Shamir Credit: Courtesy the Artist

Shamir spent the first months of quarantine directing the video for “On My Own,” the first single from their new self-titled album, entirely within their Philadelphia home. Using wardrobe and hairstyle changes, the mononymous singer and multi-instrumentalist depicts themselves in various personas: a childlike figure surrounded by stuffed animals, a confident rocker swinging her hips behind a buttercup-yellow guitar. It’s a fitting visual for lyrics about finding solace in solitude as well as a reminder that, as an independent artist, he’s self-directing his career more than ever. The genre-shifting singer and Accidental Popstar label head (who once tweeted “although im non binary, i go by all 3 pronouns”) got his start in music as a precocious teenager crafting snappy synth-pop that showcased his distinctive countertenor singing voice. After Shamir went through a succession of labels and managers, independence gave him the flexibility to release albums on his terms; 2019’s Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw experiments with country music, while March’s surprise release Cataclysm shrouds Shamir’s poetic lyrics in a lo-fi shoegaze miasma. The new self-titled album returns to the digestible pop of Shamir’s early career, trading synths and shimmer for rhythmic guitars, well-structured songs, and straightforward vocals. Kyle Pulley, a producer who’s worked with indie bands such as Hop Along, Diet Cig, and Adult Mom, helped craft a deliberately approachable sound. With its uncharacteristically optimistic hook, “Let’s fuck around inside each other’s heads,” the nostalgic yet timeless “Pretty When I’m Sad” would sound equally at home in the background of a quirky 90s cult film or a Gen-Z romantic comedy. Even “Paranoia,” which details a downward mental health spiral dulled by mild substance abuse, strikes a faux-cheerful tone on the surface. Shamir is once again ready for the mainstream, at a time when the mainstream needs queer Black pop stars—accidental or not—more than ever.   v