Omar Apollo's 'Apolonio' Liquifies the Needlessness of Orientation in Music
Evan Dale // Oct 20, 2020
Apolonio represents Omar Apollo’s third collective release in as many years behind 2018’s Stereo & 2019’s Friends, though here, it’s being recounted as a debut of sorts, just short of an album due to inevitable tour restrictions, but promising that when an album does come, it will be every bit as magical as this tertiary reintroduction to one of music’s most youthfully inventive names. With it, the indefinable anti-pop pop star who’s steadfast becoming one of music’s brightest names as Gen Z realizes their Prince crowned is right in front of them, has evolved and invented more than anyone else in music during that three years span. Expectedly rangy, Apolonio – which finds itself in jumbled yet synonymous texture somewhere between a mainstage mixtape and a raw collection EP – is another exploration of the unique and ultimately inexplicable nature that Apollo brings not only to his music, but to music’s future at large.
Towards its release, four singles led the way. Stayback – a lust-laced romance anthem that bled of slappy bass, juxtaposed by Apollo’s seemingly endless upper register; Kamikaze – highlighted by a cool, collected aesthetic that feels directly pulled from introspective summertime bike rides; Dos Uno Nueve (219) – the latest ode to his Mexican roots (see also, among others: Amor Malo & Frío) while also a middle finger to the culturally inept town in Indiana where he’s from, that sees his impeccable strumming of a Spanish guitar float in and out of the rest of his aesthetic, towing together two musical audiences long separated by the linguistics of it all; Want U Around – a timeless soul ballad that likewise draws in the indefinability of Australian mirror to Omar Apollo’s transcendentalism, Ruel. With the stylistically bookending singles setting the frame, Apolonio ultimately breathes of something comfortably 2020: a downtrodden mellow even in comparison to the rest of his oft heartbroken canon, all the while still occasionally exploding with signature moments of high-energy and uppered emotionality at the hands of inclusions like Useless & Bi Fren.
And with it all, Apollo yet again reinvents himself, his mellow pop foundation, and the future of boundless musical breadth through lenses tinted with funk, soul, corrido, and hip-hop.
It’s a four count of sonic influence he’s never really been without. But something in the sphere of Apolonio feels refined beyond the point of bedroom pop installation, even when weighing in on where it all begins with the pop heavy, I’m Amazing. So much of that inadherence to his bedroom pop beginnings is thanks to the grandiose displays of instrumentation that define the project throughout. Though always an adept guitarist, his skillset and that of his accompanying band have only exploded with years of touring and releases, coming into their own with Apolonio at a scale only matched by that of his singles en route to its drop; only mirrored in modern music by other funk nuanced, stylistically liquid enigmas like Khraughbin and Raveena. And with an instrumental root dug deeper than at any point before, Omar Apollo’s own party bag of vocalism and melodies follows suit towards the tenets of music’s past, yet in a way only possible in music’s future by a road paved from transcendent artists like Apollo himself.
It’s that epoch transcending genius that again goes back to the compositional fluency blaring through Apolonio’s majority. Future funk fine, its splitting instrumentation evokes every ounce of emotionality that Omar Apollo’s own voice does. And in that sense, the project is a display of compositional range at the same breadth that his boundless vocal range has always been able to conjure. No small feat for one of the more explosive, soulful voices anywhere in music.
But more than anything, Omar Apollo’s Apolonio earns its proper debut stature as an open book dissecting the artist himself. A LatinX son of immigrants from rural Indiana, drawn to the all-encompassing fluidity of music and dance’s expression; driven, too, by the indefinability of music’s wide range, Omar Apollo is relating with an audience through so many points – sexuality, race, and genre, especially – that ultimately are the same thing – and ultimately, find their anthem in Apolonio that defies their existence, or at least their need for definition, at every turn. Instead, just consider Apolonio great music, and consider Apollo simply a great artist.