By Yaa Kankam-Nantwi, Jordan Rosenthal-Kay, and Chelsea Wang
There’s been an undeniable uptick in the inclusivity of mainstream pop music in the last few years. Notably, queer artists are beginning to gain ground with their hetero peers not just for being queer. Buzzfeed has been on fire recently with articles trying to juggle Halsey’s biracial, bisexual identity with her fame and music. However, while Halsey has emerged as a queer artist making pop music, Shura has emerged as an artist at the forefront of the burgeoning Queer Pop genre. Her music blends the synth-heavy music of the queer underground (see: Perfume Genius, Shamir, and Hayley Kiyoko) with songwriting that clearly appreciates both historic and contemporary pop music.”White Light,” a 10 minute track that helps close Nothing’s Real, is fully equipped with a bouncing beat and hook. It sounds like an 80s deep cut, but it slowly deconstructs itself, extending its bridge so that its whirling synths sound cinematic. The track ends as a light piano ballad with vocoder. Nothing’s Real presents a queer romantic narrative without heavy obscurity. On “2Shy,” she sings about her diffidence in approaching another woman, trying to recreate her image to give her confidence. Shura opens the song with, “I turned up with my cap on back to front / Trying to be someone I saw on TV once,” ultimately building to a moment where she offers, “Let’s go find a corner we can sit in / And talk about that film instead of us / Even though throughout it I was thinking / I was gonna say I love you afterwards.” Shura’s Nothing’s Real effortlessly displays iconic queer moments of discovering one’s gender fluidity and having feelings of unrequited love for a friend.
After having released her debut album, Nothing’s Real, in July (much to the benefit of our summer soundtracks) British musician Shura took to Boston on September 6th for a show at Great Scott. The show began with opener, YEYƎY. Ben Shepard, a Salt Lake City native, aptly self-describes his music as ‘nostalgic psych pop’ and ‘cartoon car tunes’. Accompanied by trippy visuals that blended colors and animation together, Shepard set the vibe for his synth-heavy yet sobering ‘cartoon car tunes’.
About half an hour in, Shura took to the stage. Without acknowledging the forty something people in her audience, she started her set. Shura barely spoke for the first half of her set, but on enough, the ‘2Shy’ side of her dissipated in between songs as she expressed her excitement and gratitude to the show of support for Nothing’s Real.
“What’s the equivalent here in Boston of the Tube in London?” Shura asks the crowd.
“The T!” a few people shout.
“Okay, like ‘tea’?” She smiles at the audience, and people giggle along, “yeah!”
“Okay, well this next song is about being on the last train of the Tube, or for you guys the T, after being dumped by your girlfriend,” she says before she plays “Make It Up.” The crowd cheers in support, like fuck yeah we’re crying on the T all the time.
Before her debut album, the only thing the world had heard from Shura was a feature in Mura Masa’s “Love For That.” During her set, with a drink in hand, she yelled sharp Ay!’s in sync with her percussion-heavy songs; watching Shura perform felt intimate. Like a shroud of obscurity around her lifted as she bantered with the crowd about ex-girlfriends and being uncomfortable when meeting new people. The set brought Shura out of the clean-cut synth songs and the press pictures with her reticent eyes. The crowd, mostly young and with dyed hair, swayed in time with music and sang along for album hits like ‘Touch’ and ‘What’s it Gonna Be?’ Although upbeat enough to dance to, her sound is frank and personal akin to how you feel after the final scene in an 80’s coming of age film where the ‘geeky girl’ figures out herself and finally asks her best friend who’s been secretly in love with her the whole time to dance. It was easy to see why she was nominated for BBC Sound of 2015 last year.