Shamir Bailey has undergone a bold reinvention. A sharp career pivot from the shimmery, disco-inflected, club-filtered and consistently excellent ‘Ratchet’, ‘Revelations’ is more in accordance with spring’s ‘Hope’, the Las Vegas artist integrating a taciturn sound this time round. Bearing no resemblance to his debut whatsoever, Shamir treads a new path characterised by deconstructed rock, punk and even country, genres that he relished growing up.
Following a series of personal and professional setbacks, namely his departure from XL Recordings, Shamir is in a combative mood. ‘Revelations’ serves as a sort of redemptive catharsis. On album opener ‘Games’, Bailey puts corporations on blast, a frank depiction of the power struggle between creative freedom and the seedier, profiteering side of music.
‘Revelations’, clocking in at just 30 minutes, is a fleeting, confection-hit of songs that tackle hefty identity issues. Just 23 years-old, Shamir sings with an emotional depth befitting someone way beyond his years, reclaiming his narrative in the process. Taking the reins on production and writing all his own songs, Bailey is able to foreground his expressions. That means doing away with the sheen. If there’s one thing you take away from the record, it’s that Bailey is a work in progress, and there is an unembellished charm to this lo-fi approach.
The songs are grainy and unrefined, vocals are unfiltered and often inharmonious, the chords are loose and screechy at times. It isn’t always an easy listen. Still, Bailey’s foray into a more grunge-induced sound does wield some stellar results, take the sanguine vibe of ‘You Have A Song’, stadium-sized drums and a fuzzy guitar strum evoking ‘80s high-school, misfit melodrama. And much of ‘Revelations’ works because of Shamir’s salient falsetto, heightening the performance aspect of his songs, Bailey able to extricate and communicate his innermost feelings in ways his contemporaries can’t manage. Borderline operatic, there is a compelling dissonance between the shrill Eartha Kitt-esque vocals, (which veers perilously close to a helium voice) and the passé production, like on the retro-infused ‘Float’, which features less incongruent noise and a prominent vocal. The grit and soulfulness in Bailey’s voice swelling a minimal number that hits home in its clever introspection.
‘Revelations’ serves as a precursor to the type of material Shamir will release in the future, an antithesis to the polished sounds that made up his debut. Shamir embraces the nonconformist tag, normalising it, and effectively doing away with mainstream structures, in exchange for autonomy. Shamir is a clever lyricist, his commentary often zeitgeisty and fun, yet also beleaguered. Take ‘Straight Boy’, which effectively dismisses asphyxiating heteronormative ideals: “I always seem to let the straight boys ruin my life”, recognising the vicious cycle of accountability. While Bailey’s true-to-self, organic approach on ‘Revelations’ should be celebrated, the record serves more as a transition than a defining peg in Bailey’s young career. Given his undeniable talents, he’ll find his pot of gold soon enough.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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