“Best Friend” is about wanting to be more than friends while you’re in the friend zone. Its lyrics are straightforward, honest, and unvarnished – traits that characterize Rex Orange County and the entirety of the so-called “bedroom pop” movement. Most importantly, this song focuses on how our feelings and our reality often don’t coincide (and how that doesn’t stop the feelings from being real).
Rex Orange County has said little about his creative process, but we can look at his career and life timeline for a clue. He’s stated on record that he and Thea (his girlfriend between 2015-2022) were best friends before their romantic relationship ever started. Since their relationship was still active in 2017 (the release year of “Best Friend”), it might be safe to assume that she was in mind as he wrote.
In this article, we’ll perform an analysis of these personal lyrics to discover their intended meaning. We’ll also take a look at the story behind the song and its human themes that make it meaningful to so many. Without further ado, let’s get started!
In the intro, we find that Rex has gone out to see family or friends. He thinks he “should’ve stayed at home” because the sight of the “people that love” him makes him upset. Why? It’s because he has their love, but not the love of the person he wants romantically. He “can’t help” checking his phone to see if she’s reached out. He doesn’t find what he hopes for.
He then thinks, “I could’ve made you mine,” but it’s unclear whether this is true. Many people blame themselves for situations out of their control. He comes to believe that it “wasn’t meant to be” because the pair aren’t made for each other, which seems more deterministic – even though it “seemed so easy” in the past.
In the chorus, Rex directly tells us what’s going through his head. He wants to be this girl’s “favorite boy,” but not just platonically. He wants to be “the one” she thinks of at night, even going so far as desiring to break her heart. Even a failed romance would be better than the uncertain terrain he’s stuck in (the friend zone).
In the verse, we see a bit of resentment emerge. He tells her it’s “too late” and that he’s too “great” to care anymore. This isn’t true, but he’s trying to project an indifferent attitude. When he thinks of the past, his confusion prevents him from peace. He asks, “Who knows what you really felt?” in order to try and find a solution, but he’s still hung up.
This is why the verse ends with a confession: “There ain’t no one else more beautiful” than her to him. Despite the attitude he tried projecting earlier, the feelings are still there. If he can’t have her romantically but is also unsatisfied with being her pal, what else can he do?
The famous bridge gives us an answer: be her “best friend.” This is where the title and catchiness of the song come from. Interestingly, some interpretations of the song have the message essentially ending here – “If romance can’t happen, friendship is enough.” However, this isn’t what the pre-chorus implies. Let me explain:
Rex plainly says, “I say I’m happy, but no, no, no.” This indicates that his status as her best friend still isn’t enough for him. If this song was really written with Thea in mind (as I’ll explain in the next section of the article), this makes sense. The two did form a romantic relationship eventually.
In summary, “Best Friend” is all about pining for that person you just can’t seem to win over. It’s safe to say that a lot of people have found themselves in that position, which contributes to the song’s success.
Rex Orange County has said little about the details that led him to write this song. However, the circumstances surrounding it (combined with its message) can offer us a hint at his mindset.
For those who may not know (including me from five minutes ago), Rex was in a relationship with one Thea Morgan-Morrell between 2015 and 2022. During the making of “Who Cares?” (a 2022 LP), the two split up, leaving many fans disappointed.
However, at the time of “Best Friends” (2017), the pair was still very much together. In addition, Rex has stated on record that the two were “best friends” (ring a bell?) for about a year prior to their romance.
With these facts in mind, it may be safe to assume that the inspiration for “Best Friends” was Thea, although this is technically speculative. Regardless, fans have enjoyed the product of Rex’s creativity extensively.
“Best Friends” has been viewed over 100 Million times on YouTube alone, receiving great reviews from critics and consumers alike. It’s safe to say that Rex’s honesty earned him respect among Generation Z in particular, who helped proliferate his music online.
The next time you play this sentimental song, let these pieces of background information bring it to life!