Shamir – Rachet

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Shamir – Rachet

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Artist: Shamir
Album: Ratchet
Label: XL Recordings
Released: May 19, 2015

I first heard him on a dance floor in Houston. It was News Year Eve and confetti coated the air and everything around me. Surrounded by my friends, I heard “See, that’s my crown on the mantle and if you try to touch it, yes there will be scandal,” sweep over the crowd. The song sounded like freedom. When I got home, I scoured the club’s playlist to find that specific song. (It turned out to be “On The Regular.”) That was the day Shamir entered my life.

Months later, on May 19, Shamir released his first studio album Ratchet, not only receiving praise from publications such as Pitchfork and Spin, but being named one of the most striking albums of the year by NPR music critic Ken Tucker.

With his luminous countertenor voice, Shamir Bailey bends genre and gender expectations in the modern music world. The 20-year-old Las Vegas native collaborated heavily with producer Nick Sylvester on the album. Hints of disco, funk and 90s house season his sound as he converges the past and present in a balanced reconciliation. Shamir also disregards hyper-masculine ideas of manhood to embrace a softer interpretation that is reflected in both the roots of his inspirations (90s house music was a heavily black, queer movement) and the music he makes.

That does not mean the album is not tough in its own way; many of Shamir’s songs are the anthems of those who have been mistreated and manipulated in the past, but want no more of it. Lyrics like “It’s just getting harder to contain the truth,” from “Darker” talk about the restraints felt in a failing relationship. In contrast, “Don’t try me, I’m not a free sample. Step to me and you will be handled,” from “On The Regular” has an air of someone who knows who they are and has nothing to hide. The song “Demon” further adds to this narrative as Shamir talks about a past love with lyrics like “If I’m a demon, baby, you’re the beast that made me.” While the album shifts from complete confidence to vulnerable sensitivity, every song deals with liberation and the journey to it.

In my opinion, this album is best listened to while dancing with your friends after a much-deserved break-up or a stressful semester.
Reviewed by Brie East.

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