Mohith Subbarao · Follow
Published in · 6 min read · Dec 15, 2019
6 min read
Dec 15, 2019
The passage of time is too surreal to be reality. The subtle and idiosyncratic changes to the skin on our body, the gradual molding and hardening of the creases on our brain, the cultural patterns and social mores that configure and break apart the identity of our society, and the indescribable auras that blossom and perish with each life stage all knock us off our feet as we try to conceptualize the mind-shattering and devastating experience of flux. This flux spurs Rex Orange County on the emotionally chaotic “It’s Not The Same Anymore”, off his third studio album Pony, an absolutely stunning and poignant track that breaks down the somber awareness of growing older with the world.
Whereas 2016’s bcos u will never be free and 2017’s Apricot Princess captured the angst and confusion of Rex Orange County’s teenage years, 2019’s Pony represents a drastic shift in perspective and life stage. As he matures from a teenager into a burgeoning adult, Pony represents a shedding of the preconceived notions of adolescence that glowed with unadulterated naïveté and wonder of the world.
“It’s Not The Same Anymore”, the closer off the album, represents the moment we pause and realize the tectonic plates of our lives have swiftly moved around us, breaking apart our internal scaffolding as we struggle to conceptualize the absurdity of time’s unrelenting march. We are often so caught up with the rapid and ephemeral changes of new friends, new careers, new locations, and new values to take a breath and recognize that we have unknowingly crossed the invisible boundaries from growing up to aging.
Sometimes all it takes is a memento.
“I’ll keep the pictures saved in a safe place / Wow, I look so weird here / My face has changed now / It’s a big shame / So many feelings, struggling to leave my mouth / And it’s not that rare for me to let myself down / In a big way / But I had enough time and I found enough reason to accept that”
Rex Orange County opens the song with a depleted and lingering vocal delivery that perfectly suits his haunting and harrowing singing. These vocals sit gently on top of the sullen guitar chords that start this song, as Rex meticulously analyzes the way he has physically transformed, comparing himself to a past body who no longer exists — only immortalized with the technology that allows us to hold onto a semblance of a previous reality.
“It’s not the same anymore / I lost the joy in my face / My life was simple before / I should be happy, of course / But things just got much harder / Now it’s just hard to ignore / It’s not the same anymore / It’s not the same anymore”
As the first verse flows beautifully into the chorus, the heartbreaking vocals and defeated guitar plucks capture the shocking epiphany that comes with reaching our third decade of life — the cultures, communities, and overtones of our life that we so long took for granted are nowhere to be found.
Our response to this epiphany is to mentally and emotionally retreat.
“People knocking on me like every day / I’m tired of taking stress / If only there could be another way / I’m tired of feeling suppressed / And when they want me the most / I’m tired of acting like I care, but I do / And I can’t wait to hit the bed / But tomorrow makes me scared”
When the safety nets of the past are impossible to fall back on, the realities of the present are too unbearable to fathom, and the lights of a promised future seem just as dim, where are we left to turn?
As the solemn and somewhat frantic drum beat joins the solitary guitar chords on a more vocally dense iteration of the chorus, the reality of this conspicuous conundrum plummets deeper into the hearts of the listener. These words push us down with the gravitational force of a planet much larger than the one we are trying to comprehend, encapsulating the exhaustion that comes from the constant rhythms of life chipping at us each and every day.
Rex Orange County is all too familiar with this debilitating routine.
“I kept the feelings inside / I open up when s*** gets built up this high / She makes it easy to cry / The words fall out of me and there’s no more disguise / I miss the days when I was someone else / I used to be so hungry / Right now, my stomach’s full as hell / And I’ve spent many months just hating on myself / I can’t keep wishing things will be different / Or leaving problems on the shelf / I wish I didn’t need to get help / But I do / But I do / Oh-oh-oh”
As our anger and devastation with the world begins to fester, it is only a matter of time where we no longer lash out at others but instead turn the whip back onto our own bodies. Rather than coming to accept the imperfections of our world and our natural difficulties in grappling with said world, we begin to believe there is an inherent brokenness in us — that we are somehow defective or unlovable. It is one of the darkest and most distorted holes our mind can turn to, but one that provides a twisted sense of solace in our desperate plea to find answers in an infinitely complex universe.
The vocals and instrumentation of the song match this overwhelming complexity. The lonely guitar chords that accompany Rex’s singing in the first verse, the cold drum beat that weaves in and out of the second and third verse, and the restrained piano keys that join in the fourth verse all give life to the different vantage points we use to attempt to make peace with the space-time continuum. Rex’s vocals similarly maneuver through this own mental and philosophical vortex, constantly rising to wailing belts and immediately falling to soft whispers without much of a warning.
This complexity swells one more time in the final act of the song.
The lush orchestral strings along with Rex Orange County’s warmer vocal delivery guide the fifth and final verse as these elements fill the song with a dose of hard-earned optimism and catharsis.
“I’ve learned so much from before / Now I’m not short on advice / There’s no excuses at all / No point in feeling upset / Won’t take my place on the floor / I’ll stand up straight like I’m tall / It’s up to me, no one else / I’m doing this for myself / It’s not the same anymore / It’s better / It got better / It’s not the same anymore / It’s better”
The passage of time rattles my brain and breaks my spirit, all my moments and musings lost in the harsh and cold currents of time. No matter how hard I grasp, these memories and feelings only get further from me. Instead, the past maniacally laughs right in my face — taunting my inability and naïveté to recapture the false magic of forgotten days.
I know this pursuit is misguided as I am happier now than I was in the days I am yearning to recreate. We only see the beauty of life when we are two stages ahead. We see the innocence and inquisitiveness of our elementary school days once we enter high school. We see the unbridled optimism and raw emotions of teenage years when we enter the workforce. I will see the joys of today that I am clearly blind to once I have my first child. Every day will be one to love and savor, and one to mourn and cry for years ahead.
When we realize things aren’t the same anymore.