Author: Shelby Joy Leone
Shamir Bailey, who goes by Shamir, hit the music scene during high school (once in a punk duo, and then on his own). By the summer after he graduated high school he was signed to Godmode records. Shamir’s debut EP Northtown, named for the neighborhood where he grew up, was released by Godmode in June 2014.
I first discovered Shamir in 2015, when his song “on the regular” was featured in an Android commercial that followed me wherever I went. Shamir’s androgynous countertenor (male soprano vocal range) is his trademark. There is a fluidity in his voice and in his overall persona. Though he identifies as non-binary, he prefers male pronouns over the singular “they”. And although his voice is high, he points out that it is not “girly”, it’s musically countertenor–not fully feminine, not fully masculine. Shamir’s genre is as fluid as his gender, with a mix of disco, pop, rap, and singer-songwriter genres, he refuses to be classified.
Watch Shamir on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert
Shamir, if he must be labeled as anything, can be called honest. My personal favorite song of his to date is a candid anthem entitled “Straight Boy”. It begins : “can someone tell me why/I always seem to let these/Straight boys ruin my life?”. It is an anthem for disenfranchised queer youth, tired of constantly being harassed by straight men, while all the time realizing that they are simply insecure with themselves. In recent years, with artists becoming more and more bold about their queerness (Troye Sivan, Hayley Kiyoko, etc), room has been made in the industry for innovators like Shamir. Innovators who are unapologetic in their queerness, in their music, and in their fluidity.
Shamir is playing at Chop Suey, Tuesday, February 27. Tickets available here
SHELBY JOY LEONE | KXSU Music Reporter