Alive with pulsing disco and house beats, Shamir’s debut album Ratchet caused a sensation when XL Recordings released it in 2015. Many casual fans know him by the sparky electro-rap of the album’s single “On the Regular.” Scintillating as the lights of his native Las Vegas and, at times, as brooding as the gloom on the edges of town, Ratchet deserved all the accolades it garnered. Still, as the pop phenom prepares to release his very different third album, Revelations, it’s worth noting that there’s always been more to Shamir Bailey.
He started his career in music singing country, while his first band Anorexia was a DIY punk affair, and his debut EP Northtown took a raw, minimal approach to dance-pop. Given all that, Shamir would seem impossible to pigeonhole, even before factoring in his genderless countertenor. Nevertheless, after the success of Ratchet, XL set him on a track to make something similar. Uninterested in repeating himself musically, the young singer-songwriter parted with his label and self-released a second album, Hope, a bundle of defiant, aching indie-pop that set the stage for his latest release.
The real revelations on Revelations are more of the musical than personal variety. Its avant lo-fi pop betrays the influence of his confessed favorite artists such as Vivian Girls and Tegan and Sara, and even of Nina Simone (whom he has called his “beacon”). Seeing this stripped-down side of Shamir will be an adjustment for some, but Revelation‘s songcraft and intense honesty is bound to win the 22-year-old some converts. Whether you are a new fan or old, let this playlist be your guide to the many dimensions of the Shamiriverse: the underground electro heroes, rockers, gender outlaws, and heartbroken divas who run through all of his music. Get up to speed now, because even though he claims “I reached my final form” on the haunting anthem “Float,” he almost certainly hasn’t.