I will not tell a lie: I didn’t really see myself clicking on the link to Shamir’s cover of Hungry Like the Wolf. I am really unfair and most definitely NOT impartial that way. Most readers know that it is not my favorite Duran Duran song, and the last thing I need is to hear a cover of it. By anyone. Ever.
At least, those are the things I was telling myself yesterday morning as I wrote. I found (and chuckled) at the irony of Shamir opening for Duran Duran later in the spring for a handful of US dates. (Eight, to be exact. I said seven yesterday, and this is because I cannot seem to count properly. My apologies) After all, why wouldn’t Duran Duran choose an artist who has covered Hungry Like the Wolf to come to open for shows in the US? The only thing that would have topped this announcement was to see that he was opening at shows I was actually planning to attend.
Even so, Duran Duran did their due diligence in retweeting any and articles where Shamir, his cover of Hungry Like the Wolf, and the dates he will be opening for Duran Duran, were discussed. With each tweet, my silent but steady insistence that I would not be listening seemed to diminish ever so slightly. Not only am I stupidly headstrong and a bit rash at times…I’m also pretty damn curious. I like knowing things. So I read a few of the articles, all of which came with glowing reviews of the cover. Hell, even Duran Duran themselves commented on his cover of Hungry Like the Wolf, saying it was “rad”…a word I haven’t actually heard used since the late 80s…oddly enough… and yet I didn’t cringe. In fact, the use of the word intrigued me even more. But then, life happened, as it usually does, and I didn’t have a chance to really think on it much more until this morning, when I succumbed to my curiosity.
I clicked the link to one of the articles, sat back in my chair, and sort of winced until I thought about the crows feet that were likely deepening with each second. Can’t have that. I thought to myself, better to just rip it off like a band-aide and get it over with. I mean, how bad can the song really be if everyone is saying it’s smooth and beautiful and even better than the original???
The song began…and at first I wasn’t sure it really was Hungry Like the Wolf. It was so different and the familiar drums along with the electric guitar riffs were missing in favor of a simple acoustic guitar. It isn’t as though Shamir took the song and stood it on its head….it’s more like he took the song, turned it inside out and then stretched it, leaving the listener hanging by threads and longing for more. The first verse is fairly one-dimensional and simple, which really works for a great opening. Then as the second verse begins, we’re treated to a deeper sound with far greater movement, as there is a second track of Shamir harmonizing. This really adds something special to the song. It’s still Hungry Like the Wolf; but instead of being that familiar pop, it’s almost, but not quite, a folk song. His voice is so unusual that one might not think it would lend itself to a song like this, but in some strange way, I think it works.
So then I decided to start digging. What else could I see and hear by this kid?? I might be late to the party, but I can catch up quick. YouTube gave me lots to choose from. I decided to click “On the Regular” next. I had no idea of what to expect, and I was DELIGHTED. First of all, many of you will be shocked to know it was rap. Not in a typical “hip hop” sort of way…but oddly it reminded me a lot of the music I might listen to back when I was a kid (we’re talking 1980s here)…or even, “The Bike Song” by Mark Ronson and the Business International. The video reminded a whole lot of the videos I’d watch on MTV, too. The song itself is colorful, fun and honest, and the video has the images to match…never mind that Shamir himself is positively darling (spoken & written like a true mom of three, right??) with just enough mischief going on behind those big brown eyes to let you know he’s not quite the innocent he might seem. I clicked on “Call it Off” next. He might be 21 and been born just after the fervor of Ordinary World…but his sound is a throwback to everything I love and miss about 1985. He mixes New Wave with the groove of Chic and throws in some rap for good measure…which I have to tell you, I really, really like. Moving on to “Darker“, I see a completely different side to Shamir. The song is gorgeous (the boy can sing), full of depth, soulful and honest. What I love best is that he is exactly what I wouldn’t expect. I am a woman on a mission at this point, so I click “In For the Kill” next. First thought: he’s in a damn spaceship (well, they call it a UFO…), not entirely unlike our own Mr. Rhodes. (I can’t help it. There is always a Duran reference to be made!!) Second thought: every song is a surprise and has a completely different sound and I love it. Third thought: even his videos are done like videos are meant. They’re entertaining, whimsical, and fun with just enough irony to make them interesting. This video has to be my favorite one yet. I love the premise of throwing cassette tapes of Ratchet down to the people below to get his music out there. Seriously, it’s really getting to that point where artists have to do something original to get their music noticed. Again, huge thumbs up from me. I’m running to iTunes as soon as I’m finished writing to download the entire album.
The bonus?? He shares my birthday! So while I was turning 24 (!!) and busily planning my wedding the following April – the world was preparing itself for Shamir. Huge thumbs up from me. I’m sure I’m not in his target demographic and nothing like what his label wants for fans, but he’s got me! I don’t know why he’s not all over the radio here in the US yet, but I look forward to seeing huge things from him in the years to come.