Centered around the trials and tribulations of being in love, Omar Apollo’s “Ivory” is a melodic, emotional rollercoaster bound to stay on repeat.
The 16-track album is a melodic cruise through Apollo’s experimental era. From the heart-wrenching Spanish corrido (ballad) “En El Olvido” to the spunky 808s behind “No Good Reason,” Ivory is the charcuterie of the artist’s recent musical endeavors.
The self-titled track is just 45 seconds long with four lines, but sets the bar high with soothing melodies and poetic lyrics.
“I wouldn’t tell a soul what you dream / I think you’d want me to know it’s like ivory,” Apollo sings.
“Talk” and “No Good Reason” immediately switch from the short-lived dream-like vibe to more upbeat, catchy rhythms. Both songs reflect common relationship frustrations, such as unmatched energies and hastily chasing the exciting moments.
“Who you tryna be bad for / What you makin’ me mad for?” the artist asks in “No Good Reason.”
The album’s fourth track and lead single “Invincible” features Daniel Caesar, who also accompanied Apollo in writing the lyrics. It was one of the first songs to be released in promotion for Ivory.
The song begins with Caesar singing in falsetto “If I were to go / Tell me, would you notice me?” The beat suddenly picks up a few beats into the chorus then switches to Apollo’s verse.
“I been gone, moving high speed now / That’s my song, let me hear that bounce,” raps Apollo.
The duo’s voices mesh well on the track, with Apollo’s lower tonal range perfectly complementing Caesar’s high-pitched vocals especially in the refrain.
Following the criminally short “Endlessly Interlude” is “Killing Me,” the first track where Apollo seamlessly slips in a few lines in Spanish which match the song’s catchy and low-key R&B vibe.
“Te lo juro, solo pienso en ti / Cuando me tocas y me llamas, vuelo,” Apollo enchantingly sings. These lines translate to “I swear, I only think of you / When you touch and call me, I fly.”
The heart-melting lyrics don’t end there.
A fan-favorite and album standout, “Petrified” is the epitome of Apollo’s vocal abilities within the context of this soulfully sung ballad. The song is backed by entrancing guitar strums which effortlessly entwine with the singer’s bursts of passionate belting.
“A stranger convinced me to cancel my trip / He sang me a song but it didn’t exist / He said an angel came down and gave him a melody,” Apollo sings.
The album features a fair amount of exploratory tunes for Apollo, however, the newest genre added into the mix was a corrido.The track “En El Olvido” recounts the woeful tale of Apollo’s disdain for the lover he wishes to leave in oblivion.
The transition from “En El Olvido” to Pharrel Williams’s iconic four-count start in “Tamagotchi” is almost comical – the vibe takes a complete 180 into the trap track, but it works. It feels like a slap in the face to escape the moodiness of the corrido.
The second to last track is “Bad Life” featuring Kali Uchis, marking the second collaboration on the album. The pair have worked together once before on Apollo’s mini-album “Apolonio.”
“Steal my pride / Every time / Do you feel it all? / Right, right now,” Uchis and Apollo harmonize.
With a runtime close to 41 minutes, the album concludes with “Mr. Neighbor,” full of Apollo’s angelic riffs and soothing tone.
The arrival of “Ivory” didn’t come without bumps along the road.
This past fall, the 24-year-old scrapped the original version of his first full-length album after not feeling excited enough about any of the tracks. Just two days before the album’s first major video shoot, Apollo felt promoting it wouldn’t feel right.
“It was good music – it wasn’t bad music, it just didn’t feel like me. I just made the decision to say, ‘Okay, I’m just going to make a whole new album instead, and then tour that one,” Apollo said in a recent NPR interview.
This last-minute decision resulted in the establishment of Apollo as a rising indie artist. Tying his Mexican-American roots into his music and wearing his heart on his sleeve are ultimately what sets the artist, and this album, apart from the rest.
“Ivory” is available now and can be streamed on all platforms.