Shamir confronts appropriation of queer identity in the softly anthemic ballad, “Straight Boy”

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Shamir | photo by Jason MacDonald | courtesy of artist

Shamir is not one for subtlety. Whether it be through his avant garde disco-pop introduction via 2015’s Ratchet, or the more subdued lo-fi tracks from his upcoming album, Revelations, Shamir remains as refreshingly blunt and expressive as ever.

While flashing a sarcastic, cheeky grin toward older generations in the floaty, dial-up nostalgia of “90’s Kids,” Shamir’s latest track, “Straight Boy,” is even more direct as it strips away any traces of an ironic veneer.

In the song, a faraway, makeshift drumbeat echoes in pace as a soft, anthemic electric guitar enters — blaring off in the distance to create a melancholy yet powerful tone that tugs on the freeing feeling of a climactic and introspective coming-of-age indie film moment. Paired with the minimalist (though symbolically-packed) visual cues of the video, it’s Shamir’s lyrics that stand bold and bright in “Straight Boy.”

In a statement with NPR Music, Shamir shares the song’s meaning of addressing “queer-baiting and white-washing” and the way that straight, white men abuse queer identity as an aesthetic choice which can be cavalierly throw on or off.

Switching from speaking to a general audience with the lines, “Cause being true is not their thing / but it eats them up internally / so they take it out on people like me,” Shamir also confronts the straight boys directly with sincerely biting lines like, “don’t tell me you don’t see the pool of contradiction.”

Shamir offers further meaning of “Straight Boy” with NPR, stating that the song / video “unequivocally depicts the process of whitewashing and the repudiation of the queer and people of color who pioneered.” This intention manifests itself in the video as Shamir falters in and out of focus while a white man dressed in the same clothes persistently floats to the forefront; ultimately taking Shamir’s place in the end.

Revelations will be available on November 3rd on Father/Daughter Records. After that, don’t miss Shamir at First Unitarian Church on December 16th with support from Partner. Find info on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar, and listen to “Straight Boy” below.

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