One of the beautiful paradoxes of songs is the way someone else’s words can resonate as if they were our own. This principle can be as true for singers as it is for audiences, and country as a genre has always left space for performers to find themselves in other people’s words and music. Miranda Lambert quickly established her hell-on-heels bona fides as a country singer/songwriter when she made her major-label debut almost a decade ago, but her first No. 1, “The House That Built Me” from 2009′s Revolution, was written by Allen Shamblin and Tom Douglas. As Charles Aaron notes in his review of 2014′s Platinum, even Lambert’s parents thought that one was an original. Some of the lyrics were just too true to life.
Shamir Bailey, the recent XL Recordings signee behind this fall’s house-R&B sunburst “On the Regular,” clearly gets it. The Las Vegas-reared artist said in an interview with our own Puja Patel that he has actually tried his hand at writing contemporary-style pop country, only to be told his surreal, near-falsetto voice wasn’t “country” enough. His faithfully spare, demo-like acoustic cover of Lambert’s “The House That Built Me,” then, is a sharp contrast from the disco-tinged material you might’ve seen from Shamir on French TV, but it’s one hell of a statement of self: When Shamir sings, “I got lost in this whole world and forgot who I am,” in his distinctively high-pitched (and distinctly not what conventionally scans as country) voice, you believe him, but at the same time you feel like he might have more impressive self-knowledge than the rest of us do.
“I love Miranda Lambert so much,” Shamir told Rookie, which commissioned the track as part of its Theme Song series (current theme: First Person). “When you told me the theme, I was like, “I have the perfect song! The song is so beautiful because it’s written like you’re telling a story to someone else. For the person singing it, you’re talking to a person living in a house that you’ve built with your family from the ground up, and grown up in, and have all these memories about. You’re letting the person know how special the house is, and all that you’ve done in it.”
You can find Shamir and Lambert alike on both our 75 Best Songs of 2014 and 100 Best Albums of 2014. Be sure to read Rob Harvilla’s essay 2014 in Country: Miranda Lambert Transcends the Bros.