But the thing that fans immediately noticed about his new song was its sound — the catchy, indie-pop vibe, mixed with clever songwriting and some grungy production, made Shamir sound almost as pop-focused as his entrance to the music industry was with his breakthrough 2014 single "On the Regular."
As it turns out, that reaction was intended — with his new song and an impending independently released album, Shamir says he's purposefully making music that's more "accessible" than the rest of his indie work. "I could have done this much earlier," he tells Billboard of his turn back towards pop. "I think I just wanted to get a lot of experimentation out there, and get sturdy in my artistry before I started to do anything more mainstream."
There is a certain confidence in Shamir's voice as he speaks about this new phase of his career. After seeing breakthrough success with mainstream pop music, and subsequently stepping away from that process to focus on a more DIY approach, Shamir sounds as though he has achieved a balance that he's long been striving for.
"Pop music is very easy for me," he says with a laugh. "This record was relatively easier than even something like Ratchet, to be honest."
It was Ratchet that put Shamir's name on the map — his debut project, released in May 2015, received critical acclaim, landing on multiple year-end lists at magazines like Rolling Stone and NME. Shamir was the name on everyone's lips, as the world was just waiting to hear what would come next.
But for Shamir, Ratchet was the beginning of a fraught relationship between himself and his label, XL Recordings. After the success of Ratchet, Shamir was delighted that the public response to a black, queer, non-binary pop artist was so positive, but he wanted to move in a different direction. XL disagreed, urging him to stay with the pop sound that had earned him so much praise. When they couldn't come to an agreement about his path moving forward, XL decided to drop Shamir in 2017, bringing his burgeoning career to a seeming standstill.