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The xx’s Oliver Sim shares new track ‘Hideous’ and announces debut album

The powerful solo track explores how the musician was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 17

By Nick Reilly

Oliver Sim (Picture: Casper Sejersen / Press)
Oliver Sim (Picture: Casper Sejersen / Press)

Oliver Sim has shared his new single ‘Hideous’, which addresses how the xx musician was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 17.

The track is the latest effort to emerge from Sim’s solo album ‘Hideous Bastard’, which boasts the production efforts of Jamie xx and will arrive on September 9 via Young.

‘Hideous’, which arrives today (May 23) sees Sim enlisting guest vocals from Bronski Beat and Communards legend Jimmy Somerville and comes accompanied by a new music video directed by Yann Gonzalez.

Describing the track, Sim explained how it explores his experience of living with HIV.

“Early on in the making of my record, ‘Hideous Bastard’, I realised that I was writing a lot about fear and shame,” Sim wrote. “I imagine that might paint a picture of a dark, ‘woe is me’-sounding album, but in recent years I’ve become a firm believer that the best antidote to these feelings can be bringing them to the surface and shedding some light on them.

“I haven’t written the record to dwell, but rather to free myself of some of the shame and fear that I’ve felt for a long time. So, I hear a lot of the music as joyous, because the experience of writing and recording it has been the complete opposite of what fear and shame have been for me.”

Sim continued: “Two thirds in, having a good idea of what the record was about, I realised I’d been circling around one of the things that has probably caused me the most fear and shame. My HIV status. I’ve been living with HIV since I was 17 and it’s played with how I’ve felt towards myself, and how I’ve assumed others have felt towards me, from that age and into my adult life.

“So, quite impulsively, I wrote about it on a song called ‘Hideous’. I thought I could release it into the world and be done with it. After playing the song to my mum, being the protective and wise mum that she is, she gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received. She suggested that I spend some time having conversations with people in my life first. Either people I hadn’t told yet, or people I had told but hadn’t wanted to talk much further on it. Since writing ‘Hideous’, I’ve spent the past two years having those conversations, which was difficult and uncomfortable to start with, but has allowed me to feel a lot freer and has only strengthened my relationship with myself and with the people in my life.”

He added of Somerville’s contribution to the song: “One of the most special relationships I’ve gained from this has been with Mr Jimmy Somerville. I knew for ‘Hideous’ I wanted a guardian angel to appear in the song and sing to me the words I needed to hear. Not only has Jimmy been such a powerful voice around HIV and AIDS for decades, but the man quite literally sounds like an angel. I reached out to him as a complete fan boy, but now consider him a real good friend. He encouraged me to do the song for myself. He taught me ‘glamour’ is a Scottish word. And, most importantly, he reminded me to not take myself too seriously, no good comes from that!

“‘Am I Hideous?’ feels far less like a question I’m asking the world now. I know the answer. As scary as it still feels, I’m excited to share this music with you, and I hope you enjoy it.”

Sim previously shared the solo track ‘Fruit’, which followed on from ‘Romance With A Memory‘.

Ian Green, chief executive of HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, congratulated Sim on the song and the impact of revealing his diagnosis.

He said: “Oliver’s exploration of the shame he felt following his HIV diagnosis in his debut solo material will have a huge impact.

“The song Hideous is a powerful insight into the shame and internalised stigma many of us living with HIV experience where we pre-empt other people’s opinions of us to the detriment of our mental health and wellbeing.
“As Oliver shows, you can now live a long, healthy life with HIV and a diagnosis doesn’t have to stop you from achieving your dreams. But that doesn’t mean that diagnosis is an easy one to receive and why we must continue to do the work required to end the stigma still surrounding HIV.”