Review: Imagine U, Omar Apollo

By Yasmeen Altaji

8 April, 2020

Frankly, I hadn’t known what to expect of the much-anticipated drop; the singer-songwriter — named Omar Velasco — has already tackled R&B, some 80s-inspired tunes, and even reggaetón. I wondered what he could pull next. 

Class after Zoom class went by Wednesday morning before I was able to listen for myself and find that Velasco had somehow managed to bring something fresh to the table once again. 

Produced by Velasco himself alongside his guitarist Oscar Santander and Kenny Beats, “Imagine U” encapsulates some of Velasco’s greatest strengths, from his expressive voice to his nuanced lyricism.

In one conversation about songwriting, Kenny said he always “starts with just drums and a bassline,” to which Velasco replied, “That’s how you gotta start.” In “Imagine U,” that philosophy shows. A simple kick pattern is brought to life by a grounded, four-note bassline that pushes and pulls at the song throughout. The track is elevated by a snappy, repetitive treble keyboard line that gives the song character from a backseat.

Kenny Beats’ trademark sharp and precise editing style bleeds through the song — propped up with beat cuts and sprinkled with a few bars in the chorus of Velasco’s auto-tuned voice — which, otherwise, seems untouched. 

Not for the first time, Velasco has carried over into this piece his simplistic, and for the most part, acoustic feel that characterizes so many of his other songs. He’s managed to convey raw, unhinged emotion with minimalistic, across-the-board relatable lyrics, proving again that musical simplicity and emotional complexity are anything but mutually exclusive.

“Imagine U” is a heartfelt ballad — a tune of desperation that, whether intended or not, inevitably echoes the sentiments of many artists and listeners alike in this climate of uncertainty and isolation. This only gives us more reason to play it on repeat.