Rex Orange County’s latest album, Pony, shows little development from the young singer. He rose to fame in 2017, but his success seems to be plateauing as Pony is quite mediocre.
Rex Orange County is often criticized for all of his songs sounding the same, and there is some truth to this. His past album, Apricot Princess, is soft and dreamy, but is still rather bland. The songs have the same four-chord melodies and the lyrics have the same sentiment. The key difference between the two albums is what accompanies Rex Orange County’s singing.
It’s the instrumentals that make all the difference. The issue is that even with his older hits, Rex Orange County’s singing alone isn’t the best part of his music.
On Pony, the vocals aren’t well supported by all the drum beats and bubbly synth. Additionally, Rex Orange County auto-tunes his voice throughout the album. Though he may not be a great musician or a great lyricist, he does have a lovely voice, and auto-tuning serves no purpose except to make him sound inauthentic and cheap.
Another one of Rex Orange County’s weaknesses is his lyricism. Remember when Doctor Seuss had a bet that he couldn’t make a book with only 50 words, and he wrote The Cat in the Hat? A similar bet must have been made before Pony’s creation because it is the only explanation for how boring and repetitive the verses are. The general theme of the album seems to be about Rex Orange County rising up and getting himself together after going through a hard time. That’s about all the detail a listener can gather, since the lyrics are extremely vague. In the song “It Gets Better” he says, “Look how far we’ve come / Look at us now / Oh-oh, we’re flying / I finally know I’m here for a reason.” The song “Stressed Out” describes Rex Orange County being stressed out with fake friends who “Wanna see me stressed out every day … they don’t care / When you’re at your worst they’re not there.” This sounds like one of those cautionary tweets about toxicity you’d see on Instagram. The music is difficult to connect with because its subject matter is so shallow. It would be easier to let this lack of originality slide if the songs were actually enjoyable to listen to.
Part of Rex Orange County’s appeal has always been his childish and carefree energy, but it becomes very tiresome to hear him always complaining about such juvenile things in such an unsophisticated way.
Unsurprisingly, his most die-hard supporters are mostly young girls. This is indicative of the type of artist that Rex Orange County is. He’s built himself the persona of the sweet guy next door, with his tooth gap and his goofy face. While twelve-year-old girls might swoon at this, it’s not very impressive to most. Although he masquerades behind Golf sweatshirts and cigarettes, he’s not much more interesting than a Disney Channel teen idol that uses his boyish charm to get ahead in the industry.
He’s an excellent singer with some fun songs, but Rex Orange County still needs to grow up a lot, both as an artist and as a person. At the end of the day, he has yet to prove that he has the depth and talent of a real musician.