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Omar Apollo - Ivory Music Album Reviews

Omar Apollo - Ivory Music Album Reviews
The singer-songwriter’s debut expands beyond bedroom R&B to traverse genres with dimension and control. He can shift from wizened soul belter to ’90s boy band innocence in a heartbeat.

On paper, Omar Apollo’s journey to the release of Ivory, his first official album, has been rockier than most. As a teenager in Indiana, he’d first garnered buzz with languid, homemade R&B songs uploaded to streaming platforms from his bedroom. He followed up with a string of singles and EPs, including 2018’s brief but impactful Stereo, whose gently plucked electric guitar solos, expert falsetto, and lyrics about love and yearning made him a poster child for atmospheric, lo-fi R&B. The path ahead seemed clear. But in 2020, Apollo scrapped an earlier version of Ivory that he felt didn’t do his vision justice, replacing it with the nine-song Apolonio. Nearly a year later, with the album still unfinished, he postponed a 2021 U.S. tour to finally have the time to put Ivory to bed.

If Apollo were any up-and-coming SoundCloud artist, perhaps none of these delays would have been remarkable. But though early in his career, he’s already racked up collaborations with peers like Kali Uchis and Joji, as well as legends like Bootsy Collins. His own early music sometimes contributed to a sense of unrealized potential: Those mini-releases retained an adolescent uncertainty that prohibited him from reaching new heights. Now that Ivory has finally arrived, Apollo can put any decision he made (or didn’t make) regarding his career behind him. With its deep dives into multiple genres and studied vocal stylings, his debut full-length sounds like a deliberate effort to reach those uncharted peaks.

Within seconds, Ivory slices through preconceptions about the woozy electric guitars and reverb-drenched vocal runs that have been emblematic of bedroom R&B for over a decade. “Talk” is built around a scuzzy, loosely strummed guitar melody and rollicking drum machine. It sounds like nothing Apollo has released thus far, yet the style fits his vocals and aesthetic to a T. Some of his less arresting songs have a tendency to blur together into an indistinguishable streak of teary-eyed bedroom soul. “Talk” is a new beast entirely, down to its final acetone guitar solo, which could have been cribbed from a Room on Fire-era Strokes session (Albert Hammond Jr. being yet another of Apollo’s past collaborators).

Conspicuous genre-hopping can sometimes veer into gimmickry, but Apollo has such a firm grasp on his creative identity that these complementary flavors blend effortlessly. Ten years ago, the wobbly synths and bouncy basslines of “Go Away” might’ve been tagged as chillwave. Elsewhere, on the Neptunes-produced “Tamagotchi,” Apollo takes on Latin-infused trap, with Spanish guitars and skittering beats enveloping a tongue-in-cheek, hypersexual posturing that feels more fun than fiery. His raw talent and expansive storytelling allow him to glide easily through a plethora of moods and atmospheres.

While the musicianship on Ivory remains lush and intricate throughout, Apollo’s voice has always been his ace in the hole. He can shift from wizened soul belter to ’90s boy band innocence in a heartbeat, and nowhere is his range on better display than “Evergreen,” a Motown tribute with the same germ of old-school know-how that marked Amy Winehouse as a legend in the making. Apollo bares his heart, then rips it off his sleeve and throws it at his lover’s feet: “Was there something wrong with my body? Am I not what you wanted, babe?” he pleads. The object of the lyrics’ address is a man who is in love with a woman, and Apollo taps into the kind of indulgent queer tragi-fantasy that only those who have experienced rejection-by-circumstance can truly understand. “She could never love you more than me,” Apollo croons, and whether he really believes that or not, you feel the pain.

Unsurprisingly, Apollo has been dodging Frank Ocean comparisons from the jump, and while it’s sometimes warranted (the elusive paramour on “Mr. Neighbor” could be a spiritual cousin to Ocean’s “Forrest Gump”), Apollo isn’t trying to emulate anyone but himself. As Ivory reaches its close, it gives you “Bad Life,” a bittersweet duet with Uchis and a full-circle moment that harks back to Apollo’s downbeat early output. But whereas tracks like his 2017 breakout “Ugotme” are content to keep it simple, “Bad Life” expands into widescreen technicolor against rich string production and a last-minute beat drop that bring a new dimension to Apollo’s work. While he’s never outright fumbled, it’s clear now that Apollo’s sheer talent has strained against the limits of the micro-genre he came up in. With its amalgam of genres, tones, and tastes, Ivory goes beyond thinking outside the box: It’s as if the box were never even there to begin with.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Omar Apollo - Ivory Music Album Reviews Omar Apollo - Ivory Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, April 25, 2022 Rating: 5

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