It’s a little too easy to draw comparisons between experimental alt-R&B singer Omar Apollo and Frank Ocean between their eerily similar singing voices, the dyed hair on album covers, and their lyrical addresses of their fluid style and sexuality – the two even sparked dating rumours late last year. Luckily, as we wait patiently for another album from Frank, Omar Apollo also shares the same penchant for creativity and genre-bending, something that he displays on what is officially dubbed his debut studio album, IVORY. Showing off a couple surprising new sides of himself and always masterfully bending his talents to fit whatever vibe is necessary, the 24-year-old Indiana singer continues to prove he’s one to watch.
After a choral a cappella intro, listeners are immediately hit with a sharper edge than we’ve seen from Apollo in the past as he explores his own take on the pop-punk resurgence, mixing in a couple rapped verses and an old-school hip-hop beat amid his R&B melodies. A typical Apollo track often meanders between multiple worlds, something that might come across as disorienting at times, but the true magic is in Apollo’s malleable vocal work as he shifts from shimmering falsettos to soulful belts to rap and pop-ready material, tying it all together without ever spiralling out of control. Over the course of the project, Apollo dabbles in elements of country, reggae, and funk as well. As always, however, the best tracks here are the ones in Spanish as he honours his Mexican heritage. Apollo’s voice takes on an entirely new dimension when he’s able to play with the comfort of his native tongue, sounding increasingly confident and deeply passionate over some Latin trap and mariachi sounds. You never quite know what you’re going to get on an Omar Apollo album, but he’s certainly settling in well as a reliable modern-day musical Renaissance man.
Best Track: “En El Olvido”