Motivational pop-rock isn’t necessarily all the rage, nowadays that is. Gone are the days of artists like the Goo Goo Dolls, Train and to some extent, Coldplay. Yes, these artists during their heyday (which unfortunately, isn’t really now) dominated the sonic landscape and created music with an inspirational edge, all the while utilising the mainstream music market and delivering songs of poignancy and fun, reminding us that it is ok to have a deep song right next to a jovial, fun track on a track-list on an album. Coldplay brought to us one of the 2000s best in ‘Fix You’, quite possibly for me, one of the top 5 songs to ever grace our ears in that decade. Also in the same decade was both Train and Goo Goo Dolls- Train brought to us the quirky and often nonsensical ‘Drops of Jupiter’ (but we all didn’t care, it’s still a classic song, all these years later), and even the thought-provoking ‘Calling All Angels’, ‘Marry Me’, ‘When I Look to the Sky’ and ‘If It’s Love’. And while the Goo Goo Dolls’ biggest hit ‘Iris’ was unveiled in the 1990s (1998 to be precise), the band still had relative success during the 2000s, with songs like ‘Big Machine’, ‘Here is Gone’, ‘Better Days’, ‘Give a Little Bit’, ‘Stay With You’ and ‘Sympathy’. Coldplay, Train and Goo Goo Dolls were all delivering what was considered to be popular during that era- motivational pop-rock, and while that type of branding has always been able to strike a chord with me (considering my own love of CCM and worship music, this umbrella of motivational pop-rock is something in the mainstream that can be very closely attributed to CCM/worship if ever someone was able to find a proverbial link there!), it seemed that as though time went on and music changed, the artists that changed with them seemed to not as care as much for the ‘motivational’ genre as the next guy, and started to place more emphasis on the glitz and glamour of the music, than the lyrics and music themselves. Which is a bit of a shame though- but when you do look around at the music of today, it can be hard pressed to find artists that seem to embrace the motivational pop-rock umbrella as well as bands like Train, Goo Goo Dolls and Coldplay did, way back in the 2000s. Sure, these three bands are still at it today, and are still delivering motivational pop-rock anthems for the masses, but there is where it all stops.
There seems to not be a new generation of musicians coming up, delivering their new brand of feel-good anthems and heartfelt motivational pop melodies. Sure, you have your artists here and there that have presented anthemic material in the past (and right now)- bands like OneRepublic, needtobreathe, Rascal Flatts, Switchfoot, Daughtry, for KING AND COUNTRY and Lifehouse; but none that have actually stood out in a popularity sense compared to that of Coldplay, Goo Goo Dolls and Train. Which is pretty interesting, to say the least! Maybe it’s because a lot of bands now want to deliver songs that are more likely to give them hits, but less likely to evoke some emotion in someone as they hear a song- maybe ballads and anthemic material are traded for the pop sheen that people seem to buy into, no matter how superfluous and shallow the pop songs can be. For me personally, I’ve always been a sucker for a good song with a good message, that hasn’t changed, and that will never change. But what I’ve realised from this musical experiment (that has lasted for 2 and a half years so far) is that artists that impact and influence (because of these motivational anthemic goldmines that artists should invest in all the more) and artists that just entertain and are popular for popular sake, are few and far between- in favour of the popular artists rather than the artists that inspire (that aren’t as popular, maybe for that very reason). And that in and of itself can be a little worrying, considering that people- both now and back then, are still craving for music that means something to someone- and that is why people keep coming back to artists like Coldplay, Goo Goo Dolls and Train (and U2 before that)- the innate need for songs that lift the soul and some sort of solace and certainty in an uncertain world is needed now more than ever, especially during a world plagued by COVID-19 still.
I’ve been influenced by a lot of ‘new’ music artists throughout my musical journey over the last couple of years- listening to artists like Coldplay, Train, U2, Lifehouse, OneRepublic, Rascal Flatts, Switchfoot, Daughtry, needtobreathe, Goo Goo Dolls and for KING AND COUNTRY, has been a godsend, and a reminder, that God can still use mainstream artists to deliver songs that stir the soul and delve deep within our psyches and allow us to even ponder about the hard and difficult questions of life, love, hope, loss, faith, God and everything else that people seemingly want to sweep under the rug of indecision and procrastination. So around April 2021, when it was decided that I was going to pass along my blog series to Josh (and vice versa), I let Josh ‘run rampant’ so to speak- he started writing on artists in a way that I know I probably wouldn’t’ve been able- artists like Tim McGraw, Gwen Stefani, J. Lo., Snow Patrol, Spice Girls, Crowded House and Leona Lewis were written about by my brother, and if I was given the chance…well, I dunno if I were to have written about these artists the same way, or even write about these artists at all. Needless to say, the blog series that I’m now currently writing about, are artists that are impactful now and into the future, more of looking and projecting, and thinking about who could be impactful, if we were to fast-forward a few years and look at the music landscape again. Josh had already delved into and discussed 40 artists that he thought ‘fit the bill’- and I took over in April, and am now currently up to blog post #44 (out of 50), of artists that are currently making waves in the music landscape- artists like Lauren Daigle, Rachel Platten, Dami Im, Philippa Hanna, Hunter Hayes, Cassadee Pope, NF, Maddie & Tae, Peter Hollens, Lindsay Ell, Hailee Steinfeld and Little Mix all had blogs written about them throughout 2019/20/21, and now as I’m about to embark on blog #44, I’ve been able to contribute to such a series, with artists like The Shires, Lucy Thomas and Riley Clemmons.
But herein lies my point, that as I glance at the blog series list that Josh collated and wrote about thus far, I’ve been able to count only a couple of bands that seem to follow in the footsteps of the bands that I aforementioned previously in this very post- Echosmith and Colony House are two bands of late that have really delivered songs of poignancy and heartfelt moments of introspection and contemplation as I’ve listened to their music over the last year or so. And while I’m sure these artists probably won’t get to the calibre of Coldplay, they still nevertheless deliver a powerful alternative to the bands currently successful and popular today. That’s not to say that every other artist written about in the blog series ‘Influential Artists of the Next 5 – 10 Years’ are not influential- it’s just that Echosmith and Colony House have stood out for me in the band likely to follow suit and become today’s (and tomorrow’s) powerhouse bands similar and akin to that of for KING AND COUNTRY, Daughtry, U2, Train, Coldplay and Goo Goo Dolls. Now as I delve deep into blog #44 (which probably won’t be that long!), I’m here to present yet another band that I’ve felt has the potential to become well-respected and admired in both CCM and mainstream- just like crossover artists Switchfoot, Colony House and needtobreathe of the past, I firmly believe that newcomers Apollo LTD have the chops, charisma, heart, emotion and honesty needed for an artist to succeed in both CCM and mainstream, all the while delivering motivational pop-rock that can be accessible on the radio and in people’s lives, even in those who may not necessarily listen to CCM on a regular basis. Vocally and musically similar to another CCM band of the past (Abandon), Apollo LTD (and especially their new album Nothing is Ordinary. Everything is Beautiful) are destined for great things, and maybe, just maybe, the future can surprise us- if artists like Switchfoot and needtobreathe can still have a strong faith attached to their band values, and still succeed at the highest of mainstream, then maybe, just maybe, Colony House, Echosmith and Apollo LTD can do so in the future, right?
Apollo LTD has been around since the mid-2010s, releasing a self-titled EP in 2015 before signing to Centricity Music in 2018 and releasing their first label-backed single ‘Gold’. But I’m sure you all can read about that info at the ready on Wikipedia, so I won’t bore you with details and transform this blog into a history lesson. What I will say is this- that where it stands right now, Apollo LTD and its two members- Adam Stark and Jordan Phillips, have crafted a band/duo that’s almost certain to rival any other mainstream act…if they are only given the chance to break out of their ‘pigeonholed’ CCM labelling that they’ve been in, ever since ‘Gold’ debuted quite a number of years ago. While there’s nothing wrong with being labelled ‘CCM’, it does it more difficult for an artist to make waves in an industry that, by and large, doesn’t really look that favourably upon anyone who identifies as creating music that’s projected to sell more in CCM than anywhere else. I dunno if the negative perception towards CCM is triggered by people having negative experiences with artists/bands like Hillsong, Bethel Music, Elevation Worship, Jesus Culture and the likes of those bands who are in some way, shape or form, affiliated with prosperity-doctrine churches, but the fact of the matter still stands- that because of someone’s labelling, their ability to impact and influence is only going to be stifled by said labelling. Having said that, though; both Jordan and Adam have presented a band with a purpose- delivering pop music with an alternative edge, all the while, the songs are positive, uplifting, heartfelt and poignant. Whether the band will reach popularity that will break people’s perceptions of bands/artists within CCM is a different story, but one thing’s for sure- songs like ‘Gold’, ‘On the Way Up’, ‘DNA’, ‘Heaven’, and more recently ‘You’, ‘Always You’ and ‘Patient’ are all here to stay, and while it may take even more time for people to catch on and realise that this duo is creating songs that are heartfelt and emotive for a newer generation; what will continue to be unwavering is the band’s purpose, and their intention to spread hope and grace in a world where people are looking for something to cling onto, in a season where hope seems hard to find on the surface.
STORY BEHIND HOW APOLLO LTD GOT THEIR NAME: ‘…I grew up in a space family, my uncle was an astronaut in the 90s, so as a kid we have a lot of memories driving down to Florida and watching launches. I grew up around it & I’ve been pretty fascinated by space. I always thought Apollo would be a great name for a band. So when we left our old band and started this new band I thought “man Apollo would be really cool”. I love that you know just what it meant to our history and the ambitious nature of uncovering new things and trying to achieve great heights. Then our lawyer spoiled the party. His was like “great guys there’s no way you can have the band name Apollo. Like I can’t protect that from a legal standpoint”. It would have been really hard for him, so he said “I don’t care if you put three letters in front of it, I don’t care if you put three letters behind it, I don’t care, it just can’t be Apollo”. So we literally got a piece of paper, wrote out Apollo LTD and visually it looks good and sure enough it stuck…’
STORY BEHIND HOW ADAM AND JORDAN MET: ‘…so we met when we were both 18 years olds at college and at the time we were young aspiring songwriters ourselves. We were randomly paired as roommates in our freshman year. It was kind of ‘as fate would have it’, we were brought together freshman year and realised that we both loved a lot of the same kind of music, You know stuff from the 6os and 70s sort of that Beatles classic rock and anything that was new at the time, alternative rock music, we loved all that stuff. So it started in college as roommates, we’d pull out our guitars and jam and eventually jamming lead to creating and writing and that lead to being in one band that toured for a long time and then that led to a second band Apollo. It goes back to be randomly being paired as roommates…’
With the band already unveiling to us 2 albums since their label-debut on Centricity Music in 2019 and their album Out of Body, Apollo LTD have joined an artist roster with fellow label-mates Andrew Peterson, Jason Gray, Chris Renzema, Jonny Diaz, Jordan Feliz, Lauren Daigle and PEABOD, to name a few. Both Jordan and Adam deliver a mood and vibe, a vocal delivery, and an overall presence, like that of CCM rock band Abandon, down to the vocal delivery of Apollo LTD reminding me so much like Josh Engler of Abandon that it’s certainly not funny. I know that Abandon and Apollo LTD are different bands, but you know when you hear an artist, and you automatically think of another? That’s how it has been with the vocal delivery of lead singer of Apollo LTD, Jordan Phillips. What that similarity in the long run will hinder or help the band remains to be seen (I guess the only people who can possibly pick out the similarity is anyone who was fans of the band Abandon before, and those who like Apollo LTD now), but maybe, just maybe, the duo can use a vocal similarity to their advantage- even I thought way back in the day, that it was Abandon singing ‘Gold’, till I checked who it was and found it was different. Nevertheless, Out of Body dropped in 2019, but that was upon the heels of catching the glimpse and eye of people in the mainstream- their music was already making waves prior to the release of Out of Body. With both Jordan and Adam being somewhat popular within the mainstream media arena- as we see that the band have shared the stage with high-profile artists like Panic At The Disco, All American Rejects, Ke$ha, Andy Grammar, John Mayer, and DNCE; the band has also had their music placed in various TV shows and movies, from the trailer for the Comedy Central TV show The Other Two, to music placed in episodes of Greys Anatomy and Station 19. Through all the media attention on Apollo LTD, both these men have a strong sense of a Christian faith- Out of Body presents to us songs like ‘Gold’, ‘On the Way Up’ and ‘Always You’ that all alluded to God being the centre of life. And with two albums under their belt as of this year, the duo continue to present faith-based music that has a catchy demeanour that can also thrive and challenge the mainstream music space, similar to how artists like Switchfoot, Needtobreathe, Skillet, Relient K and Mat Kearney walk their own music careers. While it’s still not certain if Apollo LTD can even be a fraction of what artists like Mat Kearney, Skillet or Switchfoot are at the moment; the fact remains, that their two albums and their positive, enthusiastic, joyful melodies, are enough to warrant some kind of selection on this particular blog-post list. Even if the duo aren’t popular a year or two from now, it’s been their two albums I’ve listened to regularly that have continued to assert my own opinion, that Jordan and Adam have crafted a pop duo that can thoroughly be enjoyed regardless if you love CCM or mainstream, if you are a believer, or even if you’re not. Music ought not to be exclusive- and maybe that’s why people are often so critical of worship music in general- it seems as though music is delivered to a certain group of people, while alienating others. Apollo LTD have tried to manage to do both- create songs that have a firm foundation in faith, while still delivering fun in a world that seems to have a void of it when we look at life objectively!
I guess if someone were to accurately describe the band’s musical sound, they’d say that the band is a cross between artists like OneRepublic, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, Train and Goo Goo Dolls, and maybe even with a little bit of Switchfoot, for KING AND COUNTRY and Abandon sprinkled in for good measure…and while those artists comparisons may be a bit difficult for someone to conjure up how the band actually sounds like, without even hearing them themselves; I guess maybe check out the song ‘Gold’ from the band, and you can accurately gain a picture as to how the band truly sounds like. ‘Gold’ is perhaps one of the band’s famous songs, and a song that actually propelled this duo in becoming CCM’s most underrated pop band in quite some time. ‘Gold’ the song is about how we were once lost, blind in a web of lies, caught in a loop and cycle of things we perpetually do to ourselves and we don’t even know how to break out of it- and therein lies a silver lining to it all, that ‘…the beautiful thing You’re doing is making new things out of ruins, all of the things I’ve been through, You put ’em in the rear view, everything that You hold, You make it shine like gold, You hold the doors wide open, there’s nothing Your love leaves broken, everything that You hold, You make it shine like gold…’ ‘On the Way Up’, one of the other standouts on the debut album, is about romantic love for a partner, and how they often appreciate and support you, even if it means that it doesn’t necessarily get reciprocated- for that’s what romantic love and sacrificial love is- loving someone regardless. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t stand up for yourself if there is some kind of domestic violence situation, ‘On the Way Up’ shows the positive side of supporting someone, and that if someone achieves something, it is often because of the relentless appreciation their significant others have had on the situation at hand. In a nutshell, ‘On the Way Up’ was in fact inspired by the devotion of the band members’ wives in their own music adventure, as both ‘On the Way Up’ and ‘Gold’ remind us of how songs can still be catchy and enjoyable, but still have a heartfelt and emotive message, one that people should hear and be reminded of, if given the chance.
Behind ‘Gold’- ‘…Gold was actually a kind of cool song because it was the first time we’d ever done a co-writing session over FaceTime and it was with a guy who’s become a really good friend of ours now, his name is Paul Duncan and he lives out in Los Angeles, we live in Nashville. And just with our schedules, it was really hard to coordinator co-writing session in our city. So we got on the computer. And we blocked out about 4 hours with him to be creative and I’m not kidding we spent 3 1/2 hours just writing one song and as we were wrapping up this one song, we were like “yeah man we still have a half hour, do you have anything to do? and he was like actually I’m still good too”. So we were like “well let’s show you this new track that we’ve started It’s really bare bones, there’s nothing to it yet but it’s got a cool energy to it and that was beginning of ‘Gold’. We showed him Gold and he loved it and that song was actually written in about 30 minutes and it’s entirety. I think all three of us were just shocked that this song just fell out in the last half hour of this writing section but almost didn’t happen, so it was kind of one of those moments where you look back and go oh yeah, we were supposed to write that song today…’
Behind ‘On the Way Up’‘…It was actually a love song [On the Way Up], but it started out as an ode to our wives. We wrote it thinking “this won’t necessarily probably work for Christian radio, but we’re going to write it cause we’re inspired and really loving what we were doing, kind of caught up in the moment. It’s actually about our wives. We (Jordan & his wife) are really fortunate to be married for 10 years and Adam for 7-8 years. We have really challenging careers with a lot of ups and downs and our wives have been just a rock of support. The older we get, the more grateful we are for them being in our lives and being so supportive, gracious, patient and just really awesome people in our lives. That’s the lens we wrote the song through. But then like most things, it’s funny how when you write about love and there’s this horizontal message, there’s often times the same vertical connection. So we felt like there was definitely this vertical connection with the lyrics, that very much applied to our faith. So we’re okay with people knowing either story, it’s not like there’s a secret. The essence of love you experience in marriage with your spouse, that is the love from the Father, it’s the same thing. So seeing and being grateful of a loving spouse, that comes from the same place that of the marriage with have in Christ. It’s kind of hard actually, as you become a creative with this lifestyle. It’s hard not to see the world through that filter and not see the essence of the Lord in everything. So we’ve kind of learnt to lean into that a little bit and it’s been really cool to see that. We have another song on our record called ‘DNA’, which is the exact same situation. It’s a song that we wrote when we both discovered we were going to become parents for the first time. Jordan has a 7 month old little girl and I (Aaron) have a 3 month old little boy. We wrote the song when both of our wives were pregnant and it was the same thing, “what would we sing to our child?” but then we think “What would God sing to you”?…’
While both ‘Gold’ and ‘On the Way Up’ solidify the album Out of Body both musically and thematically, the band still offer up the remainder of the album as being one that has great anthemic melodies and powerful melodic beats, as both Jordan and Adam show us that there’s more to Out of Body than just the two publicised singles. ‘Drive’ allows the persona on the track to give control over the God as this metaphor about driving cars alludes to God being Lord over our lives; and paving the roads that we ought to walk upon. It is when we surrender to God wholly and fully, that we see the opportunities and pathways He has given to us in this life, that seemingly from a human perspective, is all up to luck and chance, when in reality, it’s all to do with God’s providence, and His way of doing things. ‘Man I Used I Know’ employs electronic keyboards, and a Michael Jackson-esque ‘Billie Jean’-influenced track that showcases the themes of regret and trying to go back, as the persona in the track realises how far he has changed in his own personality, the farther he has travelled down a road that maybe was well-intended initially. Sometimes in life, we are faced with decisions, and sooner than later, we can be surrounded with a life that maybe we didn’t imagine ourselves in from the get-go, but now are here, and we’re not liking what we’re seeing. ‘Man I Used to Know’ plays on that concept, and with its 80s drum influences, we can have confidence and faith that Apollo LTD are bringing back 80s disco, and what better way than ‘Man I Used to Know’! ‘Misfits’ shows us a dichotomous way of looking at life- to believe the labels placed upon us, that we are misfits in life, or realise that even if we’re different and not how people envisage _____ to be, we can still be comfortable in who we are, knowing full well in ourselves that ‘…we know that the truth is, we were really meant to be, meant to be like this…’
The band also imparts to us imperative and profound themes- from acknowledging that the love of God (or any other significant other) is in our DNA, that whatever we do or say is always with them in the forefront of our minds (‘DNA’), and being in a state of young love with someone and believing at that point, that this other person is your ‘one in a million’, your ‘forever person’, even if that’s not necessarily the case (‘One in a Million’); to realising that we do what we don’t want to do, and don’t do what we should do, when it comes to our relationships with other people and with God Himself- but then realise that love is nevertheless still given (‘Supernatural’). Apollo LTD also try their hardest to create a song that can be seen as a worship melody (‘Always You’)- a track that sees the persona declaring that even in the midst of darkness and walls caving in, that ‘…You are my spotlight in the darkest night, You’re the only thing I ever held onto, never more alive than when our love collides, looking back on what I know is true, I realize, it was always You…’, while the band still walk the line of CCM and mainstream quite well, especially on Out of Body– ‘Tired of LA’ alludes quite graphically to the fake-ness of what L.A. brings in terms of the promises spoken, but unfulfilled dreams unrealised as people gain this understanding that this celebrity life in LA isn’t what it’s glamourised to be. Look at the lyrics of the second verse, and we see that the band isn’t trying subtlety, it’s really in your face- ‘…photographs in magazines, television beauty queens, it’s all fake, a figment of how we wanna see ourselves but it’s all make-believe, it’s just a game, and every night I find myself fitting in with everybody else, looking for a way to escape, I just need a place to breathe where I can find some harmony, maybe I’m just tired of LA…’ ‘Walk’ tackles this mentality of mediocrity as both Jordan and Adam allude to this persona in the track, comfortable to travel both the valleys and peaks, never really knowing why or even wanting to change- the repeated refrain of ‘get up and you’ll walk’ suggests someone who is idle in their life, never wanting challenges and never really seeking much purpose- and yet the chorus of ‘Walk’ shows us how urgent it really is, to take control of your own life, and to never let life pass us by. There needs to be a will to change for change to even occur- we need to want to ‘walk’, to want to even move forward in life, and ‘Walk’ can hopefully allow us to see into our own lives, and wonder if there’s parts of us that are stagnant and comfortable. The album is rounded out with ‘Heaven’, both as an upbeat 80s dance number, as well as a sombre piano-only reflective melody. Both these renditions still say the same thing at heart- that ‘…it’s about the journey of life, the experiences that shape us, the pursuit of love, and the joy that comes from when we find it. It’s about loving someone so much you can’t imagine living without them…’
Apollo LTD dropped their first album Out of Body in 2019, and a couple of years on from that, we see the band invite us into the space of 14 new songs in the music collection called Nothing is Ordinary. Everything is Beautiful, written and recorded solely during the COVID-19 pandemic nationwide lockdown (that was from March 2020 onward). Released on February 5th, the band have continued to present central themes of encouragement and hope, as these new musical offerings become more emotionally charged and anthemic than ever before. ‘You’ was the first single from Nothing is Ordinary. Everything is Beautiful back in March 2020, debuting during what was the start of the pandemic; and is a song as much about being sure about your identity, as it is about encouraging someone else, a mate or a significant other, especially during this time of life where COVID-19 is a reality, alongside the understanding that God knows and loves us as we are. Catchy and pop-infused, this looping percussion-driven song with gang vocals and an easy-to-know beat, shows Jordan and Adam reminding us all to ‘…don’t give up, don’t give up, He’s not given up on you, not given up on you…’, as we are given comfort that God never gives up on us, even if we believe that He does, because we can’t see Him acting in our lives at this very moment. While there isn’t explicit reference to Jesus in the song ‘You’, maybe that was the way that Jordan and Adam wanted it, as this band has been making waves in both CCM and mainstream concurrently, and in this way, someone can come across such a song as this, who may not have heard songs about Jesus, and still be intrigued by it. Christians can write songs for the mainstream, and a primarily ‘mainstream’ artist can write something God-breathed, and a song can still has its impact, even a year later from its release. ‘You’ forms the backbone, lyrically and musically, of Nothing is Ordinary. Everything is Beautiful. Jordan and Adam also deliver emotion in the form of ‘Patient’, perhaps one of my favourite songs on the album alongside ‘You’, as it is confronting and comforting simultaneously. With both Jordan and Adam eloquently reminding us that even in our happenings in life, we can ask the Lord to ‘…help me to be okay with what I can’t change, and remind me there’s meaning in the waiting Help me to be patient…’, it is when we reconcile the fact of what we know in the Bible, that God is faithful and never changes, and is always with us, to what we see around us, and believing that God never changes, even if circumstances try to show us otherwise; that we can live our lives and actually be patient, no matter how our lives can be presented to us.
‘Rulers’, one of the album’s most synth-heavy songs, is shown by the band as being a track that reminds us of how we were made to take back control of our lives, and to not roll through life being spectators, to take more of an active role in how we live our lives, instead of just floating from day to day. If we want to go out and chase something, it is in our best interest to take this leap, that as this song suggests, ‘…destiny was made for ya, all you ever known, stepping up to the throne, we were made to be rulers…’ ‘NOW!’ is a poppy 3 minute tune released as a digital single almost immediately after ‘You’, and this track encourages us all to live in the moment and to slow down in our busy schedules- the moment where we’re supposed to be present in will definitely pass us by if we decide to pack a lot into our day and be busier than we need to be. I know that to balance how much things to fit in your day, can be a bit of an art, and thus, we need to be present in the moment and to just take in the experience, which is now, before we realise that our lives are passing us by, and we aren’t even fully aware of it. ‘Better’ brings the musical content down to just a light electric guitar strum and looping percussion, as the band present a mid-tempo ballad, essentially a prayer where we ask the Lord about the assurance that we all need, to know that ‘…it’s getting better, a little light so I can see, say the words so I remember, say it loud so I believe, I need a little hope for the hell in my head, to get me through the storm, ‘cause it ain’t done yet I need it more than ever I need to know it’s not forever…’; while ‘Good Day’ features a collaboration between Apollo LTD and hip-hop duo Social Club Misfits, and speaks about this theme about our days being good, regardless of what is happening, because we know the One who transforms all of our days, good and bad, for our good and and His glory, and thus, all we need to declare is that ‘…I can’t control what people say, so I’ma sit back and enjoy the ride…’
The rest of the album has more of a retro-80s/anthemic vibe, and as a whole, has become some of my favourite songs from the band, period (as a package, I’ve connected with Nothing Is Ordinary! Everything is Beautiful a tad more than Out of Body). ‘Tears to Diamonds’ has a retro 80s feeling that is all things good and right, cast underneath the emotive and compelling lyrics of how the band (and us as a result) can often feel like ‘…far too long, all these years I didn’t know that I was sleeping, yeah I was sleeping, then I woke up to a thousand stars cast across the ceiling, yeah I woke up, I’ve bought the lies for so long that now they feel like mine, and everything I wanted in this life was standing in front me this whole time…’ We are able to rest assured that God uses all things, even our sorrow and pain, to create good things for us, or as this metaphor presented in the song alludes to- God in fact turns tears to diamonds, even if we can’t see how the process is going to turn out. ‘Soldier On’ is a declaratory statement of fighting on, knowing full well that though there’s ‘…giants in my way and they stand so tall, but You make me brave, and I watch them fall, see the arrows fly, but they can’t touch me, cause You’re on my side, You’re my victory…’ It is a song of assurance as we know who is for us, and gives us motivation and hope to soldier on, even in the direst of circumstances. ‘Sunday Morning Feeling’ features pop-R&B artist Ryan Stevenson, one that is very similar musically to that of someone like TobyMac or even mainstream legend Justin Timberlake, as the song is presented as a toe-tapping pop diddy, that reminds us all that the feeling that we get on a Sunday morning at church, should be immersed in every aspect of every day in our lives, that how we live on the Sunday should be how we live in our whole life.
‘Heart Believes’ carries on from the worshipful tone set in ‘Always You’ in Out of Body, as both Adam and Jordan channel for KING AND COUNTRY to deliver a song that could’ve easily have been covered by the Aussie duo, and it would’ve been a great fit. The song is a direct way of how to show us all, to live by faith and not by sight, that even if we cannot see what is going to happen in the future, in our lives and others, we stand firm in our faith, because our heart believes, and that we trust even though the physical may show us something different to what the promises of God has shown us to believe into. The band also present to us the themes of reverence, awe and introspective faith in ‘No Limits’, a song that praises the fact that God’s love has no limits, that His infinite and boundless love washes over someone like me, while the album ender ‘Rising’ proclaims us all rising from every circumstance, stronger than before, that what we’ve experienced will allow the Lord to shape and mould us into a people more resilient and empathetic to other people going through similar circumstances and situations. Vulnerability then comes to a head with the song ‘Just What I Needed’, as we’re shown the desperate nature of someone who is searching and looking for something or someone to fill a hole that they can’t fill. A song about searching for the remedy to what we have been feeling all this time, when we’re without Christ; ‘Just What I Needed’ is a reminder that there are people around where we are, that are filling themselves with things that they believe can satisfy, when all the while, they’re searching for something that only Jesus can fill. And thus, as we present the gospel, we lead with love. We state it simply- that Christ came to give life abundantly, sending His Son to die on a cross to pay the penalty of sin meant to be for us, dying the death we deserved, and then 3 days later, rising, overcoming the very thing that separates us from God in the first place. And if we lead with that, then people would hopefully realise that this Jesus thing, ought to be just what they needed, right?
A lot of artists have a variety of collaborations, guest singing roles, other endeavours outside of music. But what is unique about Apollo LTD is this- that it’s just these two albums and that’s it! Well, there is the self-titled 2015 EP that’s not available on Apple Music or Spotify (but only available on amazon.com)- so I guess the duo did release an EP back in the day, but that release, by and large, is neither here nor there. What I will say though is this- that both Out of Body and Nothing is Ordinary. Everything is Beautiful really paint a great picture as to what the band is really about which is this- a duo reminiscent of bands gone by like Imagine Dragons, OneRepublic or even to some extent, Panic At the Disco!; delivering great pop anthems that could do well in mainstream radio if given the chance, all the while having a message that is grounded in the faith that these two men have. Are they popular? Probably not, and not necessarily in CCM circles too. So, they’re definitely not famous in mainstream…but are they influential though? I’ve said this time and time again, and I guess I’ll forever be saying it, that influential and popular are two different things. Artists like Jason Gray, Lucy Thomas, Philippa Hanna, Andrew Peterson, The New Respects, Marie Miller, even Cimorelli and now Apollo LTD; aren’t popular in the grand scheme of things, but I’ve always felt that if an artist isn’t popular by every single metric that mainstream modern music places on criteria for being popular, then that’s generally a rule-of-thumb that this artist is creating something deep, meaningful, personal and heartfelt, so much so that mass media and people generally aren’t going to gravitate to that…and that’s the artist whom we should all be excited to listen to and check out. Apollo LTD may not get to the heights of Coldplay…or maybe in ten years, they will. But they potential fame need not be any factor in deeming them to be impactful and influential in this time period and into the future. For you can have a very small fan-base and not be as popular in the eyes of the general population, and still evoke emotion in someone and challenge their status quo. Just like how the TV show Chuck back in the day was deemed as the ‘little show that could’, so too are artists and their discographies that aren’t necessarily as ‘wow’ as someone else’s; but can still remind us of the fragility of life, and the necessity of something worth fighting for that is much bigger than you and me.
Apollo LTD has given us that- especially in songs like ‘Gold’, ‘Always You’, ‘On the Way Up’, ‘Patient’ and ‘You’, as both Adam and Jordan have carved up a piece of music that we can hopefully relate to. Even if we may be hesitant to start on the journey of listening to Apollo LTD for whatever reason (we think, ‘gee, it’s another pop band akin to that of Imagine Dragons’, why do we even want to invest in a band that we think is a knock-off of another one!), I reckon that the song ‘Gold’ alone ought to give people at least some intrigue to try out the band’s music, albeit only once, and then they can go on their merry way. But maybe, just maybe, Jordan and Adam can convince us all of the necessity of a little-ol’ band called Apollo LTD, in this vast sonic space where bands are chewed on and spat out at a more alarming rate, than the rate of 1st-season network TV shows being cancelled every TV season. While this list of ‘Influential Artists of the Next 5-10 Years’ can be a little too arbitrary (for any outsider’s liking), what is unique about any list, of any kind, is its subjectivity. This blog series is not gospel, and we’ve said this before. We’ve decided to discuss Apollo LTD, and it’s ok if you don’t think that fits your list at all, or if you firmly believe that us discussing about this duo, really pushes out another artist/band you really like (take one look down this list of artists in this blog series, and you see that not every ‘influential’ artist can fit into a list of 50- artists like Halsey, CHVRCHES, Kacey Musgraves, We the Kingdom, Luke Coombs, BTS, Billie Eilish, Russell Dickerson and Camilla Cabello are notably absent!). Whatever the case, Apollo LTD has been an artist that has really challenged my own preconception as to how pop music can fit in both CCM and mainstream, in a way that both audiences can love and enjoy it, without the need to venture into the other musical genre sometime in the future. Maybe this band will get off the ground and become CCM’s next-big-band, maybe they won’t. Regardless, these two albums are totally underrated, and present to the CCM-verse that ‘mainstream’ pop needn’t be shunned as a lot of people within the Christian community involuntary do- which is unfortunate. Mainstream music is equally as needed as Christian, and if God can speak through a Imagine Dragons song, and can speak through an Apollo LTD song, then who are we to even think that God should do something different?
‘…for the first year and a half, we kind of picked up where we left off with our old band, in the sense of general market touring and that whole thing. That’s fine. We’re comfortable there since that is where we cut our teeth, but we’ve never really created a delineation in our minds between Christian or mainstream. It’s all just music. If you’re a believer, then you will create art that reflects your life and reflects the things you love, the things you feel, the things you’re passionate about. So even though we were in the general market space, we were always Christian dudes in a band and that’s where God had us…it never crossed our minds that it was even on the table. Even though we were signed to Residence, which half of the staff there is Centricity, it never occurred to us that could work. But of course, if they’re into it, we’re all about it. We had no qualms with that. We’d just never thought about it. The song was “Gold” and when it went to radio, the light bulb went on for me and Adam…’
Does Apollo LTD make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of the next 5-10 years’ list? Is there any song, like ‘Gold’, ‘Always You’, ‘On the Way Up’, ‘Patient’ and ‘You’, that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!