Shamir's creating 'outsider pop' for the people who need it — and himself

Jessi Roti, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Folks are asking, "What happened to Shamir?"

The singer-songwriter burst onto the scene in 2015 with a dance-heavy debut LP, "Ratchet" -- becoming an accidental pop star with a fiery punk spirit -- an acclaimed, loud and proud gender nonbinary figure that always appeared to be down for a good time.

He played Pitchfork Music Festival twice, back to back, and his single, "On the Regular" gained national attention after being picked up in commercials for companies like Old Navy.

If you ask Shamir what happened, he'll tell you.

"I felt like I was playing a character or a weird version of myself. I wasn't allowed to be multifaceted; I had to be this one entity," he said over the phone while prepping for his tour in support of new album "Revelations" -- a stark departure from the dance hall beats and snappy drum machines he became synonymous with.

"It felt more like an experiment rather than a representation of me as an artist."


"Revelations" (released in November) is a collection of self-produced, low-fi, alternative "outsider pop" tracks -- on which he plays every instrument -- that deal with coping, processing and healing; songs that flowed out of the singer after he almost quit music for good earlier this year.

Seven months prior to "Revelations," he self-released the album, "Hope" on SoundCloud, writing that he had started to hate music because of the polish and presentation he was aligned with; and praise that was more about the quality sleekness of the art rather than the art itself.

"Hope" prepped fans for the more DIY rockiness -- and attention to what Shamir has to say -- and was called a "return to form" by close friends who knew the singer before the blow-up.

"It's not pandering to an audience," he continued. "With 'Ratchet,' it got a decent amount of audience and most people, when they do their follow-ups these days, they examine their audience and make music for them. I'm doing the exact opposite. This is for me; what feels like me and describes who I am in my life."


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