By: Derek Jung
Imagine a scene from a typical 80's movie, with opening credits over a red convertible driving through the desert at night , faint lights of a city flickering in the distance. The driver, dressed in a leather jacket, puffs on a cigarette and smirks as the camera pans out and the location becomes clear. This is Las Vegas, and the driver knows that he's in for a hell of a night. This was the image that swirled around my mind during the seductive opener to the album, "Vegas". Shamir, moniker of singer-songwriter Shamir Bailey, softly sings "We're sinners alright, at least at night" in his distinctively high-pitched voice. He may be young, but since Las Vegas is his hometown, he's experienced much of what Sin City has to offer and projects this sensuality throughout Ratchet. "Vegas" is our silence before the storm.
Shamir's dance-pop roots, while not as apparent on "Vegas", come in full view on the next three tracks, "Make A Scene", "On The Regular", and "Call It Off". These songs are meant for the dance floor, and Shamir is in prime form on these songs. With deep, robotic and catchy beat, "Make a Scene" encourages us to do just that, before launching into an amazingly danceable synth beat break. "On The Regular" showcases his rapping, stating defiantly that "Haters get the bird, more like an eagle./This is my movie, stay tuned for the sequel". I love the clinking cowbell that surrounds this track and the house beat that drives this single. It helps the song through powerful movements and ups the intensity of the lyricism of the raps, which is fluid but never really varies in tone. This is easily one of the catchiest songs of the year so far, and it was an easy choice in my Best of 2015 So Far list. The next track, "Call It Off", is a break-up song, but one that is excited to be free to party again. Shamir exclaims that he "just can't make a THOT a wife/No more basic ratchet guys" before belting out a disco-esque refrain of "It's time...to call it off".
These three songs, each one clocking in at less than 3 minutes, are definitely the highlight of the album, and if you're looking for the remaining 6 songs to be dance anthems like these singles, you're in for a disappointing listen. Yes, they have similar dance beats and catchy refrains, but they come no where near where the above three songs reach. "Demon" is a swing and a miss of a pop song, sounding like something your standard radio pop star would try to do, in a bad way, despite being pretty deep and vulnerable lyrically. "Darker" is a beautiful ballad that really highlights Shamir's vocals and showcases the vulnerability that was missed on "Demon". If this is what he sounds like toned down and soulful, I want to hear more.
Overall, this is a pretty solid full length debut that pushes the dance-pop vibe into new territory, flashes brilliance, and never lacks the flamboyant confidence or in-your-face attitude that we've come to know from Shamir. I think it's safe to say that the phrase "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" does not apply for Shamir; he's destined for bigger things...on his own terms.
My Number: 7/10
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.