Review: Pony harmoniously conveys true vulnerability through cleverly written lyrics and slow melodies, all accentuated by a combination of two genres: jazz and alternative
By Mira Sripada (‘22)
Born in England, Alex O’Connor, professionally known as Rex Orange County, is an alternative singer and songwriter. In just a short amount of time, O’Connor has amassed over one million followers on Instagram and has established himself as a successful singer with three albums under his belt. Beginning his career on SoundCloud, Rex released his first album entitled bcos u will never b free in 2016. The following year, Rex released Apricot Princess which provided hits like “Apricot Princess” and “Untitled”. In October of 2019, O’Connor dropped Pony, a 10-track alternative, jazz album. Most notable is Rex’s collaboration with Tyler, The Creator. In 2017, the artists dropped two hit songs: “Boredom” and “Foreword”.
Rex Orange County utilizes classical instruments to satisfy his listeners with a new take on alternative music: one that includes elements of jazz. The second song on the album best represents this sound. “Always” opens with a choir harmony followed by a steady RnB-like beat. Later in the song, listeners can hear trumpets, a piano and windchimes. This is combined with a slow tempo and Rex’s whiney, cracked voice. Additionally, the third song, entitled “Laser Lights” is chock full of classical instruments like the clarinet, trumpet, flute and piano. The instrumentation along with the dicey, syncopated vocal performance of Rex lends itself to an airy, light and enjoyable jazz song.
At its core, Pony is an alternative album. This style is most prominent in the song “10/10”. “10/10” is an electric – sounding outpour of hopefulness and desperation. The tempo is quite fast and upbeat, but Rex still manages to hit those distinct somber undertones present in most of his singing. Although “10/10” is the best representation of alternative music, it is the least memorable track on the album. After hearing the song, it feels incomplete. Listeners are waiting for a beat drop or climax that never happens. In addition, the same lyrics are repeated over and over again, making the song repetitive.
The simplicity of O’Connor’s instrumentation in many of the tracks on Pony allows listeners to explore the deeper meanings of his lyrics. And in Rex’s case, his lyrics reveal some of his most personal thoughts. “It’s Not The Same Anymore” expresses the difficulties associated with accepting change and coping with depression. Rex makes this clear when he sings, “I miss the days when I was someone else . . . And I’ve spent many months just hating on myself”. Furthermore, Rex communicates the unfortunate reality of befriending selfish people who are only involved in a friendship for their own benefits. This message is conveyed through the lyrics, “They want to take what’s yours, they wanna go for dinner on your name”, present in the fifth song on the album, “Stressed Out”.
In addition to the songs mentioned above, listed below are some honorable mentions that contribute to the album’s memorability: “Face to Face” and “Every Way”.
Rex Orange County incorporates elements of jazz into his already well known alternative sound. He combines this with well crafted lyrics which perfectly communicate his internal hardships. This allows his listeners to relate and ultimately develop a closer connection to his songs, and by extension Rex himself. O’Connor is at his best when he grittily sings his way through slow melodic songs with minor chords and classical instrumentation. The simplicity and wholesomeness of Rex’s songs is a unique characteristic of his music. In just a short amount of years, Rex has proved himself as a talented musician and continues to reshape and redefine his sound for the better.