When Omar Apollo finished recording “Evergreen (You Didn’t Deserve Me at All),” the 25-year-old did not expect it to become his first charting single.
“I never thought it was going to be the song,” he tells Variety. “It meant so much to me, but I never imagined it would resonate the way it has.”
For one, it was the last puzzle piece to the singer’s full-length debut album, “Ivory,” and it was also the song that took the most time to complete. Apollo’s musical prowess is on full display on “Evergreen,” as he fluctuates from whisper to bellow, singing of unrequited love over sophisticated R&B runs. Lyrically, it’s as vulnerable a confession as one could make, but it shouldn’t be mistaken as a cry for help; instead, it’s an effort to make peace.
The Indiana-born musician especially took time honing its tear-jerking bridge: “You know you really made me hate myself / Had to stop before I break myself / Should’ve broke it off to date myself / You didn’t deserve me at all.”
That sense of relatability, paired with Apollo’s deft and elliptical flow, is what tipped the song to find a second life on TikTok some four months — and two tours — after it had been released in April as part of the album. Like most trends that catch fire on the app, the song’s form and function have taken different shapes throughout its virality; it started with one fan angrily belting the song’s bridge and has since soundtracked more than 380,000 videos.
“The TikTok boost amplified what I already knew but was confused about, and that was which kind of songs I want to make,” Apollo says. “I’m not saying that I’m going to be making music for a platform, but when I’m on tour, singing and seeing people in the front row bawling, it becomes clear to me that those are the types of emotions I was trying to get to when I wrote that song.”
Today, Apollo has built a cult following on that same philosophy. Songs like the corrido-inspired “Dos Uno Nueve (219)” from his nine-track “Apolonio” and the ranchera “En El Olvido” serve as homecoming calls for Latino people who attend his concerts in packs.
“Evergreen” received its visual counterpart on Nov. 21 (a direct result of the song’s success on the app) and starred the singer. In it, Apollo builds and locks himself into a faux room that gradually begins to fall in on itself.
“That was 100% exactly where I was with my feelings,” he says. “I’ve been obsessed with Stanley Kubrick, and I’m just so happy it came out the way it did — not just aesthetically, but also what we were able to translate.”
Apollo is celebrating several bucket-list achievements, namely his first Grammy nom in the best new artist category at the 2023 awards and two Latin Grammy nominations.
Before the nominations for the 65th annual Grammy Awards were released, the singer says he pleaded with his friends and manager to please “not make it a thing! – I don’t wanna be sitting there and not get nominated with everyone watching,” he explains before recalling what really happened: “I instantly had to use the bathroom, so I kicked everyone out and then I called my dad and he was like ‘Oh mijo, I’m so proud of you,’ and then my mom called me and was like ‘What are we wearing?’”
Even then, Apollo feels as though not much has really changed. “At least within me,” he says. “Maybe sometimes I’m like, ‘Would a Grammy-nominated artist post this on his story?’,” he laughs. “But other than that, the same goal remains: Make the saddest music I could ever make in my whole life.”