At 21 years-old, Khalid Donnel Robinson has been nominated for several Grammy awards, has appeared on hit songs with artists like Kendrick Lamar and Swae Lee, and has released two very successful albums. That is an extremely successful career, especially for someone as young as Khalid.
On his new album titled “Free Spirit,” Khalid reflects on his newfound stardom and grapples with being popular and feeling alone at the same time. While these aren’t groundbreaking themes by any means, Khalid brings new sounds, styles, and perspectives to the discussion.
Khalid primarily draws people in with his smooth and melodic voice. It is somewhat reminiscent of a more mellow and angsty Sam Cooke. In a crowded pop scene, Khalid’s wide-ranging talent allows him to stand out among the rest as his angelic and mellow voice becomes the soundtrack for an entire generation.
On this album, Khalid’s voice is as angelic and mellow as ever, and even with 17 tracks, his voice never gets old. In fact, he displayed a level of vocal growth and maturity on this album that proves that he is here to stay in the music industry. Khalid switches between a melodious voice on tracks like “Alive,” to an upbeat voice on “Right Back” that is reminiscent of tracks from “American Teen,” to an uplifting and angelic sound on tracks like “Free Spirit.” All of these different tones and styles are done beautifully, and this vocal variety keeps listeners engaged for the entirety of this 17 track album.
Another area where Khalid displayed growth was in his themes. While hints of the juvenile lovestruck writing that was common in “American Teen” can still be found in this album, there is a bit more depth and variety in what Khalid sings about. On “Self,” he struggles with self-reflection as he looks inward at his flaws, his fears and his anxiety.
In “Self” Khalid sings, “I’ve ran away for miles. It’s gettin’ hard for me to breathe. ‘Cause the man that I’ve been runnin’ from is inside of me.”
This introspective dialogue is not something that the world has seen from Khalid until now, and it is refreshing to hear Khalid admit his struggles to the world instead of repetitive allusions to his past relationships that are just vague enough to be all-encompassing.
If I had a complaint about this album, it would be that roughly one-third of the album consists of songs we had already heard. “Better” and “Saturday Nights” are the two biggest songs from his EP “Suncity” that was released last year, and “My Bad,” “Talk,” “Don’t Pretend” and “Self” were all released as singles. This is a very minor complaint, as I enjoy each of those songs, but it would’ve been nice to have 17 entirely new Khalid songs instead of 11 new songs with 6 songs I’ve already heard.
The tracks from this album that will chart the highest are likely the ones that recall the airy feel and summer vibes that were prevalent in “American Teen.” Tracks like “Right Back” and “Outta My Head” are good examples of this. For me, however, the album shines when Khalid strays from this formula and displays his variety – both vocally and thematically.
Khalid has quickly become one of the biggest artists of this generation. “Free Spirit” may not be as influential as “American Teen” was, but this is a very enjoyable album that proves Khalid is here to stay.