In a world where artists tend to include too many songs on their releases, Omar Apollo's new project Apolonio is a refreshing breath of brevity. There are only nine songs, and it clocks in at 25 minutes of run-time. There's no filler - every song is pulling its weight. That feels like the theme for the album because every choice is considered. Nothing's been done for the sake of filling space.
The project is a result of Omar deciding to throw everything he had in the bank out the window and start again. Quarantine threw his 2020 off course (like it did for everyone), so he had time to write. Apolonio takes its title from Omar's middle name, and it's as funky as it is sensual. It's also a grounded album. Speaking to i-D, Omar says it's been nice being able to record from a home base. "I was on the road for two years without being home for longer than a month, so it's also nice to feel like I have a home again."
There are only two features on the album, giving Omar the space he needs on the rest of the songs. Ruel features on the funky Want U Around, while Kali Uchis gives the seductive Hey Boy the female voice that the song needs to lure people in. It's a track where Kali and Omar trade verses, and it's one of the highlights of the album.
There's a genuine ache that comes through when Omar sings - an ache that other artists don't always capture. Want U Gone sees Omar lamenting a relationship gone wrong, and there's a pain in his voice that comes through on every note. It's palpable - nothing feels forced. He's in tune with his emotions, and he's able to make music that brings those emotions to the world.
Kamikaze feels like the key to the record, and Omar's overall mood on the project. It's perfect for letting your thoughts wander and reminiscing about past flames. Omar croons, "I've been wondering if you'd call me/Move like tsunamis/Now we're strangers in this lobby." He's loved and lost, and he's allowing himself to feel that pain.
Omar's Mexican heritage comes through when he sings in Spanish in spots on Apolonio, but Dos Uno Nueve (219) does away with the bass lines the rest of the album is built on, instead featuring Spanish guitar as the backbone of the song. It sees him talking about his family's struggles, comparing those to the successes that have come from his music.
In an interview with Office, Omar talks about writing in English versus Spanish, saying, "It just allows you to say different things, which is cool. Different sayings and stuff are different in Spanish than they are in English, sometimes it's like, what are you saying? And I'm like, it's not going to translate well. It makes sense in Spanish."
Dos Uno Nueve (219) is a Corrido - a Mexican ballad that often narrates a historical event. Speaking to Ambient Light, he says Corridos are "something I grew up on, something I really know. Also I think it’s cool that other kids who also grew up on it can hear it, so yeah, I think it’s cool to incorporate it”.
It's not just Omar who is learning more about himself through music. Speaking to Pitchfork in 2019, he says that he wants to give his parents a chance to learn more about themselves. “All they’ve known is work, and I want more for them. They’re finally getting the chance to know themselves — my mom told me she didn’t know what her favorite food was.”
Representation in music is crucial because it diversifies the sounds music fans get to hear. There is no doubt that countless people will be inspired by both the sounds and stories that Omar tells on Apolonio - and in turn, those same people will inspire the generations coming after them. It's a snowball effect that's taken a while to come to fruition, but it's starting to take effect.
You can listen to Apolonio below. It's a record that captures the essence of Omar's music, while also leaving you wanting more. At no point on this record does any idea get stretched beyond its capacity to a point where it feels tired.
Everything feels exciting and fresh - indeed, this album could have been a bit longer because of the variety of sounds explored. We can't wait to hear what Omar has in store next - we've got a feeling there is a lot more music in the bank.