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Album review: Shamir – Heterosexuality

Prolific Nevada avant-garde artist Shamir Bailey knows that the best pop may be delivered with a strut and sparkles, but it’s even more exquisite when it juxtaposes melancholy with majesty.

As it is with Heterosexuality, the boldly titled seventh album. From the crunchy beats of opener ‘Gay Agenda’ where the nonbinary artist asks not to be labelled, to gorgeous, twangy noir ballad ‘Reproductive’ that really showcases his soulful countertenor vocals, Heterosexuality is pop that defies reductive genres, fitting the avantpop sensibility in lieu of something more accurate. That voice, as with the best singers, is a gloriously expressive and elastic instrument.

It’s an unflinching thing, this album. It stares back, but is subtly confrontational. In the swooping cinematic track ‘Cisgender’, Shamir declares in falsetto: ‘I don’t want to be a girl, I don’t want be be a man’, a simple riposte to anyone asking him to pick a side in order to make them ‘comfortable’. But it’s ‘Abomination’ that most resembles his earliest work, distorted hip hop reclaiming slurs while denouncing the rise of the right-wing ideologies in contemporary America.

This is pop turbocharged with emotion, intelligence. Whatever your pronoun or preference, it’s an immense statement of intent. On the strength of this, it seems that Shamir won’t be pop’s best-kept secret for much longer. A future Björk collaboration surely awaits.

Heterosexuality is out now on AntiFragile Music

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