Omar Apollo: Ivory review – a mixed bag of restless pop | Pop and rock


Despite being only 24, singer-songwriter Omar Apollo is possessed of a remarkably mature voice. It effortlessly meandered through a nonchalant tenor and crooning falsetto on 2017’s breakout single Ugotme and has since traversed everything from guitar-laced funk to Latin folk and club-ready R&B. This genre-hopping, over the course of two EPs and 2020’s mixtape Apolonio, has drawn comparisons to the likes of contemporary neo-soul artists Daniel Caesar and Miguel, without committing to a particular style.

On his debut album Apollo finds his strength in the whispering intimacy of downtempo ballads. Highlights come in its softest moments, from the plaintive guitar strumming and stacked harmonies of Mr Neighbour to Invincible (featuring Caesar) – dovetailing the pair’s remarkably similar voices over snappy, compressed drum production.

Uptempo numbers such as the Pharrell-produced Tamagotchi and the chugging Talk, meanwhile, feel shoehorned in for radio play, removing breathing space for Apollo’s vibrato-laden voice and overstuffing the record to 16 tracks. Apollo’s aptitude for unexpected genres can provide beautiful results, as on the yearning En El Olvido, but it can equally speak of a jarring restlessness. Once he embraces the certainty of that softness, he will come into his own.

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