Omar Apollo – ‘God Said No’ review: finding peace in fate, family and friendship

The singer’s second album is a scattered, eclectic soundtrack to heartbreak

Omar Apollo’s debut studio album ‘Ivory’ often burst with frantic optimism about a novel love – one that didn’t collapse in the face of distance or his newfound fame. This lush alt-R&B ode to wide-eyed romance was a breakout record that transformed his life, delivering his first Grammy nomination and a string of support slots with the likes of SZA and Billie Eilish. Given the chaos that can follow immense success, it’s not too surprising to see him return two years on with a heartbreak album, his once-earnest outlook on love dissolving into ruminations on lost love and resentment.

Apollo’s most atmospheric offering to date, ‘God Said No’ takes inspiration from the ambient compositions of late Japanese pianist and producer Ryuichi Sakamoto. The record is dotted with synths, electronic piano and his signature soulful falsetto – which often seems to descend into a cry of desperation. Through scattered sequencing, this moody record captures how heartbreak sends your emotions ricocheting. What on the surface can feel like a lack of cohesion makes space for an eclectic, expansive sonic palette that constantly drifts between genres yet is anchored in his diaristic musings on finite romance.

While nursing heartache, Apollo sought solace in London clubs. It’s an influence evident on the techno-imbued ‘Less Of You’, where he asks “am I depressing you?” over a heavy, ’80s-indebted bassline. These insecurities seep into ‘Done With You’, whose cloying, romantic strings and jazz flourishes (plus a brief cameo from John Mayer) coalesce into a bitter attempt to seem over it. Elsewhere, a sample of ‘Edge of The Ocean’ by New York indie band Ivy on ‘Drifting’ conjures the dreamy optimism of radio-friendly ’90s dance music, existing in the same technicolour vein as Texas and Donna Lewis.

Yet for all the eclecticism, ‘God Said No’ has a through-line: vulnerability. “You left me empty,” Apollo concludes on ‘Empty’, punctuated by heart-wrenching strings. The sullen ‘Life’s Unfair’ dwells on paths unfollowed, as Apollo sings, his voice distorted: “I would have married you / but you won’t live like that”. ‘Plane Trees’, featuring Canadian artist and poet Mustafa, is a pensive ballad rich in Frank Ocean-esque harmonies and nostalgic sentiments like “our presence made the ground glow”. It sounds as if Apollo has come to terms with the finality of the break-up.


The record’s title is Apollo’s own interpretation of the phrase lo que sera, sera (‘whatever will be, will be’). This sentiment’s most overt manifestation is the penultimate track ‘Pedro’, a candid monologue from actor Pedro Pascal. In a meandering voice memo, Pascal recalls his heart being “shattered by something”, before finding catharsis in a spiritual encounter by a park bench, giving him faith that life progresses and evolves past pain.

‘Glow’, then, is a fitting finale, with Apollo begging, “Before you leave, give me one more dance,” though he finally lets go. The track ends with a faded anecdote from his mother, recalling making gorditas with her father as a child in Mexico. It’s a voice memo Apollo recorded on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, on a holiday paid for by his music career; Apollo has spoken in the past about working at McDonalds to save for the laptop and microphone he would use to compose his early SoundCloud releases. It’s a poignant ending to an album that sees Apollo tackle insecurity and uncertainty in love, and ultimately find comfort in his successes, his friends and his family – and firmly grounded in his heritage.


Omar Apollo God Said No album artwork

  • Release date: June 28, 2024
  • Record label: Warner

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