There’s no way Omar Apollo knew what was in store for him at the top of last year.
At that point, the rising Mexican-American singer, who identifies as gay, hadn’t even released his first official album — although he’s had music out for years on Soundcloud and streaming services, including several mixtapes and some certified bangers among the alternative R&B crowd. But 2022 was the year Apollo found his footing in the mainstream.
During the year, Apollo released his debut album, “Ivory,” and performed on NPR’s Tiny Desk. His song “Evergreen” went viral on TikTok and became his first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.
He’s toured the country twice, performed at the Coachella Valley Arts and Music and Austin City Limits music festivals, announced a 2023 North American tour with SZA, and been nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist.
“I feel like I’m barely getting started, so the category fits for me,” Apollo says.
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The Recording Academy announced the class of 2023 in November, and Apollo knew there was a chance he’d be nominated. It was a breakthrough moment for the singer. “I was in Atlanta when I found out I was nominated for Best New Artist,” he recalls. “My manager and a few friends barged in my hotel room with cameras trying to capture the moment. Then I had a show that night in Atlanta, (and it) felt like the whole day was a celebration.”
This year’s nominees include a historic slew of LGBTQ+ musicians, including Brandi Carlile, Lizzo, Steve Lacy, and breakthrough nonbinary and transgender representation from Sam Smith and Kim Petras, whose song “Unholy” has been ubiquitous on the radio waves. How does Apollo feel to be a part of that lineup? “Love,” he says simply.
Omar Apollo is a man of few words, which is surprising when you hear the detail of vulnerability and heartbreak in his music. He sings as candidly about romance as he does about unrequited love and all the fear and trepidation between, sometimes in both Spanish and English in one track. Perhaps he says everything he needs to say in his songs.
So when he does take the time to crack jokes, he catches audiences by surprise. When a cautious new fan asked if Apollo was just “another queer-baiting singer” — a reference to straight artists who woo LGBTQ+ listeners with coy suggestions and thirst traps — his response went viral.
“no i be sucking dick fr,” he replied, “from the back.” As of the time of this article’s writing in December, the tweet had nearly 300,000 likes.
And now that fan — and the world — knows Apollo isn’t the type to just dip his toe in queer aesthetics for the clout.
When we asked him to list his favorite queer-baiters, Apollo actually obliged. “Hahahhhahahhaah,” he began via email, then started naming names. “Harry Styles, Luka Sabbat, Evan Mock, Drake, Tyler Mitchell kinda, the dude (Matt Healy) from (The) 1975, Role Model with love, Jaden Smith.” That’s a comprehensive list!
The future of Omar Apollo seems limitless. The 65th Annual Grammy Awards air February 5, so Apollo’s fate will be decided then — for this awards season, at least. But fans also look forward to SZA’s North American tour, in which he is a special guest. As a fan of her new album, SOS, Apollo is excited, too.
“The song I keep coming back to is ‘Nobody Gets Me,’” he says. “I’ve been playing it on repeat while I’m on vacation.”
In the meantime, Apollo has also been recruited as a brand ambassador for Buchanan’s Whisky, which he drinks “towards the end of the day when the sun is setting definitely outside with a few friends and some good conversation.” Apollo is a part of the label’s 200 percent Futuro campaign, which celebrates the growing Latinx demographic and influence in the United States. The campaign’s name references an embrace of being 100 percent Hispanic and 100 percent American.
“Buchanan’s has been a part of my life since I can remember,” he says. “Growing up, my uncles and family [members] drank Buchanan’s during everyday occasions and big celebrations, and now I get to join this new generation of Hispanic American 200-percenters who are toasting to wins and milestones with Buchanan’s — just like my Grammy nomination! It is delicious when sipping it neat or on the rocks, but I like to mix it in a cocktail with pineapple juice — it’s the perfect combination of smooth whisky with a hint of sweetness.”
This article originally appeared on Out.com, and is shared here as part of an LGBTQ+ community exchange between Q Voice News and Equal Pride.