If you learned only recently about Rex Orange County, odds are you aren't alone: Despite spending the past half-decade collaborating with some of the biggest names in pop music, the 21-year-old English artist born Alexander O'Connor has built a worldwide following seemingly out of nowhere.
O'Connor's popularity extends to Miami, where he's set to perform an all-but-sold-out show at the Fillmore Miami Beach Saturday, February 15, as part of the tour supporting his latest record, October 2019's Pony.
O’Connor released his first album as Rex Orange County — Bcos U Will Never B Free — when he was only 16 years old and has since been on a remarkable trajectory to the forefront of the indie-pop world.
Before O’Connor was legally allowed to drink in the United States, he had already built a formidable resumé of collaborations. After Tyler the Creator discovered some of his work on SoundCloud in 2016, O’Connor was brought into the sessions for the Odd Future figurehead’s standout LP Flower Boy and eventually contributed to three tracks — "Foreword," "Garden Shed," and "Boredom" — on the record. Around the same time, he was invited to join Frank Ocean’s backing band — along with fellow indie darling and soon-to-be III Points performer (Sandy) Alex G — in the summer of 2017 for a run of festival dates, further solidifying his already impressive artistic bona fides.
The moniker "Rex Orange County" derives from a nickname a teacher gave O’Connor — “the OC,” the first two letters of his surname, not the popular American primetime soap opera — when he was growing up in England. Though the artist got his start far from that county in the Golden State, his music wouldn’t sound out of place in Southern California.
As the high regard for Pony attests to, O’Connor has done a noteworthy job capturing the attention of Gen-Z listeners through his laid-back brand of unabashed pop music, which touches on indie, alternative, and neo-soul soundscapes without skipping a beat. His shamelessly intimate and personal lyrics have done a great deal to endear him to fans and added fuel to the fire powering his meteoric rise.
Pony is O’Connor’s first major-label record following the breakthrough moment afforded by his self-released album, Apricot Princess, in April 2017. The release of Pony by Sony Music Entertainment and O'Connor's quick ascent through the critical and commercial ranks is a testament to the increasingly blurred lines between so-called indie music and pop in 2020. Rex Orange County is a prime example of how burgeoning musicians have been able to not only get by but also thrive in the streaming age — his success is built on a foundation of hugely popular singles rather than an accumulated album-centric body of work.
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At its core, Rex Orange County's music exemplifies the creativity and ingenuity of sounds composed by a (relative) kid, and it often sounds like it’s made for kids. In a time when artists such as Billie Eilish (who was 18 years old when she accepted her four Grammy Awards at this year’s ceremony) are making music that’s wise beyond their years, O’Connor seems determined to hold onto his early adolescence, both for better and for worse.
But with his career still on a firmly upward path, why fix something that isn't broken?
The Rex Orange County concert on February 15 will be O’Connor’s first show in South Florida. Though he travels with a four-piece backing band, if recent set lists are any indication, fans who plan to attend the upcoming show at the Fillmore can expect a few solo numbers as well. The Pony Tour is largely sold out, save for select international dates, which all but ensures O’Connor will step up to headline larger venues the next time he takes his project on the road. Considering his artistic arc thus far, you might want to try catching him in a semi-intimate venue while you still can.
Rex Orange County. 8 p.m. Saturday, February 15, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; fillmoremb.com. Tickets are sold out.