- Danny Gutierrez
National Hispanic Heritage Month 2022
Updated: 19 hours ago
Our General Manager, Danny Gutierrez, takes a look at Omar Apollo, Latine identity, and sexuality in this exclusive special issue review | Danny Gutierrez
With the rising popularity of Latinidad I ask myself… Am I really represented?
Being a more Alternative Latino growing up in a predominantly Latino and Black community presented a lot of questions about my identity. Now as a young Mexican-American adult I look out to my peers, how have we grown?
Just like me, Omar Apollo is a Mexican-American man in his 20s. Just like me, Omar Apollo is queer. Omar slowly crept his way back into my life freshman year of college, when I wasn’t sure how I fit into the student community. I didn’t feel like I was Mexican enough to be around other Latines, because I was too queer, I wasn’t man enough. The machismo and strict traditional nature of some of my peers, even as jokes, were not fun experiences.
Omar’s music is for queer Mexican boys who don’t fit the bill. Queer Mexican boys who want to be in love, who want to get far in life, and who through true Mexican heartbreak… cry and keep moving forward.
Omar Apollo had released two albums, a deluxe album, and two extended EPs, along with multiple single releases. Having been following Omar Apollo’s trail for a while, I waited patiently for some of my favorite songs to be released into album form, the gap between his last album and the one before being two years long.
The magic of having some of these singles be released in the middle year instead of shortly before the album release makes the drop all the more empowered. I was already sold on his changing sound.
His earlier releases have a much groovier sound, funk inspirations. His albums have a sound consistency despite being genre bending. His influences are in Latin music of varying genres, RNB, hip-hop, (Latin) pop, Mexican traditional sounds (corridos/regional), and honestly plenty of other sounds that are difficult to categorize. Omar has an incredibly diverse catalog for being someone who has been releasing music independently.
Omar Apollo’s early releases in the height of the “Art Hoe” era are not only reflective of the era, but transcendent. Tracks on his first EP Stereo like Hijo De Su Madre and Stereo foreshadow a lot of his future collaborations in terms of sound, Pharell in particular.
The second EP, titled Friends, drives in groove. Released in 2019, this EP has a more established sound compared to Stereo, which has a sound that is from A Time In The World, easily comparable to other wonderful works and full of an unrealized potential. Friends takes advantage of Omar’s vocal range in a way that his first EP couldn’t. The EP is also balanced by heart felt, well paced, tracks and groovy uptempo tracks, a staple for Omar. He nailed his staples in this EP, with songs you can cry to that you actually want to listen to regardless of your mood.
Omar’s first album Apolonio (2020) is the most consistently sad. If you need to cry and bust a two-step, this is the album for you. Otherwise, it has the most established Omar sound in terms of what he is known for. There are two big features on this album, Kali Uchis and Ruel.
Now the last album, Ivory, should be judged by the original release and the deluxe, Ivory (Marfil), because the deluxe additions make a huge difference in terms of sound and feel.
The initial release ended with the song Mr. Neighbor at a track count of 16, individual track run time ranging from a minute to three minutes and a couple of short interludes.
The deluxe release is 21 tracks long, the additional songs being consistently under three minutes with the exception of the last song, Pretty Boy.
The initial release is heart wrenching, hair ripping, excruciating, visceral in terms of the content of its lyricism. This album is an album you listen to and you connect with, an album you experience with your life, blood, sweat, and tears. The album is emotionally confident and declarative. In all truth I didn’t appreciate this album on the first listen. I started to appreciate this album after I allowed myself to fall apart and take a long hard look at how emotionally disconnected I was from myself and others.
The vulnerability of embracing that you need someone, that you need to be loved, that you deserve to be loved, and that you are allowed to give in completely to whatever you feel is inherent to understanding this album. The initial release is enveloped in this stripped back emotional truth and it’s carried by Omar’s soulful delivery through vocals and lyricism.
While the stand out track is Evergreen (You Didn’t Deserve Me At All), I would argue that its Mexican counterpart, En El Olvido, offers an unmatched energy in the mainstream US music world. Evergreen holds the very Mexican energy that En El Olvido fully commits to in its decision to be a regional Mexican song, completely in spanish and stripped in its instruments.
The last songs on the deluxe album are telling of Omar Apollo’s staple sounds, Endlessly being a soft upbeat R&B extension of the Endlessly (Interlude), Highlight is a Dancey Bilingual Latin Pop song, Archetype is a 90s boy band-like love song, Saving All My Love is a downtempo and airy interlude, Pretty Boy is a gentle display of Omar’s higher register and a loving embrace at the end of the album.
Overall, the deluxe version is a romantic end to a nuanced album, balanced by its sad but attention keeping songs and danceable instrumentals.
I highly recommend Omar Apollo to anyone who wants to know a Latine rising artist. He is truly someone to watch.