REVIEW: Omar Apollo’s ‘Apolonio’ achieves a successful genre-flouting sound

Omar Apollo’s album cover art for “Apolonio” released Oct. 16. Photo from @omar.apollo on Instagram.

With a maximalist creative approach, Omar Apollo is the all-encompassing trailblazer of the times. Carving out space for himself, the 23-year-old Indiana native continues to evolve behind the possibility of imagination.

The long-awaited project “Apolonio” was released Friday. Running a brief 25 minutes, the nine-track album is a delineating representation of genuine musical incorporation. Backed by Warner Records, the project delivers nuanced insights into Apollo’s ability to develop cross-genre sounds. Apollo’s tentativeness allows the record to be saturated with his newfound vulnerability.

After a summer of one-off releases, including “Frío” and “Hit Me Up,” a collaboration with Dominic Fike and producer Kenny Beats, the project comes highly anticipated. 

A crucial part of the process remains genuine collaboration. “Apolonio” features production collaborations with the likes of The Strokes’ guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. and long-time associates Teo Halm and Mk.gee, whose eccentric influences are easy to spot.

The critically-acclaimed DJ Dahi and Michael Uzowuru further elevate the songs by fortifying Apollo’s unique sounds. Alongside notable mix engineer Jeff Ellis, the songs prove clean-cut while remaining true to the project’s grit. And with the aid of multimedia creatives Aiden Cullen and Clayborne Bujorian, the vibrant sounds of “Apolonio” manifest themselves in stunning visuals.

The opening track “I’m Amazing” sets up the disposition for the rest of the project. Paired with circular piano melodies and sharp drum samples, the track replicates the roundabout feelings expressed in the lyrics. The subtle incorporation of Spanish lines speaks to Apollo’s authenticity. 

Utilizing experimental falsettos and layered vocals, Apollo showcases his bold ability in his latest single, “Want U Around (feat. Ruel).” The result is an unmatched arrangement between the two dusty vocalists.

While a striking project, there are a couple of tracks that pail in comparison to the rest. Just under two minutes, the soft-focus song “Hey Boy (feat. Kali Uchis)” feels grossly underdeveloped. While the short duration is off-putting, the track makes up for it, closing with unexpected low-reverb ad-libs. 

And the pacing feels sluggish at moments in the mumble rap inspired track “Bi Fren.” While the eclectic sound effects are a subtle nicety, it relies too heavily on Apollo’s vocal plays to balance the seemingly monotonous back track.

Embracing his Mexican heritage, Apollo delves into his take on a modern corrido with “Dos Uno Nuevo (219).” The original song debuted on Sept. 26 at a digital festival at The Ford in partnership with Solidarity For Sanctuary. 

Accompanied by members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Apollo made history marking the first time members of the LA Phil played a corrido. The heavy traditional plucks provide a stark contrast to the flashy lyrics. The radical yet effortless manner in which Apollo maneuvers both the traditional and new is commendable.

Within the project, the standout track is “Useless,” which features the signature textured guitar riffs, courtesy of Hammond Jr., which pairs incredibly with Apollo’s processed vocal harmonies. The spindly notes with the shifting tone of the bass tie the dense track together.

At the same caliber is the closing track “The Two of Us.” While only composed of four-lines repeating lines, the song never bores as a playful guitar solo and steady bass lines move it forward. And the sound of funky Clavinet-inspired keyboards provide a playfulness to the reflective sentiment in the lyrics.

In the modern era, Apollo represents the narrative of the American Dream. In an interview with GQ, Apollo spoke of his hometown Hobart, Indiana and the often numbing environment it produces. 

“I didn’t want to be a role model, but I did want people to know that you can get the fuck out of here if you want,” Apollo said. As he has solidified his creative direction, the rising artist has pulled himself and his peers through the ranks.

The debut project invites listeners to indulge in the special visions of Omar Apollo. “Apolonio” marks a creative and musical development in the rising artist. With hypnotizing harmonies and equally captivating production, Apollo strikes a perfect balance in cross-pollinating genres. The innovative genre-flitting allows the work to stand out as meticulously curated and carefully executed. 

Apollo is the result of a culture he has made for himself. With this new development of heightened brazen lyricism and slick funk-pop influences, the man is an icon in the making. Needless to say, this is only the beginning for Apollo.

“Apolonio” is now available on all streaming platforms under exclusive license to Warner Records.