Shamir Credit: Jason MacDonald

Shamir rose to the spotlight with the release of his 2014 song “On the Regular,” but though the dancy, cleanly produced music made the singer-songwriter what he calls an “accidental pop star,” it pigeonholed him into a stylistic box that proved detrimental to his creativity. With the popularity of that single and his 2015 debut album, Ratchet (XL), Shamir found himself facing a question that plagues many rising artists after their first brushes with success: How can you change up your sound when doing so goes against the expectations of your label and audience as well as mainstream trends? All that pressure led him to consider quitting music and triggered a struggle with mental illness (he’s since become open about being diagnosed bipolar disorder, to help destigmatize mental health conditions). But with 2017’s Hope and Revelations and this past year’s Resolution, Shamir seems to have found the creative freedom he longed for. On the new record in particular, he’s incorporated more rock instrumentation than pop, and his emotional songs show his considerable growth as a songwriter. On “Panic,” his distinct countertenor voice floats over crunchy, dirty guitars as he sings, “I thought that I would fall apart / I thought there was something wrong with my heart.” His vocal style meshes at least as well with his more recent rock sound as it did with his early, dancier tunes. (And why wouldn’t it?). If Shamir’s past couple years are any indication of his ambition and talent, even he might not know what his future music will be like—other than sincere and pure.   v