Shamir Embarks on a Journey of the Self in New Album: ‘Shamir’
By Nick Lee
“I’m lonely, but would I be better off with someone else?”
It’s been a grand total of five years since 25-year-old musician and actor, Shamir Bailey, released his debut, dance-pop album: Ratchet under British indie label XL Records. Now, five album releases, a shift in creative direction, and a half-a-decade later, Shamir has graced the music scene again with a new, self-titled project: Shamir.
Hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada, Shamir was raised Muslim in what he has described in interviews as a “cookie-cutter suburban” part of the city. His introduction to music came from his aunt, who worked in the music business and lived with him and his parents. In time—having been introduced to a wide variety of music at an early age—Shamir began songwriting at the tender age of nine years. Since then, he has become known for his ability to combine relatable life experiences with experimental production to create music as versatile and complex as he is. The storytelling in his newest release Shamir serves as a reaffirmation of this.
Shamir’s opener, On My Own perfectly introduces the themes that govern the album’s progression: love, loneliness, and the lamentation of lost time. On it, he meditates on the hopelessly fleeting nature of human relationships—dubbing them a “…cosmic game of meetings that may never work”. It’s both a dreary and honest take on human connection that one would expect to be accompanied by an equally sorrowful arrangement. However, Shamir‘s resilience and his refusal to “fucking suffer” is made evident instead by resounding beats and an overall up-tempo production—a tactic used throughout the album, giving it a care-free vibe with a deeper undercurrent.
On Running, Shamir discusses hesitance when forging a meaningful connection. A song true to his indie-rock inspired style, Running maintains his trademark upbeat sound in tandem with reflective lyrics comparing new relationships to ‘lose[ing] my religion, lose my sight/running with you through the night”. He expresses a sense of exhaustion with others, claiming he is “done giving up my [his] light/ just to stay in the dark”. He portrays the inevitable wariness of others that accompanies loneliness and poses an internal question all of us have asked: “I’m lonely, but would I be better off with someone else?”
While the majority of the album does contrast melancholic lyricism with fast-paced rhythm, Shamir takes a breath with I Wonder—a song in which he seems to fully embrace the depth of his feelings. In this piece, the production matches the existential wonderings of the lyrics and allows us to truly listen to Shamir’s heart. In a vulnerable moment of realization, Shamir admits to someone that he “tried to lead you [them] astray” and “break you up just like the stars.” He portrays himself as an infinite ‘consumer’ with a self-comparison to “the earth with the disease” and the person he’s speaking to as “the human inside me.” Like the rest of the album, I Wonder is a reflection—but not on the effect others have on him. Rather he takes time to recognize the impact he has on others and how that might in turn impact him. It’s a turning point in the journey-to-the-self that is the album.
Shamir—both the artist and the album—radiate a sense of emotional intelligence and awareness that many artists and self-titled records aren’t capable of achieving. In a piece that shows a new development of the self while staying true to the experimental habits that gained him notoriety, Shamir invites listeners into his heart in a way that he, seemingly, doesn’t do in his daily life. He seamlessly places us at the center of his own reckoning and whispers his innermost thoughts in our ear. We finally have the opportunity to know him…on his terms.
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