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Rex Orange County Controversy, Explained

Rex Orange County for press.

Update: As of December 22, 2022, all charges against Rex Orange County, a.k.a. Alexander O’Connor, have been dropped. O’Connor released an official statement via his Twitter account:

While I still don’t condone the sort of “good boy” behavior outlined in the original article, it appears that O’Connor is an exception in this case. I urge anyone who finds this article and reads it to bear in mind that the information surrounding this case was sparse at the time.

Original story continues below:

There are so many indie musicians out there that I guarantee you’ve heard most of them at least once, even if you think you haven’t. In this case, if you’re on Instagram and/or TikTok, you’ve probably heard Rex Orange County’s songs multiple times. He’s got a distinct sound and style that give the impression of an endearing, soft-hearted sort who’s just out there lookin’ for love. This made him one of mainstream indie’s most endearing figures of the last decade, and one I used to be a fan of, too.

Alas, a tale as old as time: A “good boy” aesthetic doth not a “good boy” make.

Rex (real name: Alexander O’Connor) has been charged with assaulting a woman six times over the course of two days. I’ll spare you the more horrific details, but the crux of it is that the accusations are fairly disturbing, and O’Connor will be going to trial on January 3, 2023.

Fans were wondering what was going on this past July when he suddenly canceled all upcoming tour dates. O’Connor went on to lament this cancellation because he loves touring and didn’t want to let anyone down—a willfully careless statement if not for the fact that he’s apparently eager to “clear his name” and prove his innocence in court.

And sure, we weren’t there and we don’t know the whole story, but the vagueness of it all is unsettling. It’s an unfortunate aspect of these kinds of music scenes that so many “good boys” end up power-tripping to the degree that they feel they’re untouchable. Often, it’s the people they sleep with who bear the brunt of it, as consent can become blurred when someone strongly believes in their “inherent” goodness. It happened to me, and it’s happened to many people I know.

If you want more examples, well damn, where do we even start? We could start with Burger Records dissolving after so many of their artists turned out to be serial users and abusers. More recently, we could talk about Arcade Fire and the allegations of sexual misconduct against frontman Win Butler. Off the top of my head, I can think of several other “sweetheart” artists who’ve been accused of heinous behavior, including members of Summer Salt, Bane’s World, Sun Kil Moon, PWR BTTM, The Growlers, and on and on and on.

Many survivors feel vindicated regarding the charges against O’Connor. We’ve been saying for years that just seeming like a good, sensitive person doesn’t actually make you one. Putting on that façade is, in our experience, often just an obvious tell for covert abusive behavior. People are complicated and aren’t always capable of softness, so when someone really goes the extra mile to seem “sweeter than the rest,” it should set off alarm bells. They probably want something from you, and they want to disarm you so they can get it. Maybe it’s money, fame, affection—whatever, the bottom line is: Don’t trust that shit.

And look, I get the appeal. I was obviously there once. We want to believe that everyone in the world is capable of such beauty and sweetness. But no genuine goodness could ever come at such a dire expense.

Regardless of how the trial pans out, I wish the best for O’Connor’s accuser and hope she finds some peace in the coming year.

(featured image: RCA Records)

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Madeline (she/her) is a writer, dog mom, and casual insomniac. She aims to use her writing to positively represent mixed-race people like herself. Niche interests include folk music, elves/wizards, and why horses are cool actually.