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Rex Orange county: can you love the art and condemn the artist?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

TW: Sexual Assualt

About a week and a half ago the news broke that musician Rex Orange County, whose real name is Alexander O’Connor, was accused of six counts of sexual assault. He is being accused of sexually assaulting the same woman over the course of two days in June. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, was released on unconditional bail, and a provisional trail will begin on January 3rd, 2023.

Rex Orange County is a singer/songwriter. Recognition for his talent grew between 2015 and 2017, when he put out two albums and was featured on work of several famous artists. His fame has only skyrocketed over the years. He made his stage name a staple in the bedroom pop and indie-jazz genres. When the alleged assault occurred he was touring for his latest album, Who Cares?. People not only love his music and its messages but also him as a person, which made the news even more devastating. 

Before going any farther with analyzing what’s going on or giving my take on the issue, I want to preface a few things. The issue at hand is between a small group of people, Mr. O’Connor, the woman, and the people determining what really happened this past July. Selfishly, the fans have made this about themselves and their reactions to the news, and I am very much aware of how hypocritical it is for me to even be writing this article. But I see it as perfectly fine and normal to feel the need to share reactions and talk about how you feel, as long as you can recognize nothing was done to you; you are reacting to something that happened to other people and in no way involves you.

With all that said, I do want to talk about people’s reactions, because there were a lot. About a half hour after the news broke about the alleged assault, my TikTok feed was flooded with videos talking about it, and it stayed that way for the next few days. Only a handful were of people in shock, a good amount were of people feeling sad, and the majority were of people furiously devastated. It was upsetting to see people who had gone to numerous concerts, people laying out all the merchandise that they bought, and especially people who had tattoos representing him or his music. But I think the most uncomfortable videos to see were the people that shared that listening to his lyrics had helped them work through the pain and grief of sexual assault. These videos showed the trust and safety people found in Rex and his music.

This is a common downfall of famous men- actually, just men in general. I am able to recognize that there are many women who have committed the same acts and much worse; I know that not all women are good and not all men are evil. But looking at even just the past decade of any industry, the reason most men are not prevalent anymore is because of some criminal scandal. The question being asked after the news about Rex broke is, “Can I still listen to his music?” The answer is: it’s up to you. This question is not limited to Rex and it is not limited to music. After similar news comes out, each time there is the question, “Can I still watch their movies?… Can I still wear the clothes they design?… Can I still root for them in the next game?” For every one of those questions the answer will always be that it is up to you.

My personal analysis and opinion

Since my freshman year of high school, I have loved, like, deeply loved, Rex Orange County and his music. I listened to his music day and night. I made being his fan part of my personality; I thought he was so indie and underground. Little did I know most people were also listening to the same music I was. I made several friends solely by talking about our love for his music. So many people associate me with my love for Rex that when the news came out ten people immediately texted me articles and TikToks about it. I was in a state of shock, hurt, disgust, and betrayal for a good amount of time afterwards. I felt dumbfounded that it was him. This may happen all the time with other male celebrities, but I, and a lot of his other fans, could’ve never been prepared for it to be him. 

As I said before, whether you listen to his music or not going forward is up to you. Personally, I will not be listening until a verdict has been given. I think if someone created something great or beautiful but did something bad, if you are able to separate art from artist you should continue to appreciate it. Just because a person that created something amazing turned out to be bad doesn’t mean that what they created became bad too. Right now, especially because we do not know if he is guilty or not, I am not able to stomach listening to Rex’s music. But if you can, do it; it’s really great music. 

And I know I said this before, and I know this article was hypocritical to this statement, but this situation is not about any of us fans. If you share your feelings about the situation you need to remember who it is about. If you listen to the music you need to remember who wrote it.

Dora Berensmann

Emmanuel '25

I am currently a sophomore attending Emmanuel College. I currently major in graphic design. I am passionate about social justice, art, music, entertainment, and being outdoors