Shamir believes in reincarnation, in breaking generational curses, in sharpening the knife in the hopes that next time he won’t bleed. Death and life, the weight of existing in the world, love, queerness: it’s all tied up together in his latest album Heterosexuality, which explores the confines of trauma, the over-explanation of queerness to queer people, and the boxes that Shamir won’t be placed in as a Black queer artist and creative.
“I believe that, like, we have to actually work through these things in this life so that hopefully in the next life, it will be easier,” Shamir tells Teen Vogue. “That’s what I hope for myself, I don’t know if it’s true, what do I know? The thought of hopefully it will pay off in another life brings me solace.”
Heterosexuality is an exercise in working through it. The 27-year-old Philadelphia singer and songwriter readily takes on the challenges of life under the expectations we put on each other. The album can be seen through a lens of gender and sexuality, sure, but it ultimately comes down to rules and boxes and owning your individual identity despite them. Below, Shamir talked to Teen Vogue following the release of Heterosexuality about songwriting, the gay agenda, and his journeys through purgatory.
Teen Vogue: You said this was your favorite record. What makes this a standout? Because I know for me, it’s like, I was like mouth dropped, dancing, screaming, crying all of the emotions to every single song.
Shamir: Yeah, it’s my most personal, I think I delve deeper as a songwriter than I ever have, which I didn’t know was possible, but I did on this record. Because, like, I have so much confidence in Hollow Comet’s production and knew that whatever he did to my song he would do it justice. So I felt like I owed it not only to me but also to the project and to him to dig deeper for the songs.
TV: What song on the album took the longest to write, and which one came the most natural or flowed out of you?
Shamir: I will say the one that sounds the most similar from when I first demoed it to now is probably “Reproductive.” I wrote them all pretty fast, but I would say the one that kind of took the longest to like nail down was actually “Cisgender,” because it started off more dancey, but that just wasn’t working and it had different chords that weren’t working as well. So I changed the chords with the same melody, but I changed the chords. We decided to go a more metal route and that proved to be the right move.
TV: In a 2015 Teen Vogue interview, you talked about songwriting, and how you obtained your musical appetite from your aunt, and how she was one of the only ones you could write songs with. Making music always felt like your sixth sense. Did you ask your aunt about any of this music before sharing it with the world, and how does songwriting feel now seven years later? Does it still feel like a sixth sense, does it still feel more euphoric, or kind of more natural now?