We often describe quality pop and songwriting as effortless, as easy. But what about when it’s awkward, uncomfortable? Aren’t those the moments that describe longing?
When Shamir Bailey says he recorded his album to four track, the first thing I’m obligated to consider is, of course – he might be lying. And ground hum and hiss shouldn’t be accepted as any form of authenticity any more than should an Instagram filter.
But there’s no question artists today bear some burden of the polished album, whether in the form of the tools we use and their opportunities for endless obsessive adjustment, or the legacy of records past. And while I think we have to be at least a little suspicious of the superficial artifacts of immediacy, I think we can accept the music as evidence.
“Hope’s” songs themselves feel like they were recorded over a weekend. Forget the technology for a moment (yes, even on this tech-oriented site) – these songs sound like demos.
And they have an aching, earnest quality to them – every single one. If it was a four track involved, or whatever, it has that impression of an idea fresh in the mind and soul, before some of the original idea is eroded in the arrangement process. If this is an act, it’s a beautiful one. The emotions are real, if performed, and that’s surely what we ask of pop music.
Here’s Shamir’s statement, as background:
I was gonna quit music this weekend. From day 1 it was clear i was an accidental pop star. I loved the idea of it, i mean who doesn’t? Still the wear of staying polished with how im presented and how my music was presented took a huge toll on me mentally. I started to hate music, the thing i loved the most! When i would listen to immaculate recordings with my friends their praise over the quality of the art as opposed to the art itself made me feel really sad for music as a medium in general. My music only feels exciting for me if its in the moment, and thats what this album is. I made this album this past weekend stuck in my room with just a 4 track feeling hopeless about my love for music. Im not gonna lie, this album is hard to listen to, but it was even harder for me to share. I love pop music, i love outsider music, and i love lofi music, this is my way of combining all 3. Anyway I played, wrote, produced, and mixed everything and big thanks to Kieran Ferris for Mastering an album with an hours notice! its free! Enjoy! Love Yall! Still more 2 come!!!!!!!
Like A Bird
One More Time Won’t Kill You
I Fucking Hate You
Rain (Blake Babies Cover)
Bleed It Out
So enough complaining, music lovers and music journos. You wanted real talent, raw and inarguable? Here it is.
Here’s a voice with the acrobatic gender-warping qualities of a Michael Jackson or Prince, but sounding like it speaks for the Millennial epoch (without any of those stupid whoops, but in tune with the zeitgeist).
Shamir Bailey is open about being “genderqueer,” though in doing so he finally gives word to the beautiful quality of singing in general – its ability to play with gender. It’s refreshing that he can identify in this way as well as convince us with his singing that his vocal cords aren’t bound by gender. And it’s about time artists can identify outside gender, vocally if they so choose. (We have a special obligation in electronic music to do better, because we have a sad legacy of decades of one of our most influential artists, Wendy Carlos, being mistreated by the press.) A suburban Las Vegas kid gone to New York, he’s already found pop stardom. But this to me is authentic, unfiltered self-expression. Songs can’t lie.
Go deeper into the record, and tracks cut off, vocals push out of tune, drums get violently behind – you feel desperation. This to me is punk aesthetics at the moment punk aesthetics tend to feel like pastiche. Emotional urgency is back. (I also think there’s no reason someone couldn’t do the same thing with electronics, if the feeling is still raw.)
And to anyone who says music is too easy to make and too easy to share, well, then here’s the answer. Find something to say, and find your voice.
It’s music good enough to wade through the obnoxious process of trying to download it from MediaFire.
And it makes me want to mess about with this multi-track tape machine and make something – because, really, why not?
Follow Shamir on Facebook, where his auto-assigned user ID has become like a social media badge of honor, digital native style: