Review + Interview: Shamir – ‘Heterosexuality’

Posted: by The Editor

If someone were to listen to Shamir for the first time, their initial takeaway would be that the Philadelphia-based artist writes with purpose. Creates art with purpose. In the oversaturated music market today, it’s harder to discover artists whose intent is to create music that not only feels deeply personal to them but holds meaning that rings beyond a song’s runtime. For over 8 album cycles, Shamir has steadily crafted records that connect as much to himself as they do to his audience. His debut record, Ratchet, revolved around ideas of youth while his next several albums delved into navigating the battles of mental health. His newest record, Heterosexuality, is the first time he is explicitly tackling his queerness head-on, creating an album that addresses important questions about identity and social norms all while evoking emotional intensity.

Heterosexuality is a project that feels as biting as it is freeing. One can feel the bouts of rage and liberation that envelopes the record through a kaleidoscope soundscape of indie-rock, fuzzy dream pop, and smooth R&B. On “Gay Agenda” and “Cisgender,” he resists the years filled with questions about his sexuality and gender by defiantly refusing to categorize himself to fit into a box that society feels comfortable with. “I’m not cisgender, I’m not binary, trans / I don’t wanna be a girl, I don’t wanna be a man / I’m just existing on this God-forsaken land,” he sings on “Cisgender” overtop a pulsating base before building to a feverish high of gnarly guitars, splitting percussion, and distorted beats all while his smooth falsetto ties it together. The unapologetic “Abomination” continues this spirit. It has Shamir rapping for the first time in years, bringing wicked energy and direct confrontation to a track critiquing social politics and capitalism. Elsewhere, “Cold Brew” is poignantly barbed as he unpacks his traumas with lyrics of desolation before bleeding into the much brighter and groovier “Marriage.” Being situated right after “Cold Brew,” the sunny track’s proclamation of self-love and shift in tone illustrates the dichotomy of emotions that occur on one’s journey to feeling whole.

Shamir’s Heterosexuality is his best work to date. His ability to blend genres together to produce such a sublime sonic landscape is a stunning display of his talents. It’s obvious by the record’s end that every aspect of the album was deliberately planned out, creating a transcendent exploration of identity and queerness through deconstructing social norms while also being acutely aware of the trauma associated with it. Heterosexuality is an important moment in Shamir’s career, and it deserves to be praised for exactly what it is and exactly what anyone takes away from it.

I got the opportunity to chat with Shamir last month and discuss Heterosexuality in more detail below:

Heterosexuality is your 8th record. How does it feel being only 26 and having so many records under your belt already? What emotions are you experiencing as you release Heterosexuality

Well, I turned 27 mid cycle and I feel I’ve settled into that age pretty well so far. I feel happy because I can say album number 8 is my best to date! 

Your music has always focused on very personal and intimate journeys with past records touching on youth and mental health. With this record you decided to tackle your queerness directly for the first time. What were the steps that led to you creating an album that predominantly revolved around this part of you? 

Honestly, midnight mini spirals and feeling unrepresented in a completely new way as queerness becomes less taboo. And obviously that’s great but I feel like instead of inciting more change and equality, we kinda just got corporate pride and rainbow capitalism.

The record sees you firmly refusing to label yourself or be categorized in society’s boxes of identity which bleeds into the cover of the record of you dressed similarly to an androgynous, Luciferian creature. How did the idea of this creature materialize through the record’s process?

I often feel subhuman when I’m being perceived by other people. I feel like the cover represents that.

The song “Abomination” is one that sits with you long after it’s over. It’s a dark yet powerful statement about capitalism and social politics, and it features you rapping which you haven’t used on a track in a long time. How did it make you feel to wade into it again for this record?

“Abomination” is a political song with a clear statement, and it just felt daft to sing something so heavy, so I thought it was best to rap it. I think the beautiful thing about rap and his hop is that its origins are social critiquing.

The more I listen to Heterosexuality, the more I begin to see the world created around it. As the tracks flow, you’re pulled into this familiar universe of Heterosexuality and the refusal to accept it for what it is. Was this world-like idea always part of the record or did it form during the record’s creation?

I think that’s honestly due to Hollow Comet’s production; I think his production lives in a world of its own and my songs writes the laws.

How was it working with Hollow Comet on this record? What was your favorite part of the process working with him? 

It was very easy working with him, we were really riding the same wave the entire time. My favorite part was just writing the songs and sending it to him to do his thing around whatever stems I sent him. That’s how we wrote the album.

There are so many different influences heard throughout the album from Nine Inch Nails to Bjork to Prince. How do you feel about the ever-evolving genre blending that’s happening in the industry? Why do you think it’s important not only for your craft but for music as a whole?

I think genre blending is something that’s always been so innate to me so to see that slowly turn into the norm feels so validating and I think makes the most sense because people’s music consumption is extremely varied now due to streaming.

What do you want listeners to take away from Heterosexuality

Whatever they need to take from it.

One of your favorite guilty pleasure artists?

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures! But, I don’t think people realize I’m an absolute Pink stan.

Album rating: Disappointing / Average / Good / Great/ Phenomenal

Hope Ankney | @Hope_ankleknee

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