‘Pony’: A sentimental story with hit-or-miss experimentation

The Channels Art Pages | STAFF REVIEW


Serena Guentz , News Editor

The genre-bending artist Alexander O’Connor, known more widely by his stage name Rex Orange County, recently released his third full-length album “Pony,” which strays from O’Connor’s previous albums in an admirable, but imperfect way. 

While his previous two albums, 2016’s “Bcos U Will Never B Free” and 2017’s “Apricot Princess” were self-released, “Pony” is O’Connor’s first album released under the Sony Music Entertainment label.
“Pony” is a nice listen but it leaves something more to be desired from O’Connor. It guides listeners through the ups and downs of life through O’Connor’s eyes with elements taken from various genres including indie pop, hip-hop, jazz and soul, to name a few. 

The album is a mixture of upbeat love songs and more serious songs that detail O’Connor’s struggles. 

Various songs throughout “Pony” describe O’Connor’s insecurities and unhappiness, yet still have hints of hope and optimism. 

“I’m in a good place now but the last couple years were really hard,” O’Connor said in a Twitter post promoting the album’s release. “Beyond happy to be out of that period of time but equally sad looking back at it.”

The album opens with “10/10,” a song that shows O’Connor’s journey through a rough year but remaining optimistic. Even with the details of O’Connor outgrowing his oldest friends and the year the “nearly sent [him] off the edge,” the music is upbeat. 

The third track “Laser Lights” is an example of how O’Connor blends genres in a way that just sounds right. The song uses jazzy instrumentals behind the indie-pop vocals that O’Connor seems to effortlessly rap. While the song feels short and almost incomplete, the blending of the very different genres makes “Laser Lights” audibly stunning.

Other songs on the album like “Every Way,” “Face To Face,” and “Stressed Out” are easily forgettable. They work fine within the album, but they’re not songs I would specifically seek out. O’Connor experiments a lot in “Pony,” differing from the softer songs he is typically known for. 

The sixth song, “Never Had The Bells” starts with chirping birds, which was an interesting choice that gives the song the character. The cheery beat makes the song sound like a fun dance track, despite the lyrics expressing O’Connor’s fear of rejection.

While the experimentation works in some cases, it falls flat or is even distracting in other songs.

“It Gets Better,” a song that recounts the development of a relationship over the years, starts with a beat that is reminiscent of 80s synth-rock. On its own, that’s not a bad thing. Later on, however,  the overlapping synth instrumentals mixed with the layered vocals all at once sounds like each element is competing for attention and becomes distracting.

O’Connor concludes “Pony” with the six-minute song, “It’s Not The Same Anymore,” in which he reflects on old memories and the realities of growing up. 

This song is the most beautiful song on the album, brought to life with raw vocals and acoustic guitar. Later into the song when the drums pick up, “It’s Not The Same Anymore” is still a gentle song about O’Connor facing the fact that things have changed. 

Much of the track shows the artist admitting his unhappiness, but by the end, coming to terms and singing “It’s not the same anymore/It’s better,” closing the album on a hopeful note.

Overall, “Pony” is an enjoyable album, in the sense that you can mindlessly listen to it in the background. The album has its notable songs but it’s nothing special. With the way I adored previous Rex Orange County songs like “Best Friend” and “Loving is Easy,” I anticipated something more from “Pony.” Unfortunately, most of the songs just didn’t live up to that expectation.