Shamir Ratchet XL Recordings
“Introvert was my name, but for some reason everyone liked me, and I just couldn’t handle the attention I gained.” So sung a prescient Shamir Bailey on his 2014 EP Northtown. The shy, retiring type who attracted thunderous applause with his evocative, house-infused love narratives on the EP is nowhere to be seen on Ratchet. “Extrovert is my name”, runs the subtext of this effervescent debut album. “Fuck emotional vulnerability, I’m getting massive now.”
In small doses, this new persona works a charm. On The Regular, the album’s fizzy forerunning single, is a winking assertion of unabashedly femme power, on which he revels in the dextrous, androgynous vocal that attracted so much attention in the first place. Think GFOTY’s Friday Night with a couple fewer layers of irony.
But the schtick begins to sag when stretched thinly over a number of other sizzling, anthemic efforts such as Call It Off and Make A Scene. The Catherine Wheel synths and buoyant cowbell are exciting elements, but they’re neutered by predictable song structure and a failure to fully embrace the throwback house influences that once garnered praise. Where the album does deviate from neon-lit pop bangers, the emotion feels tokenistic, cordoned off to the designated sad songs where crooning and slowed pace substitute the nuanced emotional investment glimpsed fleetingly in his earlier, more daring work.
Still, it’s refreshing to see Shamir’s gender-fluid persona shine proudly. Closer Head In The Clouds acts as a festival-ready victory lap to spite any potential haters who might want to drag him down from having the time of his life. The album should please crowds and ensure sustained interest in the Vegas native for a while yet, but it’s just a shame it fell foul of a strange paradox: he seemed braver as an introvert than he does as a diva.