Shamir: Ratchet | Album Review

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Artist: Shamir
Genre: Pop
Label: XL

Let’s hear it for the boy. Shamir Bailey hails from Las Vegas and his debut album arrives attached with the usual flags and bunting we now associate with a next big thing on the rise, from a BBC Sound of 2015 shortlist credit to a tastemaker label like XL in his corner.

But while all that promotional preamble and palaver makes you aware that Bailey has successfully passed some class of filtering process, it doesn’t quite tell the full story. Indeed, it doesn’t prepare you in any way, shape or form for the spirited, dashing, dazzling, decadent, devil-may-care buzz of the music which the youngster produces.

This is pop writ large, a colourful galaxy of riveting, bodacious, cheeky, bright-as-a-button tunes all bedecked in next season’s sonic finery. It also has more charisma and personality going a-begging than any of his native city’s more gaudy and questionable attractions. Pop used to always be capable of such colourful gestures, but few besides Bailey seemed to have copped to the joys of such an approach.

The glory of Ratchet lies in the fact that it's an album made by a talented young buck who is already leaps and jumps ahead of where everyone is landing. What's the point in working to the script if you know your way to a better one?


With this in mind, Bailey shovels styles and sounds around with abandon, switching course throughout between dirty, Prince-friendly funk, jack-your-body house, bubblegum r’n’b, skyscraping indiepop and the sort of bouncy rollerskate disco which is usually the sole preserve of nostalgists.

That he can map all of this line-blurring and genre-shuffling to a fine display of tunes is the key detail in Ratchet's success as an album. Be it the smartly realised lyrical punch of On the Regular or the playful shuffle of In For the Kill, Bailey tells the story of his life and surroundings with style, substance and a whole lot of pizzazz. Pop's pleasure principle in full effect.