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Review: Omar Apollo "Live For Me"

Omar Apolonio Velasco, professionally known as Omar Apollo, is a genre-bending singer and songwriter hailing from Indiana. He shot onto the musical scene in 2017 with his first release on SoundCloud, titled 'Ugotme', which was an instant hit within the SoundCloud community and amassed 20 thousand streams within the first day of its release.

After the notable success of his first piece of work, Apollo made his debut on larger streaming platforms later that year, releasing three new singles on top of his aforementioned SoundCloud hit. Since then, he has released four albums, an extended version of his 2022 album 'Ivory', a handful more singles, and, most recently, his EP Live For Me. He has also acquired some impressive accolades, such as a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist and a performance at the coveted NPR Tiny Desk.

Despite his extensive discography, Live for Me is Apollo's first EP. Released on October 6th, the collection is comprised of four songs: "Ice Slippin", "Live for Me", "Angel", and "Pilot". All are incredibly beautiful pieces that strike a cohesive balance between genre-bending and adherence to the sonic familiarity of Omar's past tracks. The four songs all have different vibes, but still seamlessly blend together to create a harmonious piece of work. He pours his heart and soul into many of these songs lyrically and instrumentally mixes them in unique ways.


"Ice Slippin" is the first track off of the EP, and my personal favorite of the bunch. Originally released as

the only single off of the collection, it incorporates R&B, rap, and pop elements through its instrumental elements and powerful lyricism. Omar opened up in a press release about the storyline behind the song: "‘Ice Slippin’ is about reliving the thoughts I had passing through my mind the winter I came out to my family, [and] receiving cold judgment, as opposed to the acceptance I felt I deserved.” With lyrics like "If I said what I said, would you hate me?" and "If I take back my words, would you return to me?", the understanding of the storyline behind the song makes the listening experience even more impactful.

On top of the intricate lyrics, Apollo's focus on each instrument's nuances is evident throughout the piece. The beautifully sharp keyboard melody almost resembles the sound of ice, and, combined with the heavy drum beat in the verses, blends these two polarizing sonic decisions seamlessly.

"‘Ice Slippin’ is about reliving the thoughts I had passing through my mind the winter I came out to my family, [and] receiving cold judgment, as opposed to the acceptance I felt I deserved.”


The next song of the EP is the title track "Live for Me". Comprised of beautiful harmonies and a stripped-back Apollo, the piece is reminiscent of his earlier tracks "Hearing Your Voice" and "Ivory". The song originally started off as a poem, but evolved into a fantastic piece denoting the feeling of loving someone in your life and trying to help them as they are going through hard times. The instrumentals build effortlessly, starting off with only a keyboard to accompany Apollo's vocals for the first half of the track, slowly adding drums and guitar towards the middle of the song, climaxing with a harmonious chorus of "oohs" and an electronic keyboard, and finishing off right where it started with a near A Cappella Apollo repeating the main motif of the song to only a keyboard melody.

The chorus, composed of only "Won't you live for me? Or could I live for you?" and "There's nothing I won't carry, so you don't have to," soulfully encapsulates the feeling of caring for someone so deeply that you would do whatever it takes to help them. As the shortest song of the four, the simplicity of the track is truly one of its strong suits.

"There's nothing I won't carry, so you don't have to."

"Angel" is the third song off the EP, and channels more of an electronic feel than its predecessors. The harmonies are equally fantastic in this track, but in a different way than "Live for Me", utilizing more distortion in the vocal mixing as well as varied tempo through each vocal line. Lyrically, the song weaves evangelical themes into a story about going through serious hardships in one's life, such as growing apart from your parents and drug use. The lyrics "too young to grow wings, too young to be angel," and "I don't know what I said to you but I lied, remember when I told I was good but I lied," tackle the heavy topics of mental health battles, and can be a truly relatable and cathartic track to those feeling lost and alone. In this way, I believe it to be Apollo's most lyrically impressive song on the project.

"Too young to grow wings, too young to be an angel."

Apollo collaborated on the composition of this track with the fantastic Oscar Santander, and his expertise in mixing and composition is evident. The song starts off slow, with roughly filtered vocals and dissonance, but the song's entire vibe switches around the one-and-a-half-minute mark, seamlessly introducing 808s and electronic sound effects to transform the track while also maintaining cohesion. This electronic feel is carried into the second iteration of the chorus and continues throughout the song to build a beautiful composition.


The EP finishes off with the track "Pilot", yet another genre-bending track. As of right now, it is the least streamed of the four songs, however, it is still just as fantastic as the rest off of the EP. The instrumental incorporates a number of dynamic artistic choices, from acoustic guitar to electronic drums and filtered vocals. This track perfectly demonstrates Apollo's musical versatility. Lyrically, the song feels less 'deep' than the others, however it still details an interesting and relatable story of a relationship you can't seem to get over no matter how toxic it may become.

"It won't hurt you forever."

In my opinion, the outro is the track's strongest aspect and arguably the strongest portion of the entire EP. The song concludes with a repeating lyrical motif of "things ain't what they seem", "nothing lasts forever" and "it won't hurt you forever", and is layered with instrumentals reminiscent of the preceding three tracks on the EP. This composition choice, along with the lyrics, beautifully encapsulates the themes of this project and seamlessly concludes the various stories presented through these songs.


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