Cartoons and Cereal with London O’Connor

Will Hagle will not be forced to write about Frank Zappa.  If you were an NYU student circa 2012, you may have seen certain flyers plastered around campus buildings, slipped under dorm room doors....
By    November 3, 2014

Will Hagle will not be forced to write about Frank Zappa. 

If you were an NYU student circa 2012, you may have seen certain flyers plastered around campus buildings, slipped under dorm room doors. At the top, in big block text above a photo of a young kid with unmistakable hair. The flyer read: “HAVE YOU SEEN LONDON O’CONNOR?” The rest of the text indicated that a student had been kidnapped, that the only way to find him was to go to WeHaveLondonOConnor.com. The site, which still exists today, is nothing more than a bare-bones Tumblr with a single embedded video.

That video, titled simply “A Song By London O’Connor,” finds the title artist sitting, arms tied, gun to his head, playing the piano. He casually raps along about feeling lost — both in his mind and in New York City — as the disguised kidnapper beside him cleans his weapon. It’s a strong premise that adds weight to O’Connor’s smart words, a metaphorical ramble about how he feels kidnapped by himself.

Watching the video, you get the sense that O’Connor either learned a lot in class — according to NYU Local, he was a student in the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music — or he didn’t need to be there in the first place. His pop music sensibility is there, as is the marketing savvy that led so many students to discover the video.

It’s easy to be skeptical of any artist with a formal education in their craft. It seems as if great young artists should be making music from a place of desperation, not million dollar studios in Manhattan. With its one-take style and surreal ending, “A Song By London O’Connor” plays like a lighthearted “Yonkers,” and it’s not difficult to speculate that there was a professor somewhere mapping out the formula of Tyler, The Creator’s success. But all young artists are derivative in some manner, and O’Connor already has a strong grasp of his own originality.

“Oatmeal,” for instance, takes a page from the Odd Future playbook, but it’s probably more like a slight, almost undetectable tear from the uppermost corner of a page. It’s O’Connor’s newest song, and his only findable piece of music online aside from “A Song By London O’Connor.” He begins with an Earl Sweatshirt monotone, mumbling about an apparently non-existent uncle that watches TV and eats General Mills products all day.

O’Connor’s behind the production and vocals on “Oatmeal,” cognizant of the way the dark, driving beat transitions to the synth pop hook. Lyrics about escaping the mundaneness of hometown life are sung halfheartedly, resulting in a lazily uplifting anthem. O’Connor sings better than he raps, but both are used as tools for the end goal of strong songwriting. The song is also paired with a web video game which you play by floating through a house, navigating Simpsons-esque flying couches and battling an evil TV boss and its remote control minions.

Unlike fellow NYU enrollee Stefani Joanne Angelina Germonatta, O’Connor seems poised for greatness for being himself. He has the tools and connections to make cool, professional products, but he does so on his own terms. He makes video games with his friends and gets excited when they’re featured on Kill Screen. He writes blunt diaries on his Tumblr about things like being forced to talk about rap instead of Frank Zappa in the Complex offices. If O’Connor’s been able to attract so much attention from just two short (but good) tracks, it’s a promising hint at what’s to come. If you haven’t seen London O’Connor, I suspect that will change soon.

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