Album Review: Omar Apollo’s God Said No (2024 LP) offers the world a deeply personal journey

From humble beginnings uploading songs to SoundCloud while working at McDonald’s, Omar Apollo’s rise to fame has seen the artist swapping drive-throughs and bedroom demos for the Billboard charts and Grammy nominations. With the release of his sophomore album, God Said No, Apollo has put together his most cohesive and complete offering so far. With a promising career kick-started by 2022’s Ivory, the newest release follows up with a signature blend of pop, soul, and RnB that proves an eclectic journey from start to finish.

The album opens with a beautifully plucked guitar section layered with a subtle tape hiss, setting the mood. An intimate beginning, Omar’s tender voice canters through a near-whispered stanza about a failed relationship in review. When the drums kick in as the chorus line bearing the song’s title hits, “Be Careful With Me”, proves a perfect example of Apollo’s infectious style and ability to turn in a no-frills, pop banger at will. The restrained yet aware sense of production immediately suggests to me there are some surefire hits to come.

“Spite” is up next, opening with a super groovy, fuzzy electric guitar and drum combo. A dancy bop, the rhythmic and melodic vocals elevate the simple platform built by the instrumentation. Omar’s sometimes laid-back delivery mixes with more attitude-filled chorus lines as the song muses on the conflict of long-distance relationships. Travelling through the push and pull of needing someone but wanting to show them that you don’t need them, as its title suggests this one is full of betrayed venom. With the moody instrumentation and enjoyable writing on offer, the album delights early.

A surprising shift, ‘Less of You’ kicks in brimming with heavy 80’s techno beats and a bass line that feels plucked straight from a Blondie album. This one is an out-and-out dance bop with an 80’s techno pastiche and a dash of Daft Punk. A super interesting sonic shift, with a lovely clean chorus this one isn’t quite for me. Despite a creative homage to the past with enough innovation and production to not feel uninspired, it didn’t quite work for me, though I’m sure sure it will get plenty of people moving.

Short and sweet, ‘Done With You’ comes next with a blistering 2:37 offering. Opening with a thematic orchestral intro straight out of the golden age of Hollywood, the song introduces an instrumental mixture of jazz guitar and strings that are saccharine sweet, and insanely groovy. Contrasting with the bitter lyrics, the song is another vehicle for slick production and and catchy writing that belies the underlying message that maybe Apollo isn’t really ‘done’ at all. The chorus is wildly infectious and this small slice of the album will take up huge real estate in my head, though I admit I am a sucker for grooves and horn sections.

‘Plane Trees’ featuring the Canadian artist and poet Mustafa keeps us going, with an introspective ballad reminiscent of a Frank Ocean tune. The dance of harmonies and vocals on this one are a beautiful listen, with some truly angelic moments that intersect somewhere between soaring string sections and entirely restrained guitar chords. In an emotional performance, Apollo gets everything he can with lines like “How could we be dying, If we’re lying down, Underneath this tree, Giving life to withered leaves”.

‘Drifting’ probably unfairly feels like a minor energy dip, but only by comparison to the otherwise stellar songs that precede it. This one is a super dreamy journey with huge 90s vibes. Not quite Savage Garden though, this one just lacks the real hooks that have gotten into me throughout the other offerings. By no means a poor song, it just revels in being a super chill, lounging song at the expense of comparison.

‘Empty’ serves as another showcase to Apollo’s ability to wring out tons of emotion and go deep into ballad territory. Accompanied by a swelling string section, ‘Empty’ is a journey through the heartache of a love that leaves you hollow. A nice surprise in the bridge, Apollo speaks to his roots rather literally, singing entirely in Spanish. A coded message that speaks to the theme of both the song and album in general, he says “Singing in another language so you don’t understand me I don’t want you to know how much it hurts me” which is a nice easter egg for fans.

‘Life’s Unfair’ follows in a similar mold, serving up a punchy drum and bass mixture carried by Apollo’s signature hooky vocal style while ‘Against Me’ has a stronger hip-hop and trap influence with autotuned flows to boot.

My appreciation for the next track ‘While U Can’ probably exposes a bit of my bias. Beginning to glaze over the more poppy tracks, the soft guitar and ballad styled elements here woke me out of the disco daze that the mid point of the album had me stuck in. The Japanese flute stylings hiding in the background with the strumming guitars and soulful vocal delivery was a welcome change of pace. The mid point crescendo with synthesizer riffs that evaporate back into soft acoustic stylings were also great.

This also continues into the electric guitar riffs and crooning vocals that swim all throughout “Dispose of Me”. A delightfully catchy and audibly groovy, slick, low-key banger with the slightest touch of country is one of my favorites. With a heavy bias to the more guitar centric tunes which are a matter of taste, despite being a pop savant I would gladly listen to Omar Apollo produce an entire album in the vein of Dispose of Me. With its massive John Mayer vibes and pop-guitar inspired production I hope the collaboration between the two on previous song “Done With You” isn’t the end of their creative working relationship.

Following a heavily vocoded vocal introduction, the song “Pedro” stars a monologue from actor Pedro Pascal accompanied by the soft, delicate touch of chiming keys.  Much like the album itself, Pascal describes an emotional journey in which his heart was broken. The voice memo ends with Pascal finding solace in a park bench, watching the world go by. Perhaps a suggestion that the catharsis of Apollo’s album will too, allow him to reflect and move on from a shattered heart. Maybe acting like that park bench that Pascal finds in “Pedro”, ‘Glow’ proves a fitting finale with a self aware exploration of grief and pain.

God Said No is a testament to Omar Apollo’s evolution as an artist, blending his eclectic musical influences and personal experiences into a cohesive yet varied album. From the tender introspection, energetic grooves and nostalgic throwbacks, Apollo clearly has no fear in mixing genres and eras into something uniquely his own. Traversing new ground with an old head on young shoulders, this album swims in familiar pop waters but maintains a distinct voice, which is an impressive feat in itself. While some tracks don’t aim quite as high, the hit rate across this 14 song album is mighty accurate. That’s not to mention that when it does aim high, it positively soars.

Punctuated by vulnerability  and variability. God Said No offers the world a deeply personal journey through love and heartache that concludes with a sense of catharsis and reflection. There is a suggestion that even in the depths of despair, there is beauty in healing and moving forward. For this one, even if God says no, I say yes.


God Said No is out now. Grab it HERE