Omar Apollo is a sight to behold. This is clearly evident, judging by the album cover for his debut album “Apolonio” (2020). Pictured with his bright teal hair, Apollo is seen bathing in a shimmery purplish liquid with butterflies resting on his legs, chest and fretboard. His swagger is amplified even more by previous works in his discography. “Stereo” (EP, 2018), and “Friends” (EP, 2019) are two nearly flawless pop/R&B projects that have given Apollo a name for himself. By listening to any of his songs, you can see the wide range of emotions he has, and how his singing and instrumentation are a consistent formula for quality music (and success). He set a high bar of expectation for his debut album to meet, and he had no problem meeting it.
“I’m amazing.” That’s the name of the lead single off this record, and it is quite the intro. There are only nine songs on the record, so the intro couldn’t be passed off as some sort of segue into the real content. It had to be real content. Fear not, for Apollo kicks off his album with a bang. The track kicks off with a distorted guitar segment, courtesy of Michael Uzowuru, and transitions into a spacey guitar and bass combination, with its astral elements blending perfectly with a unique trap-like drum pattern. It’s a more artificial sound than what we are used to when it comes to listening to Apollo‘s percussion selection, but this choice makes more sense in the stylistic path that its fellow instruments follow.
Going into its successor song, “Kamikaze,” Apollo‘s guitar and bass guitar continue to dazzle the listener. In an Anderson .Paak-esque groove, Apollo sings in an extremely hooky melody, drowned in reverb. His own backup vocals are another really neat element of the chorus, coming through different stereo channels for an added atmospheric element. Lyrically, there seems to be an attitude directed towards an enemy, which is a recurring theme in the record.
While his collaboration with singer Ruel, “Want U Around,” isn’t a terribly interesting single, its slow, sexy tempo and flawless note-hitting make it not worth the skip. It’s more of a vocal showcase than anything for Apollo. However, as we go into “Stayback,” we get an even sexier instrumental with a more emotionally powerful lyrical message. In an interview with NME, Apollo described the piece as “a song about being in love for a long period of time. After years of being hurt emotionally, I moved on and decided to treat the relationship as a memory instead of fantasising it and trying to make it work.”
The most exciting surprise on the record is the Kali Uchis collaboration on “Hey Boy,” an unsurprisingly beautiful song. Also unsurprising is the sexy nature of the song with a reverb-heavy instrumental. It’s unfortunately less than two minutes, but this fact is forgotten when “Dos Uno Nueve (219)” comes on. Apollo, who is of Mexican descent, sings this song in Spanish, which is frequent in his music. Two guitars in each stereo channel, played by Oscar Santander, play an excellent melody as Apollo sings in his boldest tone of the album.
The last three songs of the album are far from forgettable, something that Apollo knew he had to avoid on his debut album. “Useless” kicks off with a chord progression a la Steve Lacy, which is joined by drums from Mk.gee, an artist/band that joined Apollo on his “The Voyager Tour” 2019 tour. “Bi Fren” is an interesting change in pace, as Apollo raps over the most unique beat on the album. The drum sounds are very artificial, but everything from the snares to the distorted, bass-heavy kicks are super neat. Atmospherically, this song is almost jarring, but it is hypnotic at the same time. “The Two of Us” is a perfect closer. It is nearly a solo endeavor, as the entire song was written and performed by Apollo, apart from further guitar contribution from Santander.
Overall, Apollo has capitalized on his already solid musical career. This album should not be skipped by anyone. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of pop and R&B, it will be one of your most worthwhile 25 minutes of music this year.