‘Kamikaze’ is Omar Apollo on autopilot

Photo of Omar Apollo single, "Kamikaze"
Warner Records/Courtesy

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Grade: 2.0/5.0

There are a lot of reasons to root for Omar Apollo. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter is a self-taught guitarist, penning love songs in English and Spanish. His Stereo EP from 2018 was alluring bedroom pop with nods to soul and R&B, displaying a diverse range of styles that marked his music a notch above the rest. Listen to his most popular song once and it’s immediately clear that Apollo’s got chops. That’s why it’s all the more frustrating that his newest single, “Kamikaze,” is so generic, sounding nowhere close to what he’s capable of.

Released Sept. 10, Apollo’s latest follows his two previous singles: the down-tempo, funky “Stayback” and the summery “Imagine U.” Speaking of the inspiration behind the track, Apollo said, “When I made ‘Kamikaze’ I was reminiscing on how I used to feel for someone and realizing those feelings are lost and we’re left with nothing. It feels good to hold on to the memories without the feelings it gave me.”

The song establishes a mellow groove but lacks any of Apollo’s standout qualities. Though the bassline and beat give the song a slight bounce and step, the rest of the arrangement fails to make anything substantial out of this groove. Apollo’s songs typically have a dreamy, ethereal quality, but on “Kamikaze,” the atmosphere is too thin and hollow. The reverb-soaked guitars don’t coalesce into anything concrete, struggling to catch any interest as Apollo lightly strums the same chords throughout the entire song. Apollo’s beautiful falsetto, able to turn from sweet to arresting in an instant, is nowhere to be found; what’s here instead are laid-back vocals and a low-key melody that, while serviceable, sounds entirely safe and uninteresting. There’s a line that mentions a car driving in automatic; of the song, this could not feel more true.

Apollo uses “kamikaze,” a term for self-destructive fighter pilots, to describe empty feelings toward a past partner. It’s an awkward simile that feels like it’s being used for its potential as a catchy buzzword rather than for its meaning.

Lyrically, the song is more resentful than reminiscent. Apollo ties up lines about his former relationship with empty references, rendering his grievances trivial. In one verse, he asks, “And you got a lil’ Vimeo/ What’s the password? You just froze/ Don’t you got enough material?” coming across as petty. In the refrain, he takes another jab: “Yeah, that really don’t feel good, does it?/ Pop shuv it.” Though he’s supposedly in a state of reflection, having moved on from his feelings, Apollo sure doesn’t sound over it.

“Kamikaze” feels relatively low-effort coming from an artist with Apollo’s talent. The song does little to stand out in the “lo-fi” indie-pop landscape, offering nothing memorable to hold onto beyond surface-level grooves. This time around, Apollo unfortunately brought a lot less than his A-game to the table: He’s just on autopilot.

Vincent Tran covers music. Contact him at [email protected].