I love how perfectly straightforward and yet all-encompassing Shamir‘s Bandcamp bio is: “Shamir is Shamir and remains Shamir through and through, no matter what the universe puts him through.”
It’s poetic, its reflective of the exercise in futility that is categorizing his music via pigeonhole, it nods to the more somber and serious roads his songs occasionally travel. But it also radiates with hope and love and self-assurance, traits that were very much on display this week when the Vegas-born, Philly-based artist recorded a solo Key Studio Sessions set at WXPN studios, ahead of his appearance at Philly Music Fest.
For the uninitiated: Shamir Bailey broke out of the blog-fueled buzzing post-millennial indie scene, first in a band called Anorexia, and then as a solo artist with the 2015 album Ratchet and its hyper house hit “On The Regular,” a magnificent showcase of Shamir’s breathtaking soprano vocal skill and knack for banging beats. The staggering viral success of the song, contrasted with it only being a sliver of Shamir’s musical ambitions and interests, lent an apropos name to the record label he later launched — Accidental Popstar — and fueled his subsequent career path where he’s done everything else but deliver another “On The Regular”…and rightly so.
A half dozen subsequent albums have explored pop-punk, country, and anthemic modern rock. It’s been a wild and unpredictable ride, but his most recent releases — 2020’s Shamir and 2022’s Heterosexuality — have found Shamir’s eclectic style coming into tighter and brighter focus moreso then ever. Both albums are highly introspective, touching on love and companionship, on the fluidity of gender and frustration with a society that can’t wrap their heads around it, on family ties and finding moments of joy in a cold world.
In this intimate studio session, Shamir delivers a leveling performance of “Cisgender” — one of XPN’s favorite songs of 2021 — grooves to the synthpop gem “Caught Up,” and hauntingly accompanies himself on electric guitar for one of Heterosexuality‘s most vulnerable moments, “Father.” Watch below, read more about Shamir in his interview with our Sean Fennell from earlier this year, and see Shamir’s next Philly gig this Friday, October 14th, when he headlines night five of Philly Music Fest at The Dolphin with Echo Kid; tickets and more information can be found at WXPN’s Concerts and Events page.