Shamir is Shamir Bailey, a 20-year-old Las Vegas native who grew
up not on the strip but in the desert. His verve for life makes him
almost impossible to categorize. As a young musician, he moves in
and out of soul, r&b, house, disco, rap, and pop – in the tradition
of artists like Prince, Grace Jones, David Bowie, and Madonna.
Genre is a tool for Shamir, not a boundary. Or as Shamir would put
it, “It doesn’t matter what you sound like – you just have to be you.”
With an androgyne croon that recalls Nina Simone, Shamir rose
from the suburbs of Vegas after sending demos to Nick Sylvester,
who runs the GODMODE label out of New York. Together they
made Northtown, Shamir’s debut EP (2014), and continued their
working relationship for Ratchet, Shamir’s first LP for XL Recordings.
It’s an ecstatic dance-pop record that also has some dust and age
to it, sparkling with the grit of a desert geode. The songs are about
growing up in Vegas, though not the Vegas you think you know.
The music is fun even when it’s mostly introspective, introspective
even when it’s mostly fun. There’s an obvious fluidity to Shamir. He
transcends boundaries – genre, gender, age, geography. If he feels
solitary, it’s because there’s literally no one else like him.