Apollo XXI
Lacy has taken steps toward becoming an icon for the LGBTQ+ community with his new album. (Illustration by Jasmine Hsiao, Rhode Island School of Design)

Steve Lacy’s Debut, ‘Apollo XXI,’ Is a Sexual Reckoning Set to Music

Once ambiguously closeted, Lacy is now definitively out and making music that feels alive with bravado.

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Apollo XXI

Once ambiguously closeted, Lacy is now definitively out and making music that feels alive with bravado.

Known as the guitarist and bassist for the popular soul funk band The Internet, Steve Lacy recently release his highly anticipated debut solo album, “Apollo XXI,” and it stuck the landing. Lacy first released “Steve Lacy’s Demo” in 2017, where he gave the world its first taste of his music. The demo featured only three tracks, but Lacy’s individual sound shined brightly nonetheless. His entrancing, R&B beats quickly shape-shifted into stunning love ballads.

On “Apollo XXI,” Lacy continues to focus on love. However, although the artist delivers passion through these tracks, they are not all directed at a longing for romantic love. Instead, much of “Apollo XXI” is an exploration of the desire to express himself through his sexuality.  In the past, Lacy has never revealed much about his personal life through his music, but “Apollo XXI” gives fans closer insight into his true self and the fears that come along with him being so vulnerable for the first time.

On the second track of “Apollo XXI,” “Like Me”, Lacy comes out as bisexual and explores the worries he has with expressing his sexuality to the world. Lacy starts off the track by simply talking to his fans, explaining why he made the song. “Hello, this is about me and what I am,” he says. “I didn’t wanna make it a big deal, but I did wanna make a song, I’ll admit. Uh, I just wanna, just see who can relate, who’s out there. I don’t know if you can still relate, you know, and that’s what I’m afraid of.”

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Apollo XXI will be out very soon 🧚🏾‍♂️

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In the song, Lacy raises awareness about biphobia.  Bisexuals face the possibility of being rejected from both the straight and LGBTQ+ communities, and they are often left out of the conversation because they exist somewhere in the margins — at the intersection of two worlds. This leads to feelings of isolation and a fear of being unable to relate to others.

“Like Me” has a minimalist beat, which allows Lacy’s message and vocals to shine. The song evokes a desire to express your sexual orientation, as well as the fear of being rejected by loved ones. Lacy plays with this juxtaposition by beginning with his hesitations about fully expressing his sexuality. “How many out there just like me? How many work on self-acceptance like me? How many others not gon’ tell their family?” he sings.

Lacy asks his fans if any of them share the same inner fears as him when it comes to self-expression and sexual orientation. Throughout “Apollo XXI,” he captures this interplay between desire and fear.

Lacy also uses the album to express how he feels when he is free to express his sexuality. It’s as if he enters a space where he isn’t consumed by fear and intrusive thoughts, allowing his fans to see his confidence. Lacy raps the first verse with a playful and powerful voice. “I only feel energy, I see no gender,” he sings. “When I talk ‘bout fish, I wanna catch ya, I’m a fisher.”

“Like Me” also features Daisy, an artist whose voice glides like honey over the track. Her vocals bridge the gap between rapping and singing softly. Daisy sings, “Ah, I used to wanna be normal. / I used to lay out the labels and pray that one of them stuck. / Ain’t got a preference, a wifey or a boyfriend / or something in-between, we don’t need no categories.” Like Lacy, she disdains pigeonholing sexuality.

Lacy follows the same theme of yearning and craving on the rest of the album, but now for affection, with tracks “Hate CD,” “Lay Me Down” and “In Lust We Trust.” On “Hate CD,” Lacy compares his love for another man to a drug. His voice is as smooth as velvet, illuminating the feeling of being drugged and loopy from an addiction to his lover. “I scratch, but it’s still itchin’. I yearn for his affection, ‘cause I’m addicted to this drug,” he sings.

The feeling of being intertwined with a lover and the longing for physical affection follows suit with tracks “Lay Me Down” and “In Lust We Trust.”  Both are slowed down, and Lacy takes his time when expressing his feelings. His vocals sound sensual, almost as if he is begging to be savored.

On “Lay Me Down,” Lacy’s high pitched falsetto sings, “Baby, save me. Take me, oh, oh, oh. / Grab me, hug me. Hold me close, close, close.” The desire to be touched fades into a stunning electric guitar solo, and the chords create a sensation of sparks flying in a black sky.

Many tracks on “Apollo XXI” feel as though you are listening two songs at once, as Lacy tends to switch the beat or tone of the song halfway through. Some of his tracks are incredibly long and drawn out — “Like Me” is nine minutes long. However, other tracks, like “Guide,” are quite short and to the point, barely hitting the two-minute mark.

The way Lacy plays with time on the project encourages a feeling of detachment. Still, he bares his soul on “Apollo XXI,” and his lyrics bleed with desire and artistry. Lacy’s sound will make you feel longing, lust and the desire to be free.

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