Shamir Bailey is a singer songwriter hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada. In June 2014, Shamir released his EP Northtown. Shamir might be one of the most unique and interesting acts I’ve listened to in the past while. Shamir is a suburban kid who’s take on urban disco and house makes for a unique experience; and has made quite an impression on music writers across the online community, from NME to Pitchfork. His debut Northtown is an eclectic mix of tracks which demonstrate the artists array of influences. His debut single If It Wasn’t True is a funky house infused track which is led along by the singer’s androgynous and naïve vocal style. Shamir is not your run of the mill singer. His vocal delivery blurs that of gender but is very self assured and convincing. If It Wasn’t True is a track which harks back to the days of 80s Prince, Michael Jackson and Grace Jones.
Shamir’s influences include Janis Joplin, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday as well as that of Outkast and Groove Theory. He was inspired into pursuing a career in the music industry by an aunt. According to an interview with Pitchfork, Shamir says he learned guitar from Guitar For Dummies bought for him by his mother at age 9. At the age of 16, Shamir formed a punk rock band with a friend which was a short lived endeavour due to a member suffering from stage fright. The EP’s cool and almost retro disco/house sound is something that immediately draws in on first listen. Shamir cites Nina Simone as somewhat of a reference or influence on his androgynous vocal style. The artist admits in Pitchfork that gaining control over his unique voice was a challenge, but has since embraced his own unique style.
Sometimes A Man and If It Wasn’t True are contemporary disco stompers. The tracks are laden in zapping synths and a pulsating beat led by the slinky vocals of Shamir. The lyrical themes are that of frustration in love and trust. In Sometimes A Man Shamir sings in a nonchalant and cynical fashion that “Sometimes a man ain’t what he says he is”. The penultimate track I’ll Never Be Able To Love is a ballad which leads the mind back to the days of Michael Jackson’s Ben. The song is somewhat of a contemporary disco power ballad which almost reminds me of a Berlin song. The song is also laden with a cracking synth breakdown like the previous.
The last track is an acoustic guitar driven track entitled Lived and Died Alone which is a cover of a song by Canadian country singer Lindi Ortega. The track stands out as not being as slickly produced as the tracks that have gone before. The down tempo and stripped down nature of this track suit the style and showcase the sweet and gentle side of Shamir’s vocal style. The lack of slick production also adds a haunting quality to the track. The lyrical theme deal with the pain of loneliness and isolation and acts somewhat as a prayer for those who have yet to experience the love that they crave in life but haven’t received. Shamir captures the ambience beautifully. The naivety and simplicity of the track is certainly endearing as an end to the E.P.
Shamir Bailey or just Shamir is an example of fascinating raw talent that certainly deserves attention. At 19 years old, he has already honed quite a unique and contemporary sound which I am sure will garner much attention in the coming months. Shamir displays a rare maturity and wisdom beyond his years which is evident in listening to his debut E.P.
The E.P Northtown was released on June 11th off GODMODE records. It is also available to stream on Spotify and Soundcloud. It was produced by Nick Sylvester.