Imagine uploading a two-minute tune to Spotify and waking the next morning to find that it’s made its way onto the noteworthy ‘Fresh Finds’ playlist. Omar Apollo doesn’t have to imagine – that’s exactly how he found his overnight success in 2017.
The first-generation Mexican-American was born and raised in Hobart, Indiana and now resides in sunny Los Angeles. A midwestern Chicano gone famous? I’m all in.
I discovered the bedroom-pop singer on a particularly rainy day as I drove around my tiny city and shuffled a pre-curated playlist on Spotify. Apollo’s Lo-Fi and soulful voice had me hooked immediately. Let it be known that, yes, Apollo’s 2020 album Apolonio does in fact cure heartbreak.
If you’re a fan of Frank Ocean, Prince, and overall funkadelic melodies, Omar Apollo is right up your alley.
With aching lyrics, psychedelic guitar riffs, and a touch of oh-so-relatable melodrama, the album has been described by Pitchfork as “melting into something perfectly suited for the butterflies of a long-awaited kiss”. If that isn’t convincing enough to give the album a listen, Kali Uchis, Ruel, and Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. also helped in writing and production.
Though it’s not just Apollo’s vocals that are appealing – his charisma and integrity during his rise to fame is something special. In an interview with Billboard, he explained that although he attended college for a short while, he eventually dropped out to focus on songwriting. Devoting upwards of 35 hours a week to the craft, Apollo followed up his breakthrough song “Ugotme” with his debut Spanglish album Stereo in 2018.
In the same interview with Billboard, he explained, “Since I was 17, I felt this motivation. I don’t know why or who or what was driving it. It was just, like, ‘This is what I have to do.’” He has noted that part of that drive was fueled by the pressure to care for his parents, who immigrated from Guadalajara, Mexico. Apollo’s sound also gives homage to his parents’ favorite musicians – notably artists Pedro Infante and Vincente Fernández, who he also frequently listened to growing up.
Also inspiring his haunting and longing lyrics are Apollo’s personal experiences with love, bullying, and prejudice. In an interview with Pitchfork, he described racist encounters with classmates and teachers. Despite the bullshit, he’s embraced his culture and makes sure it shines through his work.
As a result, it’s no surprise Apollo has a large Chicano fan base. As a Chicana myself, it’s always so damn refreshing to see one of us find success and share our narratives via the art we make. Stardom is a wonderful thing, but having the ability to express your culture and identity on such a massive platform is the real prize, IMO.
Personally, I’m most charmed by Apollo’s quirky form of self-expression. A quick peek at the singer-songwriter’s Instagram reveals Lo-Fi photography and intermittent memes. Photo dumps of goofy selfies and off-guards don thousands of likes. It’s clear he’s a fan favorite among us Z-ers.
Following his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Apollo has released two new singles on Spotify. The first, a dreamy, slower take of his recent song ‘Go Away’. The second is an evocative cover of The Mamas & The Papas’ “California Dreamin.”
Apollo has come a long way since that morning in 2017, and clearly has many more years of success to come. His 2021 North American “Desvelado” Tour kicked off July 27th, and tickets are still available for purchase