This is Shamir. Shamir is from the suburbs Las Vegas, Nevada. Shamir has released one EP and one full-length album - "Ratchet," released in May 2015. Shamir is old enough to have two well-reviewed musical projects, but Shamir is not even old enough to order a beer.
Above is "If It Wasn't True," released in early 2014 as part of his first EP, "Northtown." It's the song that put him on the map, and it won a handful of awards (including "Best New Track" by Pitchfork).
As you can probably imagine from "If it Wasn't True," Shamir has fun with his music. It's dance music at its heart, but it's also quite different from most dance music that you've heard. He's got qualities that have lead to comparisons to Michael Jackson and Prince. I see a lot of Jamiroquai in Shamir, and there's also some Cut Copy and Disclosure in there. His qualities are all over the place, just like the songs on his first full-length album, "Ratchet."
"Ratchet" begins with "Vegas," which will come to stand out on the album as a whole. It's ultra-deep, and showcases not only the funky, ambiguously-instrumental grooves (there's some trace of a cowbell, way back there), but also his gender-neutral voice. It's been described as androgynous and counter-tonal; Shamir himself commented:
“It’s not feminine, it’s not masculine. It’s a happy medium. I feel like if the world was more like that, our problems would be gone.”
Perhaps he's a bit overzealous with his 'save the world' commentary, but he's not wrong about his voice.
The song also shows Shamir explaining some feelings about his hometown: "You can come to the city of sin and get away without bail / But if you're living in the city oh you already in hell." Like all of Shamir's music, this feels real; it's not difficult to imagine lots of Vegas locals sharing his feelings on the city.
The album then launches into its body, with the notable "On the Regular," standing out. It's, at its core, a standard dance track with heavy beats, jumpy lyrics ("Ever since eight I was attached to the mic / Wanted a guitar before I wanted a bike). In reality, though, it's much more: it's Shamir's statement of identity. When paired with the music video, things become more clear that there's a lot more to this track. This is not a person who cares what adjectives you assign him. His multiple outfits are as ridiculous as his accessories - wild glasses, exploding globes, children's toys, a cowbell floating through space, Star Wars style - and it all seems to fit.
As if it weren't obvious enough, Shamir seals the deal: "Don't try me I am not a free sample, / Step to me and you will be handled." It's a notable song, and it sets the tone for the rest of the album: we're in for a strange ride.
And, indeed, a strange ride it is. Songs like "Call it Off" somehow manages to balance disco influences and contemporary dubstep beats - all bundled up inside its short chorus. It's not all glorious - "Hot Mess" falls short of its enticing title, and "Youth," with beats awkwardly reminiscent of electronic seagulls, leaves something to be desired - but it's mostly positive. "In for the Kill" is flashy and furthers the dance-album theme.
"Demon" is an easy candidate for the album's standout song, largely due to its welcome return to the lyrical reality that we saw in "Vegas." It's a song about a relationship, but it achieves a poetic height that is not often found in an album so dance-heavy: "If I'm a demon baby, you're the beast that made me," Shamir sings. Its underlying beat works well, and if anything it seems like a more 'normal' song than the rest. Usually oddities are embraced, but in an album full of them, "Demon" is an exciting break in the form of a really, really good song.
But, like so many successful albums, it's the closer that leaves a just-right taste in our mouths, especially after a few unexciting tracks obviously, and strategically, buried toward the end "Youth," "Darker"). "Head in the Clouds" is a pop song - that's all. But it's a really good pop song, with elements of other genres - weed-infused lyrics that could do well in a hip-hop verse and heavy electronic interludes, namely. However, through all the mayhem, it's Shamir's voice that stands out once again, just as it does throughout. In an album full of exciting, experimental sounds, rhythms and beats, one fact runs clear through: Shamir can sing.
Shamir's new album "Ratchet" establishes him as...something. It's nearly impossible to place a genre on the young kid, but he doesn't care. It's also impossible to know what could possibly be next - there's no real indication that Shamir will stick to one genre (forget about an album at a time - he can hardly make up his mind verse to verse). One way or the other, though, it's likely we'll see more Shamir as the months pass, and that's something to look forward to.