A potential music idol walks among our student body. Jonathan Appolon made a splash in mainstream media with his song “JoJo Pose,” taking TikTok by storm.
Appolon, a senior entrepreneurship major from Broward County, has been creating music since 2013 under his stage name, Apollo Fresh. He saw his fame skyrocket across his media platforms during 2020.
In December 2019, he had about 3,000 followers on TikTok. Following the release of “JoJo Pose,” that number shot up by 70,000 and videos featuring the song exceeded 1.5 billion views by the end of February 2020. As of this week, Apollo Fresh has 87,400 followers on his TikTok and 568,390 monthly listeners on Spotify.
“It’s like I knew this was coming. I could feel it coming, but for my song about anime to hit over a billion plays is so dope,” Appolon said. “I’ve been praying for this. I’ve been telling my mom since I was young that anime was going to take off one day. I feel extremely blessed to have an impact on music and anime at the same time.”
His distinct style of mixing rap with anime (a hand-drawn and computer motion-picture animation originally popularized in Japan) would have been unthinkable until recent years. The popularity of anime has grown largely due to its presence on social media. “JoJo Pose,” inspired by the anime, “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,” is an example of how he applied principles of entrepreneurship to his musical creations.
“JoJo Pose” features references to characters in the series and exemplifies living life to the fullest.
“My lineage lit and it’s serious.
Bring the beat life like Giorno
Young Gang Star flip the kill switch.”
That’s just a taste of the lyrical show references woven through the song.
Appolon recalled seeing many people on social media striking poses from the show in sync with various songs. He realized content creators had an unmet need to have a specific song for these poses. After sharing his observation with his mentor in the Daveler-Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship’s Runway Program, Appolon said he believed the song would eventually go viral on TikTok.
“Without the Runway Program (which helps students and alumni launch projects) and help from people such as my mentor, Mark Bole, I would not be where I am with this today,” Appolon said. “They got me to think about how to approach my music from an entrepreneurial viewpoint. They taught me how to gain a profit from my music and build a foundation for my career.”
Bole, an entrepreneur-in-residence at the School of Entrepreneurship, started working with Appolon a couple of years ago. From the beginning, Bole said the two just clicked. During a brainstorming session he noticed Appolon was really focused, stopped fighting what was inside of him, and let his music flow.
“The next step was to turn his passion into a viable business, and he was just as focused on that part of the process,” Bole said. “Apollo’s an amazing person and I’m very grateful that I’m able to join him on his journey.”
It was not always easy for Appolon to find the identity he wanted to carry through most of his music. Early in his career, he doubted that his idea of mixing music with anime could draw a significant market. However, an encounter he had with rapper Sir Michael Rocks changed his outlook.
“When I met him while visiting L.A., I thought to myself that there must be something that he’s doing right that I’m not,” Appolon said. “He told me ‘Just be yourself and don’t get away from who you are in the music,’ and I was just thinking ‘OK, that was very cliché.’ After that, I went to listen to his music. The first song I listened to had a Naruto reference. (Naruto is a Japanese manga or comic series about a young ninja.) At the time – 2014 – that was rare, and it hit me that he really meant what he said. I said I’m going to do this in my own work and create anime-inspired songs.”
Appolon applied this to create his anime-inspired songs “Orochimaru” and “Ghoulish.” “Orochimaru” was his first song to exceed 1,000 plays on Soundcloud. He named the song after the popular character from the Naruto anime series. He followed up with “Ghoulish,” which earned over 100,000 plays on Soundcloud, based off the show “Tokyo Ghoul” (a Japanese dark fantasy manga series).
In his recent work, Apollo Fresh has created music with deeper philosophical meaning beyond anime. His follow-up song to “JoJo Pose,” “Love and Responsibility,” focuses on suppressing his pride to prevent his downfall. He said he wants his music to focus on improving the mind, body and spirit.
Looking to maintain his substantial growth from 2020, he is now creating his first album, “Life is an Anime.” He plans to include 10 to 14 songs on the album. He has already released one of the album’s songs, “My Life Animated.”
“First off and foremost, I want to make sure I feel free in my most authentic self,” Appolon said. “I want to keep creating consistent content; create value for the community that supports me. As an entrepreneur I feel that it is important to bring value to your consumers and to connect with them, especially as an artist.”
Ultimately, he has big aspirations. These include making $500,000 per show and winning a Grammy. You could say Apollo Fresh has his expectations set to the max.
- You can follow Apollo Fresh at his TikTok (@apollofresh) or his Instagram (@apollo_fresh).
—Tyler Watkins is a junior majoring in journalism at FGCU who works with University Marketing & Communications