With Friends Omar Apollo Redefines What it Means to Have Range
Evan Dale // May 2, 2019
Range is a difficult thing to describe when placarding it on the work of any artist. Vocalists are experimenting with the range of their deliveries in manners more extreme than ever before. Musicians are experimenting with the range of their digital production and analogue instrumentation in both directions like we’ve never seen, coalescing in a middle ground defined by a harmony between the two. Artists are experimenting so wildly with their range that the very foundations of stylistic bounds and genre are crumbling before us, introducing to us in the process an era increasingly labeled post-genre. And at the pinnacle of post-genre’s emergence exist artists like Anderson .Paak, Mahalia, Still Woozy, and Omar Apollo.
Defined by their lack of definition, these artists represent a future of music where one artist with the assistance of modernity’s production capabilities and the acceptance and wide-ranging taste of the modern audience’s ear, can create freely without boundaries of any kind. Perhaps the most exciting and probably the least discovered of the bunch, 21-year-old Omar Apollo is an enigma of musical talent. Indiana by way of Mexican roots, Apollo is exactly what we love about the modern scene, where someone with such diverse background personally and creatively, and such wide range to prove it can share his work to SoundCloud and earn the recognition he deserves. With his latest project, Friends, 2019 is developing into just the kind of year where Apollo will step from his position amongst the ranks of SoundCloud mellow pop elite into a role as a festival chartering phenom whose stylistic transcendence is quickly making him a star across a myriad of listening pools.
One look at the project’s tracklist and the wide range it truly exudes is unapparent. Seven tracks with names more subtle than most spanning a runtime just over twenty minutes couldn’t possibly exhibit such a wide-ranging display, right?
Wrong. In fact, it’s the most wide-ranging project not only of the year, but really in recent memory.
Truthfully speaking, the Bedroom Pop label that we, the media have a tendency to place upon the music of this hyper-talented, youthful, wide-ranging collection of all-in-one creative juggernauts so heavily populating the SoundCloud stratosphere these days is a placeholder for our inability to delineate the emotive and creative nuances of their work. And our ignorance comes to be put on full display when we label someone like Omar Apollo as Bedroom Pop.
Friends opens with Ashamed – a multi-tiered funk composition of instrumental chops, angst, and the kind of penmanship that would make James Brown proud had he been around for such a transcendent moment of his influence. For those that have been following closely, Apollo released Ashamed months ago as the opener of an A-Side / B-Side cut the conservative music world was not ready for it. On the other end its the spectrum, Ashamed was counterbalanced by the sensitive, hyper-emotional Trouble. And now, with the EP’s release, both tracks do an exceptional job of bookending Omar Apollo’s scope and putting on full exhibition that elusive range.
Between Ashamed and Trouble, the unpredictable storyline and inexplicable musical nuances continue. Kickback is a proper flex of Apollo’s sexy bass instrumentation turning seamlessly into a sensual R&B masterpiece boasting a hook more addicting and unforgettable than anything else on the album. It’s a windows down, panties down banger. And then, abruptly, the mood, the pace, and the music shift dramatically. The project’s titular track is the most musically stripped, and perhaps most lyrically relatable piece of the Friends puzzle. A gorgeous guitar riff lays the foundation for Apollo to explore his most modern take on James Taylor. Hearing Your Voice feels thematically reminiscent to Friends but musically turns up its energy a few notches with a broader sense of production underlining more acoustic guitar. So Good explores his affinity for funk inspiration and brings it in touch with an 80’s pop vibe à la classic Michael Jackson.
Between the beginning and the end of Friends, it’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to get lost in the courage of each and every guitar riff; in each and every productive risk; in each and every nod to music’s past; in every poetic lyric; in every perfectly struck vocal. But more than anything, it just feels easy to get lost in the project’s eclecticism. One artist with more talent than any of us can really hope to have in any arena coalescing with the capabilities presented by the modern music scene, inspired by artists from James Brown to James Taylor to Michael Jackson, takes just 22 minutes to prove that genre has died and the boundlessness is in full swing.
Omar Apollo is, with the aid of Friends, the pinnacle of eclectic post-genre and a king of indefinability.