“Apolonio” sounds like sweat — glossy, humid, dripping off popsicle sticks and mingling on chalked sidewalks. It steams on contact, evaporating into eardrums, leaving a lingering scent of creamsicles and smoke.
Omar Velasco, 23, who goes by the stage name Omar Apollo shares much in common with the likes of contemporaries Joji, Jaden and Dominick Fike, offering sunset serenades and night drive anthems. However, “Apolonio” released Oct. 16 strays from the clique in its uniquely curious production, compelling vocals and vulnerable embrace of youthful optimism.
In a video discussion with British-Filipino artist beabadoobee, when asked what album he would bring if deserted on an island, Apollo alternates between Prince’s “Sign of the Times” and “Purple Rain,” eventually choosing the latter in favor of Prince’s soaring falsetto. This inspiration shines on self-produced single “Stayback,” a humid slow jam with neon guitar where Apollo sings “You know I been feelin you since way back” before shrugging, “But you could never love me so stayback, stayback.”
Apollo’s multi-octave tenor weaves gracefully between leading vocals and backing instrumentals leaving nothing to be desired. He wields his vocal instrument with poise, executing large jumps effortlessly all the while maintaining his boyish ease — as if to say, “Oh, did I just serenade you? Cool.”
Charmingly youthful candor melts over the album, allowing Apollo to entertain his warm nostalgia by capturing moments in their purest form — free from overburdening contemplation. On his other single “Kamikaze,” he admits his past naivete while piercingly reminiscing on a relationship finished — but not failed. Yet humor shines through as he smirks, “I didn’t know you was freaky though / Ass round like cheerios.”
Infused with yearning, “Apolonio” spares no one from Apollo’s alluring eye, as the young artist directs his longing to both men and women alike. When asked by the Los Angeles Times about his sexual orientation, Apollo responded, “I’m just chilling… …If I want to wear a skirt, I wear a skirt. If I want to put on glitter, I’mma wear glitter, you know?”
“Apolonio” feels unbridled and free, much like its creator. In an exhausting era of relentless categorization, Apollo’s embrace of fluidity is no less vital than refreshing.
Standout track “Hey Boy,” featuring Columbian-American singer Kali Uchis, feels like hydroplaning on lip gloss. “I love those feelings that you bottled, you should pour ‘em on me,” sings Uchis siren-like, as phasing guitars liquify, splashing on the windshield. Following a brief drum break, the song ends with a short passage of warped vocals and unsettling bass, serving as an intriguing bookend to a song all too short.
“Apolonio” possesses a curiosity exemplified in its wide array of production choices, ranging from romantic guitar in “Dos Uno Nueve (219)” to muted piano in the bouncy intro “I’m Amazing.” Apollo jumps from funk to muted pop rap, even to Mexican corrido. Yet even with this wide variety of sounds, Apollo has the tendency to fall back into patterns found on his previous projects.
“Want U Around,” featuring singer Ruel, closely resembles “Ugotme” from Apollo’s 2018 studio extended play (EP), “Stereo,” and succumbs to the same pitfalls. Though it’s smooth, it remains indistinguishable and flat. However, this general unevenness also serves to represent Apollo’s growing curiosity and growth.
In a time where musical quality is beginning to be compromised in pursuit of aesthetic, Apollo rides the line gracefully. He is making music for him, and sharing it with others, and the product is wholly enjoyable.
“Apolonio” further explores and develops his unique sound while showcasing his dazzling potential as a triple threat singer-songwriter and producer. Embracing his newfound stardom with a vulnerable and optimistic outlook, Apollo presents a project relatable in its nostalgia and youthful zeal before winking and strutting away.
“Apolonio” is available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services.