Shamir Serves Up Sass and Style on Disco-Inspired Debut ‘Ratchet’: Album Review

Shamir
Pop
4

It's not just Shamir Bailey's curiosity that makes him special. This is 2015: Shame on any young artist who doesn't love Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson and '80s noise rockers Scratch Acid -- all of whom this 20-year-old Las Vegas native references on his debut LP, Ratchet. Evolution will silence all but the omnivores, and Shamir has the right taste buds. But he also has a great voice, a stunning countertenor that some have mistaken for female.

Shamir Bailey Live

Indeed, Shamir makes a killer disco-house diva, and on "Call It Off" and "Head in the Clouds," he takes to the dancefloor to declare independence. He's often irreverent -- see his mall-rat raps on "On the Regular" -- but can go deep when he wants to. There's a Tracy Chapman ache to slow jam "Demon," and "Make a Scene" cribs LCD Soundsystem's old-dude disco hedonism amid defeat: "We've given up on all our dreams." It's hard to tell when he's joking, but impossible not to take him seriously.

This story originally appeared in the May 23 issue of Billboard