“I’m Mexican and I make music +1219-245-2315.” With only six words and a phone number leading to an already full voicemail box, the Spotify bio for Omar Apollo is deceptively simple yet mysterious. The same can be said of his Instagram, where the Mexican American singer-songwriter dumps photos with short-breathed captions and an assortment of emojis. To learn more about Omar Apolonio Velasco, one needs to do the necessary research. Or, better yet, listen to his music.
Boasting three solo albums at only 24 years of age, Apollo’s distinctive blend of soul, funk, R&B and pop has allured fans to the tune of 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify. From his breakthrough hit in 2017, “Ugotme,” to his latest album, “Apolonio,” Apollo has rightfully ascended from local fast-food employee to tour headliner in only four years. His success has not only sustained, but heightened with his artistry over time. Now, the alt-pop sensation looks to continue his recent hot streak with the July single “Go Away.”
Contrary to what its title suggests, “Go Away” is actually a vulnerable plea for someone to stay. From the moment the listener hits play, a synth-based instrumental eases into their headphones. The song ramps up slowly, with an initially reserved Apollo alluding to the speaker’s unrequited love through the first verse and pre-chorus, building momentum alongside an increasingly rhythmic instrumental.
This understated production early on draws anticipation from listeners and establishes a sense of urgency befitting its subject matter. The vulnerable lyrics and growing synths demand an emotional outburst realized through Apollo’s lofty falsetto. Soulful and compelling, the chorus exudes desperation while appealing to the ears. The song is at once a catchy dance track, a heartfelt lament over a lover’s departure and wholly compelling.
“Go Away” follows in pop’s latest trend of borrowing from synth-wave to express a melancholic subject. Though not as energetic as The Weeknd’s mega-hit “Blinding Lights,” the single similarly embraces ’80s sounds. Both artists touch on their respective relationships, neither quite realized, over striking synth-based instrumentals. Emotion takes precedence, specifically the feeling of running out of time and the urgency that stems from it.
While “Blinding Lights” shows the speaker embarking on a drive to rekindle his lost love as the setting around him disintegrates, Apollo is left helplessly watching their potential time together slip away with each departure. Both artists offer a simple truth: that infatuation over distance often ends in pain. And yet, each song invites listeners into their cars for pensive drives with the windows down and music blaring, singing along with each roaring chorus.
Love is far from a new subject in Apollo’s music. “Go Away” adds to a catalog of tender tracks that started with “Ugotme” back in 2017. Still his most popular release, “Ugotme” set the precedent for Apollo love songs: slow, soulful, hormone-fueled, passionate and a tad bit sad. Two later releases, 2018’s “Unbothered” and 2020’s “Want U Around” featuring Ruel, further deliver on this formula. The former shows Apollo again in a relationship with some degree of strain, while “Want U Around” discards pride and formalities in an admission of desire. Apollo has never shied away from public expressions of affection — even amid hardship — and channels those feelings into poignant hits.
However, the subjects of Apollo’s music seem to shift over time. Listeners can only speculate on the identities of the addressed, an act made even more difficult by the often vague or alternating pronouns that Apollo employs. Though he only writes to a second-person, fairly unspecific “you” in “Go Away,” his other songs seemingly place him under the LGBTQ+ umbrella.
In both “Kamikaze” and “Hit Me Up” (with Dominic Fike and Kenny Beats), Apollo repeats the phrase “pretty boy.” The latter song may contextualize it as self-referential in the first verse, but the sexual lyrics thereon hint otherwise. The former is more direct, singing “And that pretty boy still hit me up on strange occasions.” But, in spite of some telling lyrics over the years, Apollo hasn’t officially come out under any established sexuality, telling The Los Angeles Times that he’s “just chilling” when asked how he might identify in 2020.
His music plays with pronouns and sexuality, while his distinct hair, behavior and fashion tinker with traditional gender norms. Intentional or not, Apollo is rebellious with how he carries himself. However understated his Spotify bio and Instagram captions may read, that mystery is what makes him such a gravitational figure. Even as a singer, Apollo shows more than he tells, and remains unmistakably himself amid his celebrity.
Another important aspect of Apollo’s identity is his Latinx ethnicity. A proud Chicano, Apollo makes his Mexican heritage known and incorporates Spanish into his music. He boasts a collaboration with popular Madrid artist C. Tangana titled “Te Olvidaste” and Spanish-centric tracks on both his first and third albums. One such track from his latest album, “Dos Uno Nueve (219),” proved a breakthrough in its own right when played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in September of 2020. It was the first corrido performance in the orchestra’s 100 years, a feat further underscored by California’s deep cultural ties with its southern neighbor.
Through his self-expression, Apollo helps spotlight his culture. The artist even realized a family dream when commercializing their traditional hot sauce recipe earlier this year under the brand “Disha Hot.” As a first-generation Mexican American, Apollo uses the opportunities allowed to him as a successful musician to share his culture with the world and pave the way for others.
Apollo’s patented ability to move between musical genres, social topics and styles has astounded many critics, but also endeared him to a core fanbase. “Go Away” has already surpassed a million Spotify listeners and its accompanying music video currently sits at approximately 573,000 views in just under two weeks. Furthermore, Apollo announced a 2021 North American tour in June, with multiple locations already sold out. Luckily for fans, tickets for upcoming dates can still be found through the artist’s official website, but they should act fast. If singles like “Go Away” continue to resonate with listeners as its early start suggests, then we may be seeing a lot more Apollo fans soon.