Sonny Apollo’s STIMULATE: An Album Review
Sonny Apollo's "STIMULATE" Album Review
“I’m going to do R&B. And I’m going to do it my own way,” 26-year-old Sonny Apollo shared with us in an interview about “STIMULATE,” his project released on April 17. The album includes five new songs and three previously available singles.
“STIMULATE” is a testament to the perseverance and strength Apollo exuded throughout his hardship-riddled life. At 19 years old, Apollo found himself homeless and reduced to couch-hopping through his early twenties. While this period of his life was difficult, he retains a degree of appreciation to this day for the experience, which imparted many necessary life lessons and left him with interpersonal bonds that will hold for a lifetime.
It was due to those adversities that Apollo developed a philanthropic nature that has compelled his continued advocacy for HIV/AIDS victims and drove him to start a social media initiative titled “Panda Care Packages” which provides food and other necessities to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apollo eventually made the decision to move from Chicago to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams of music production. The perseverance and notion of believing in yourself that this required, in addition to being the album’s primary takeaway, is precisely what drove Apollo to weather his budding music career despite the drawbacks and limitations that came with being both black and queer in the industry.
Apollo tells us that in the past, his image and actions have been modified in order to minimize himself and maximize his neutral marketability, but with “STIMULATE,” Apollo disregards these limitations and openly brandishes both his blackness and queerness with songs that leave plenty of room for body rocking and vogueing alike.
The album is populated with sounds of electronica, vaporwave and lo-fi with each song still possessing that same undercurrent of soul and R&B that Apollo states was so influential throughout his life. There is a constant theme of “love had, lost and learned from” throughout most of the tracks that, while nearly played out by the album’s conclusion, help us better understand some of the more specific struggles that helped propel Apollo’s maturation.
Tracks like “Clouds” and “Dope” are very high-energy and inviting while others like the reminiscent “Friends,” “SFX,” the conventional yet sexy “Cold,” and a suitably moody “Misery” detail Apollo’s journey through his love life and career. The album’s concluding songs, “Evw2bastar” and a wistful “Talking to the Moon” detail some of those observations on relationships, success and loneliness through incredibly relatable lyrics that ultimately point to a theme of loving yourself above all else.
“You come into this world alone, and you leave it alone,” Apollo said sagely.
While the album incorporates many catchy sounds that keep you immersed, it sometimes falls short due to Apollo’s own vocals and lyrics. Apollo’s voice seems inconsistent at times, sustaining very smooth mid-tones, but becoming shrill and unpredictable when attempting to support some higher notes, interrupting the flow of some tracks.
For example, songs like “Clouds” and “Friends,” while inspiring, leave the ear a bit more confused than entranced at times.
Still, the album does exactly what Apollo tells us it was meant to do: Stimulate. Whether it be the stimulation of one’s ears by his use of autotune and directional sound or the invigoration of one’s own individuality and ambition through empowering lyrics, Apollo succeeds in his call to action and delivers an auditory experience that clings and keeps the body in motion.