ALBUM REVIEW: Rex Orange County, WHO CARES?
Updated: Jun 28, 2022
I think now that the 2010s are up and we’re looking back, we can all acknowledge the slug slime trail that Tyler, The Creator left behind. On an individual level, he has a pretty solid track record when it comes to albums, singles and constantly improving live performances. No one can take Flower Boy or IGOR away from him, but what I will say is that there is a toxic byproduct of his expression. I’m not even talking about all the controversial shit off Goblin, that album was sick and so was all the merch from that era. However, after this In the early aughts, it was the Golf Wang clothing brand that proliferated Zumiez and CCS, bringing really hideous designs to malls across America. He had an entire generation of teens, including myself, dressed up as “Easter baskets” as Earl Sweatshirt so aptly described it. The Flower Boy-era was arguably worse, because it changed both fashion and music forever. The Carhartt beanies, overalls, striped shirts, and Le Fleur van; people still think that’s a great look to this day. The caveat to it all was that it gave Kali Uchis the world stage to make two stellar albums and transcend herself, rightfully, into superstardom. As we know though, every action has its equal and opposite reaction, and thus, Rex Orange County was also given the world.
On Flower Boy and for a little while after, I actually really liked his music. Particularly on Tyler’s “Boredom”, “find some time, find some time to do something”, he was kind of the centerpiece. Even his solo work as on “Best Friend”, “Loving Is Easy” with Benny Sings, was demonstrating that he should be looked out for. But as he kept making the same song over and over again, I slowly began to realize that sites like Pigeons & Planes and Genius had absolutely no taste. I think I really began to hate his music around the time of his major label debut, Pony. Not only was it just boring, trope-filled soft rock music, but that album cover still angers me to this day. That smug face, looking off into the distance all wistfully, like “hmm, well, I guess everything will be ok”. It’s so twee, I can’t stand it.
You’re not here to read about my personal grievances with Mr. Orange County’s face, unless you are, but I’m not writing for you. I’m here to answer the question his newest album asks. WHO CARES? is the rhetorical, and my response is: a lot of people for some reason. I can imagine just about every one of these songs resonating with a giant audience. The sold out crowds at a venue like The Hollywood Bowl or Forest Hills Stadium in NYC (huge fucking outdoor venues by the way) will recite every word, but I won’t be there. The problem with his music is just how utterly saccharine and agreeable it is. How could you hate a guy who has no jagged edges, negative lyricism or bitterness within his music? It’d be like insulting a Hallmark card poet, but the catch to that is that his words resonate just as shallowly. It’s precisely how broadly he appeals that ends up making his music so inconsequential.
I’ll keep it 100% with you all, I don’t like a single song on this entire record. It’s not as painfully trash as the last Tones and I or Ed Sheeran album, no that might actually be kind of fun. This is Flower Boy-core to the max, without any of the contrasts that Tyler, The Creator has to offer. Tyler actually makes a very brief appearance on the track “OPEN A WINDOW”, somehow coming off more nondescript than he did on The Weeknd’s Dawn FM. The rest of this boring album is eyerollingly predictable. Like, how many songs does this motherfucker have to kick off with these quiet, sweeping strings? “KEEP IT UP”, “OPEN A WINDOW”, “WORTH IT”, “AMAZING”, “IF YOU WANT IT”, and “MAKING TIME” all do, and to no end. They just fill up time until some Mac Demarco ass instrumental starts playing. He employs violins in the exact same way Rich Brian does, aka he has absolutely nothing of intrigue to say but supplants real emotions with faux-fanciness.
If he’s not giving the pianos and strings a minute on each song to lull me into a coma, he’s saying niceties that people have been saying for 500 years. To take it song-by-song would be totally redundant, so let’s just do a quick sweep. “Keep it up and go on, you’re only holding up from what you want”; “There’s so many reasons, I barely can’t take it anymore”; “It’s a hard lesson to learn but boy, it’s worth it”; “You’re so amazing, can’t believe you’d come and save me”. It’s just so completely toothless, I almost started the review five songs in because I knew for a fact that nothing further would convince me that this album wasn’t a D-. And I was right. The vocal takes and the production are serviceable, that is the only good comment I can make about WHO CARES? Other than that, this is just another new album that you should skip. Don’t listen to this, don’t put it on a playlist for your lover, just please for the love of God can we stop supporting this lack of creativity in music. Go see Tyler live on his newest tour, give him and Kali your money because they actually change up the style to make great bodies of work. No more Rex Orange County, please, I can’t.