From Quiet Desires to Confident Cries: Omar Apollo’s “Ivory”

Apollo+explores+a+wide+range+of+emotions+in+his+latest+release.+%28Courtesy+of+Instagram%29

Apollo explores a wide range of emotions in his latest release. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Lauren Lombardi, Contributing Writer

The maturity of Omar Apollo, a Mexican American musician, is shown in his voice and inspirations, not his range of experiences. On the singer’s first full-length album, “Ivory,” coming two and a half years following his superb mixtape “Apolonio,” Apollo toys with familiar themes of yearning and near-childish pure fun. But this time around, he appears more apt to his part in the making of the album.

Apollo’s passion for what he releases to the world is undeniable. The singer was supposed to tour in  fall  2021, but it was postponed in favor of recreating “Ivory” after Apollo campaigned to scrap the project. As the 24-year-old musician told Billboard, “[Warner Records] wasn’t too happy about that.” Sticking to his gut, his coasting demeanor was put aside so he could put his well-earned foot down and make something he was genuinely proud of. 

Since Apollo began writing and producing songs in his teenage years he isn’t afraid to rely on himself — he prefers it, really. The writing credits on “Ivory” state, “Written by Omar Velasco [his real name],” over and over again. On the odd chance that there is a co-writer or two, it tends to be Noah Goldstein, the producer, engineer and writer who has worked with a plentitude of great artists, such as Kanye West, The Weeknd and FKA Twigs. Although Apollo is self-sufficient, he is not at a disadvantage.

The nonchalance of Apollo is only called into question when deep diving into his songs about lost hope in romance and craving for another. In “Petrified,” a personal favorite of mine, Apollo reflects on the ways in which a relationship affects the way he sees himself, with the all-encompassing, repetitive but effective chorus “Thinking of you more each day / I’m thinking ‘bout all the words you say to me.” Apollo compares the feeling of unimportance in a dynamic to a medical emergency in “Invincible” as he soulfully sings along with collaborator Daniel Caesar, “And I woke up in an ambulance.” Come for the alternative R&B, stay for the dramatics.

In all the trials and tribulations of love that the musician claims he faces, he leaves moments in “Ivory” strictly for celebration. “Tamagotchi” treads the line of being just another song about a young guy flexing, but with lines like “Tengo dinero y ando soltero, dime lo que quiere comprar” spoken in the language Apollo’s parents taught him, it’s hard to find issue with a self-made artist enjoying the means he’s cultivated for himself. Expectedly, the moment on “Ivory” that Apollo lets his confidence fully run wild is on this track produced by Pharrell, and it is clear he has a lot to be proud of.

Throughout all of his projects, Apollo has shifted seamlessly between speaking in Spanish and English. It is evident he wants to share the whole of his grasp on languages in order to express the things he wants to say, exactly the way he wants to say it. While Apollo says he is more fluent in English as he was educated in it, he told Complex that he traveled to Mexico a lot during the making of “Ivory” in order to feel more comfortable with singing in Spanish. Apollo explores traditional Mexican sounds on “En El Olvido,” a song entirely in Spanish, where the singer grapples with the reality that he has been almost forgotten by the one he wants; wishing he was able to leave him in oblivion. This wounded attitude is not foreign to the heartbroke-ridden singer and the limited production, saved for a simple guitar chord, makes it even more vulnerable. 

A blank spot in “Ivory” is in the lack of funk and disco inspired songs that listeners have become accustomed to Apollo providing. While it’s not unusual to hear contemporary music incorporating disco elements, an old Apollo song like “So Good” sounds as if it could have been first on the queue at Studio 54 back in the day. In all the glittery boldness of Omar Apollo, it’s hard to see a style that suits him that wonderfully be left out this time around. A long-time inspiration for Apollo has been the artist Prince, specifically in the album closer, “Mr. Neighbor.” The spontaneously placed riffs and smooth falsettos throughout, on top of the melancholy sound of the guitar, is not unlike something that would be found on Prince’s 1978 album “For You.” While it sounds very much like Prince, it also sounds like Omar Apollo, as it’s been made clear that whatever he tries his hand at can.