‘Apolonio’ asserts Mexican-American artist Omar Apollo’s place in 80’s R&B

A pioneer of the new wave of Spanish classic blues and R&B interpretations, Apollo’s latest album release does not disappoint.

Omar Apollo drops new EP Apolonio Oct. 16 (Aidan Cullen)

Omar Apollo drops new EP “Apolonio” Oct. 16 (Aidan Cullen)

Sophie Edelman, Staff Writer

Mexican American singer/songwriter Omar Apollo released his third studio album, “Apolonio” Oct. 16, and it’s safe to say lovers of the genre and  2.6 million of his Spotify listeners were pretty excited. Apollo cited his lack of touring (due to COVID-19 precautions) after two consistent years on the road as the motivation and time behind writing and producing his latest release.

The singer’s first hit single, “Ugotme,” debuted in 2018 and cemented his style in R&B and rhythm blues. His skill on the acoustic guitar and ability to flow easily in and out of Spanish lyrics brings a unique cultural blend to his music, and this third album showcases the same undeniable talent. 

The album is longer than his 2018 and 2019 EPs, encompassing nine tracks that focus on Apollo’s raw voice and warped keyboard sounds. The opening track, “I’m Amazing,” is light and fun with lyrics that explore Apollo’s personal experiences with fame. Starting on Soundcloud while working two retail jobs, Apollo was forced to embrace fame as his single “Ugotme” crossed 15 million streams in 2018, leading to a full album release and subsequent year long tour. 

The second track, “Kamikaze,” was first released as a single. It contains a more interesting vocal track than “I’m Amazing,” exploring call-and-response style lyricism, but the end result falls flat as a confusing mish-mash with too many overlapping elements. The collaboration on “Want U Around” with Ruel, a British-Australian singer/songwriter, is a much cleaner fit in the album, reminding me of the high-pitch vocals found in many of Apollo’s earlier records. 

The 80’s synth sounds of Prince, Apollo’s inspiration, come through on the following track: “Stayback.” The electric guitar solo breaks up the album and draws attention to Apollo’s willingness to warp beats and vocals. “Hey Boy” with Kali Uchis compliments Uchis’s soft tone but brings nothing exciting to the album as a whole, feeling mostly underdeveloped for the potential she contains.

The track “Dos Uno Nueve (219)” belongs on the dance floor of a Mexican cantina or the background of a telenovela. The sounds of Mexican vihuela are light and bright, serving as a great introduction to Spanish music if you are a newcomer to the genre with all the aspects that make it a new mainstay. It incorporates multiple aspects of Apollo’s Mexican heritage through the backtrack as well as Spanish lyrics: “No se me han borrado las veces que no teniamos pa comer” (the times that we didn’t have anything to eat haven’t been erased). Finally, the track “Bi Fren” relies on Apollo’s typical roundabout beats and lyrics whereas “The Two of Us” comes across as more developed—involving a piercing guitar solo and catchier chorus.

Overall, this album plays towards multiple aspects of Apollo’s developing identity in the R&B and blues genre as a product of both Mexican and small town American culture. Apollo’s ability to weave in Spanish lyrics with brisk, Prince-style 80’s beats pushes the genre forward while acknowledging its predecessors. 

For now, Apollo is gearing up for his first live performance since quarantine at Paisley Park (Prince’s self proclaimed “creative sanctuary”) Oct.27—a full circle moment for the inspired artist.