18.5 million YouTube views. This dude is extremely popular. Personally, it makes me feel nothing, but I could see it doing well in a Target commercial:
Also, I read a profile of him that began with him sharing a recent purchase—Birkenstocks and a Carhartt sweatshirt—which leads me to believe he is Urban Outfitters, personified. The VSCO Girl in your life loves him.
Loyal readers of this site may have noticed that I write a lot about YouTube, and I also write a lot about writing about YouTube. Because of that beat, I interact with the interests of Gen Z’ers more frequently than I would if, say, I did some of the important work Jezebel is known for. (The Slot is right here, my friends.) Rex Orange County is a name that is inescapable in the Tik Tok/YouTube space, perhaps because he is a stalwart festival artist I would not go see even if I were someone who still enjoys going to music festivals. Get some damn chairs, and maybe I’ll consider it. Here is proof:
I don’t know? Perhaps there’s someone in your life who is interested in this music, or you’re just a curious person who loves to learn. Or maybe you really love Tyler, the Creator and could stand to add new music into your stagnant rotation. In that case, you are so welcome.
For everyone else: Rex Orange County’s third album, Pony, is out Friday, October 25—his first on a major label, Sony Music. It seems like he may or may not be avoidable in the future, and isn’t it fun to know about stuff before it breaks into the major mainstream? You’re so welcome for that unearned sense of entitlement. I, for one, feel better.