Rex Orange County, aka Alex O’Connor, released the seventh track and third single, “Pluto Projector” from his upcoming album Pony. O’Connor’s been pretty tight-lipped about the project, only telling the news a little over a month before its release:
My new album PONY will be released on 25th October pic.twitter.com/Od9fCqKJfi
— rex orange county (@rexorangecounty) September 19, 2019
So far, Pony‘s sound has strayed away from O’Connor’s usual atmosphere. This era is more auto-tuned and slightly over-produced, shifting towards typical radio pop and showing O’Connor’s range as a musician. “Pluto Projection” is a perfect example, having classical and pop elements intertwined. The track starts immediately. It has minimal production—no intro, only an acoustic guitar, and O’Connor’s powerful vocals. This may just be his best song yet. Through the magic of vulnerability and immense talent, the Londoner’s singles keep getting better and better leading up to Pony’s release on October 25th. O’Connor posted a 50-second teaser to the song before its release.
…PLUTO PROJECTOR pic.twitter.com/zHPyLcB3Xx
— rex orange county (@rexorangecounty) October 16, 2019
“Pluto Projector” sounds nothing like the singer’s debut, Apricot Princess. O’Connor’s music has swum its way into the pop realm, lacking the RnB soul/jazz sound which popularized him. This shift is pleasant though and shows his range as an artist.
NEW SONG ‘Pluto Projector’ out now 🧡 track 7 on my album Pony …https://t.co/pwQdoLDeAn
album out in a week … so happy to share. love you pic.twitter.com/zofq7tI5z4
— rex orange county (@rexorangecounty) October 17, 2019
O’Connor glides through the first verse with ease, putting just the right amount of tension in his voice at the end of every line. His lyrics pierce the heart in all the right places. “The great protector / Is that what I’m supposed to be? / What if all this counts for nothing / Everything I thought I’d be?” A common thread throughout this track is self-reflection and gratefulness for one’s surroundings. All three singles from Pony have mentioned one or more of these topics, often going back to growing up and becoming a more mature adult.
These introspective lyrics shine brightly, one of my favorites lines being, “What if by the time I realize / It’s too far behind to see?” “New House,” “10/10,” and now “Pluto Projector” also tackle O’Connor’s big life changes in the past couple of years. From being a 17-year-old making his first mixtape, Bcos U Will Never Be Free to Pony, O’Connor has become an international star for his seamless blend of pop and soul. The stress surrounding touring and adjusting to the life of a famous person put an understandable toll on the singer, the most obvious example coming from “New House.” “It’s been the same way for a while now and I’ma come clean / You know that I haven’t been inspired since like I was 18 / And the extra stress isn’t necessary anyway”
The second verse includes a vintage drum-beat reminiscent of Roy Blair’s “Happy.” Pitched whispy vocals surround the listener, truly encompassing what I think the feeling of astral projection is. The vocalizations are loud enough to hear but don’t overpower O’Connor’s crooning. “I’ll do the same as you / I’ll try and hold it up / Soon I hope / Or as soon as I’m old enough / Old enough to understand” Violins slowly crescendo after the short bridge, pushing the listeners to an emotional climax. At this moment, all of my feelings are invested in this song and I truly feel at peace.
Harmonized low pitched vocals pop out of the shadows after the orchestra section. The outro adds another layer to the track, becoming even more vulnerable than before. O’Connor sings a simple bridge, ending the song abruptly with, “You could blast me and my secrets / Because there’s probably just no need,” showing that just how life is sometimes.
O’Connor does one beautiful thing after another, penning relatable yet specific lyrics that don’t come off as pandering to his mostly teen audience. “Pluto Projector” is a palate cleanser from O’Connor’s auto tune-coated vocals we have heard from previous singles. His authenticity seeps through the moving instrumental track, through the lyrics and aims straight for the listener’s heart. I am excited to hear the rest of Pony!
Until then, “Pluto Projector” will be on a self-reflective loop.
Featured image courtesy of Rex Orange County’s Twitter.