“Straight Boy,” the second single from indie-pop singer Shamir’s upcoming album,Revelations, will find its way onto the secret playlist you have for crying about boys sooner or later. But it’s not the song about being ghosted by someone who isn’t ready to come out yet that it might seem to be upon first listen. Rather, the song is a thoughtful lament about the pain inflicted on queer people by the dominant (straight) American culture.
The political commentary of “Straight Boy” would be easy to gloss over if you weren’t paying close attention, which makes the decision to release the music video before the song is available to stream look like a deliberate choice rather than an oversight. The track’s soul comes from Shamir’s frustration not at straight boys exclusively, but any member of a dominant culture for how they treat his identities. The singer told NPR Music he wrote the song to work out why things like “whitewashing and queer-baiting in the media” happen.
The music video, directed by Ryan Carpenter, is extraordinarily simple and profoundly effective. As Shamir strums his guitar and sings against a white backdrop, he begins to disappear and a white man, imitating his mannerisms and wearing his clothes, fades into view. By the end of the video, the white man is all we see. Carpenter’s imagery and Shamir’s music together give us no choice but to acknowledge whitewashing and cultural appropriation.
“It was [frustrating] for me to have my whole identity picked apart at such a young age, only to see it used by straight men as an aesthetic choice,” Shamir told NPR. “The video quite unequivocally depicts the process of whitewashing and the repudiation of the queer and people of color who pioneered.”