Rex Orange County’s “Pony” encourages hope amidst feelings of dejection

Rex Orange County’s new album “Pony” spreads a message of hopeful self-improvement.

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Rex Orange County’s new album “Pony” opens on a string of cheery synth beats masking lyrics that commence an honest portrayal of his journey in self-help. Lines such as “I feel like a five, I can’t pretend / But if I get my s--- together this year / Maybe I’ll be a ten” set the mood for the rest of the album. Rex, whose real name is Alexander O’Connor, informs the audience very early on that he is trying to improve and make himself better in areas where he was previously struggling.

This message continues as the album progresses, with the majority of songs being slower and jazzier. In one of these slower songs, titled “Always,” Rex admits that “there will always be a part of me that’s holding on / And still believes that everything is fine.” This confession again demonstrates the artist’s candor in an age where sincerity seems increasingly difficult to come across. By acknowledging his desire to ignore what troubles him, Rex further allows the listener into his headspace and establishes a connection with the audience that endures throughout the album.

Aside from the album’s lead single “10/10,” a few songs that stand out audibly are “Face to Face,” “Never Had the Balls,” and “It Gets Better.” Focused less on Rex himself and more so on a long-distance relationship, “Face to Face” seems to lyrically stand apart from the rest of the album’s story and themes. Comprised of a soft, quick beat and shallow vocals, the musician laments the struggles of being away from home and having faith in those that were left there.

In contrast, “Never Had the Balls” and “It Gets Better” preach messages of hopefulness amidst self-doubt and potential rejection. The cheery, fast-paced tempo of “Never Had the Balls” matches Rex’s realization that “if I had to live a life / Only being polite, I’d be giving in” leading to his decision to “never … do it.” Between the rhythm and vocals of the song, this track marks a shift in tone from the rest of the album.

A few songs later, “It Gets Better” leads with a groovy mix of instruments, pulling the listener along as Rex proclaims that “She changed the world I know / And it’s better for it.” This continues the aforementioned mood change in the span of “Pony,” with Rex emulating a hopeful attitude for the future that lifts up the listener as well.

The album closes appropriately with a track titled “It’s Not the Same Anymore.” To put it best, the song is satisfying in that it is a reflection on growing up and the disappointment that accompanies the changes this brings. Rex’s honesty is once again striking, especially with lyrics such as “I can’t wait to hit the bed / But tomorrow makes me scared.” While it starts on a more melancholic note, the piece progresses with the assertion that “It’s up to me, no one else / I’m doing this for myself,” affirming Rex’s desire to improve.

As a whole, “Pony” relays the idea that there is hope in spite of the darkness that can sometimes loom and take control of our lives. Although this gloom exists and may seem impossible to get rid of, Rex assures us it is possible to defeat as long as we are determined in trying to do so.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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