Don’t underestimate North Las Vegas—especially its musicians. It brought us former R&B radio act 702, Madonna/Diplo-collaborators Shelco Garcia & Teenwolf and now Shamir Bailey, arguably this year’s hottest new artist. The 20-year-old singer and former member of local lo-fi pop duo Anorexia has recently been interviewed by The New York Times, The New Yorker and New York magazine—to say nothing of Pitchfork, the Guardian and the hundreds of blogs that have been praising him since last year’s Northtown EP.
Bailey is a scribe’s golden goose, with his sudden rise, post-SXSW buzz, singular look, quotable wit, nonspecific gender expression and sexuality—and, oh yeah, talent. Despite his prepubescent-sounding voice, he comes of age on Ratchet, a knockout first full-length that blurs more lines than the singer himself. Part electro-pop fantasia, part Chicago house update, part Topshop R&B playlist, Ratchet is the inspired work of Bailey and producer/manager Nick Sylvester, the latter clearly empowering the former.
On the defiantly sassy “On the Regular,” Bailey recalls the assertive delivery and wordplay of M.I.A.—and musters up some Northtown chutzpah—when he quips, “Don’t try me, I’m not a free sample/Step to me and you’ll be handled.” On “Call It Off,” his dismissive, disaffected air is complemented by a looping, flamboyant bassline and squirrely synth. And the pulsating, deep-grooved “Head in the Clouds” boasts such steady dancefloor reverie, it’s as if Bailey and Sylvester channeled house-music pioneer Jesse Saunders—who, by the way, has a North Las Vegas residence. Let’s hope Bailey keeps his, too