It was summer 2017, and I remember sitting in my room in Burbank, California, watching Snapchat stories of singer Khalid performing at the Santa Monica Pier for the Twilight Concert Series. I was oblivious to who he was and the opportunity I was throwing away to see such an amazing artist perform live for free.
The next day, while I did my makeup to get the perfect summer glow, I blasted the “American Teen” album to see what the hype was about. I not only saw the hype, but I felt it.
Ever since the misfortune of missing Khalid’s concert, I have supported this artist, his journey and his music. I began living for the sole purpose of hearing his next album. But when I listened to “Free Spirit,” I felt disappointed in myself for making the decision to become a Khalid super fan.
I go to bed almost every night before 10 p.m., and I’m not ashamed to admit that. But on April 5, when Khalid’s first album dropped, I stayed up way past my bedtime so that I could listen to his music as soon as it was released.
My excitement to press play subsided five seconds into the first track. While the album is good – and admittedly has a few bangers I will blast on the beach this summer with my friends – the effort put into “Free Spirit” feels inferior to the effort put into “American Teen.”
The album is comprised of 17 songs, which includes two repeats from his “Suncity” extended play – “Better” and “Saturday Nights” – as well as three singles – “Talk,” “My Bad” and “Self.”
The album also lacks lyrical focus. When I listen to the songs, I find myself listening only to the melody, often because I cannot discern what Khalid is singing.
Part of why I loved “American Teen” was because of the dedication and care put into lyrics, accompanied by their freshness and honesty. With “American Teen,” Khalid disclosed a private part of himself to his fans through lyrics such as, “Maybe you weren’t the one for me but deep down I wanted you to be.”
But with “Free Spirit,” there are only a handful of honest tracks – “Hundred” being one of them. In “American Teen,” Khalid embraced his unique voice, by making his singing meaningful and utilizing his personal experiences to lead his music, but with “Free Spirit,” he didn’t allow himself to be as vulnerable.
The lackluster music production in Khalid’s second album offered a bland comparison to its predecessor, which has extremely unique beats, especially with songs like “American Teen” and “Let’s Go.”
Khalid’s personal touch in his new album is gone because he didn’t go out of his way to connect to his audience. These small additions on “American Teen” were missing from “Free Spirit,” which took more of a pop route. Most of the songs had the same rhythm.
Khalid left himself out of his second album. With the amount of fame he received from “American Teen,” it seems he felt more pressure to conform to the mainstream standards in “Free Spirit” and it shows.