Shamir Bailey, professionally known simply as Shamir.EXPAND
Shamir Bailey, professionally known simply as Shamir.
Jason MacDonald

Shamir Will Always Be One of a Kind

Everything that makes Shamir a fascinating artist was on full display Monday night at the Gothic Theatre: his talent, vision and one-of-a-kind voice — all used to deliver a pinpoint perspective on life's struggles in 2018.

Shamir didn't lean on hit songs off his wildly popular 2015 album, Ratchet. Instead he and his two bandmates rocked through his new record, Resolution, and a handful of older songs while warming the crowd up for Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Despite never venturing into the happier electronic sounds of his early career, Shamir earned the crowd's trust by the end of the first song merely by being himself.

As he discussed his songs about police brutality and depression, frustrations with insecure straight boys, and even the feeling that he is "bro-famous," Shamir dictated the direction of the show and politely asked the crowd to follow him into deeper places than teenage idleness and puking up alcohol. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

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Between playfully joking that his music was the inverse of queer people loving straight pop artists, asking all straight men to raise their hands in attendance as if to take inventory, and mixing in jokes about giving up the famed pop lifestyle, Shamir was comfortable mixing vulnerability with humor and acknowledging that, yes, his sound has changed.

Even if he no longer seems interested in being a star, Shamir has no problem flashing the personality that once made critics predict he would be a future pop icon. Still, with the set list entirely comprising the lo-fi political rock of Resolution, Revelations and the Room, the show never took on the vibe of a drug-fueled dance party that his old music inspired. Instead, the interaction between band and listeners was mostly earnest, a rock show with big ideas to parse along the way.

As a non-binary black artist navigating mental health issues who has repeatedly seen young black men around his age killed by police, Shamir has always represented a group of people few others could. It's more than reasonable for his fans to evolve to his new sound if they want to keep up.

Shamir has found a different musical plane to inhabit for the better. By starting out as a pop artist and slowly working his way over to the edges of grunge and lo-fi political rock, he has found his footing in an environment calling for authenticity now more than ever.

“I’ll take straight money any goddamn day,” he proclaimed to the delight of everyone in the building on Monday night. While this may be true, Shamir has his sights set on something bigger than just earning cash.

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