Starting with Sinatra’s charisma that oozed royalty, class and womanizing tendencies, pop has now blossomed to create a new iconic look. The Sad Boy.
At first listen, Rex’s single “New House” might have some fans confused. Where's the slow strummed, ominous major seventh chords that gives me the satisfaction of drowning in my own self-doubt? Maybe that’s a bit overboard, but it is worth noting how Rex is branding sadness to benefit his image. Only this time he is coming at it from a different perspective, sonically and with the song’s message.
Rex is known for his heartbreak anthems and ballads about lusting over people you can’t have. This is evident in tracks like “A Song About Being Sad” and “Untitled.” In “New House,” however, Rex is happy in his relationship to longtime girlfriend and musician Thea, seeing that they could one day live in a house together. Rex, on the other hand, is struggling with his inner demons that affect his own songwriting. This is evident in the first line, “it doesn’t come that easy anyway, every time it never feels the way it did at the start this one for our dawgs.” Rex wants to highlight his conflict in songwriting and his own absence from releasing music. This is a memoir to explain to his fans his personal hardships.
“Dawgs” is referring to fellow musicians who understand the pitfalls of songwriting. This makes sense considering we haven’t heard from Rex in a while. After releasing two albums, Bcos U Will Never B Freeand Apricot Princess, in back to back years — this is his first release of new music in over two years. This song is possibly one of the first songs that Rex is fully content with his commitment to love while also the first time he publicizes his struggles with writing and his discontent with people needing things from him as he sings, “people need things all the fucking time” 3 times in succession.
As one of his “dogs” being a fellow musician and songwriter, I can relate to Rex’s struggles — on an obviously much smaller scale. I am constantly questioning if I am writing for me or an audience? Is what I write too basic that it lacks creativity? Does it not possess the intricacies of music I am capable of producing? Am I copping out to please an audience? John Lennon famously said, “songwriting is about getting the demon out of me. It’s like being possessed. You try to go to sleep but the song won’t let you. So, you have to get up and make it into something, and then your allowed to sleep.” I wonder if “New House” is inspired by these same demons. I think it’s important to see the mortality in our favorite artist and heroes. Whether you’re Drake or a high school jam band, churning out a full mixed, mastered and produced eight to twelve track albums is no easy feat — especially when it is as innovative as Rex’s music is.
What is amazing and a testament to Rex’s innovative ability is even when facing the adversity of a lack of material, he can turn, once again, sadness to fit into his brand. Even when that sorrow is derived from the idea that he has no new song ideas! His lyrics are raw, often times accompanied by simplistic instrumentation, with very few moving motifs that could distract from the message. It is, in essence, poetry with mood music playing in the background.
In the simplest terms, New House is an ode to Rex’s struggles to be happy. Even when he has finally acquired love — something he has sought out the most — he is still unhappy. This builds onto his genius brand that is the sad boy and is very telling of what we want as the audience. The sad boy invites us into his home and tells us stories from personal adventures and devastating heartbreak, but in an unfiltered way that we seldom find anywhere else. Overall, the sad boy is appealing because he is true. I think we will be seeing more and more sad boys in the future and it is beneficial for the music community. It promotes men as vulnerable beings and encourages self-doubt as a normal expression for others. As Rex continues to lead the charge for this niche type of pop, I believe he will be inspiring sad boys to come forward.
By Jackson Siporin