Amidst the twists and turns of Ivory, Omar Apollo delivered on every account of his debut album, a beautiful exploration of his relationship while identifying as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. He takes us through the moments of elation and lows of heartbreak, the yearns he encounters for someone yet the struggles with unrequited love, masterfully detailing every emotion and moment down this ever winding road. All the while, Omar navigates the entirety of his creative ability, utilizing, and quite frankly, perfecting the myriad of styles that makes him one of my favorite artists ever.
From the moment the intro starts, you immediately feel like you are in Omar’s world, as he asks the listener to put your head on his shoulder as you embark on the listening experience that is Ivory. The album kicks off with the excitement of a relationship, capturing the highs despite the apparent flaws and fear of loneliness on “Talk.” The guitar lead instrumental will have you dancing, yet combined with the delicacy of Omar’s voice, will have you bawling in the process. Transitioning not just thematically, but also sonically is the groovy, confirmation seeking “No Good Reason.” Omar is tired of the mental loops, and while he knows his feelings aren’t reciprocated, wants to know once and for all where the relationship stands before the ensuing tracks explore the struggles in the whirlwind of emotions he’ll have to face.
For the middle portion of the album, Omar blends heartbreak and an emotional minefield with his signature upbeat, guitar riddled sound and complex vocals. He details the immense love he has for someone, yet the struggles he faces due to the nature of their inconsistent relationship. “Waiting On You” brings the most explicit description of the man Omar is with, alluding to the fact that his sexuality is a secret between the two, singing, “Handsome and tall, my baby / They think he gets all the ladies / If you were there then you would know / Don't even care nobody.” Omar continues to be willing to wait for him, immediately following up with the incredibly passionate “Petrified” as he clings onto the final pieces of hope.
The final stretch of songs sees Omar recognize that this relationship isn’t going to work out, and although he fears loneliness, he is ready to begin his solo journey. On “Personally” he lets go of all the weight that has been holding him down, singing, “Too much that's on my mind I gotta deal with, shit / It'll slow me down if I don't come to peace with it.” Despite his best attempts, Omar can’t quite escape the control his former lover has over his mind. “Evergreen” explores self-doubt, wondering why he wasn’t good enough while comparing himself to their new partner. “Bad Life” embodies this resentment before “Mr. Neighbor” takes us home with waterworks. The softest of vocals take center stage, and while the lyrics don’t entirely wrap up Omar’s story, it is clear that he isn’t ready to let go of his emotions — for now.
Ivory is one of, if not, the best debut album I have ever heard, and currently my favorite album of the year - something I don’t see changing for a long time. Listen to Ivory now.