Photo Credit: Twitter @thegreatkhalid
Khalid is a fascinating artist. He seeks approval but doesn’t want praise. His music can be emotionally complex, but easy to enjoy. He admits he’s disconnected at times, but is completely self-aware. All of this is played out and painted like a beautiful canvas through his music, especially on his sophomore effort Free Spirit. This LP is a follow up to 2017’s platinum bound American Teen, and immediately strikes a visibly more solemn tone than his laid-back and relaxed jovial debut. Now at the tender age of 21, the singer-songwriter takes you along his creative, personal merry-go-round of self-empowerment, lost love and the ups and downs of fame and trying to keep it all afloat from his youthful perspective.
Bolstered by radio friendly singles like “Better” (which is excellently produced by Stargate), the cool and catchy “Talk”, perfect for wine on your lover’s sofa over a chill weekend, and the stand out track “Right Back” which has a smooth comfortable flow as he sings, “You don’t gotta stay the night // I just want to take the time // I know all the things you like // Maybe if the mood is right // We can bring it right back.” With jams like these, Khalid proves he is a more than capable commercial artist with ease. Even the introspective vibes of “Self” are refreshing, he talks to himself and gives inner advice singing, “So I been making changes, been workin’ on my health // No more competition, can’t compete against myself.”
He dives deeper into self-doubt, sounding rather adolescent on tracks like “My bad” as he rhymes over a basic beat in a regretful tone about “coulda, woulda, shoulda’s.” The same can be said on “Hundred” whose 80s pop themed background is skewed by Khalid’s self-loathing lyrics and tone as he sings, “Had a hundred friends but I cut them off, I don’t need ‘em // Not like any of them gave a f*ck if I was breathin’ // Summer’s over so they switch around like the seasons // Gotta keep my guard up now I’m playin’ defense // Everybody wants a favor everybody needs me // But I’m too busy tryin’ to fight away all of my demons.” On “Don’t Pretend” featuring newcomer SAFE, “Twenty One” And “Saturday Nights” he focuses on things teens do out of peer pressure, lack of love and bad decisions, all following a similar blueprint as Khalid sings with an old soul but is still very much 21-years-old at heart.
Elsewhere throughout the seventeen tracks Khalid teams up with John Mayer (one of the few feature artists on the album) on “Outta My Head”, an uplifting pop duet. However, on course with the albums back and forth nature, unfortunately the collaboration falls short of any real substance these two fellas are capable of. As is the case with the mediocre “Paradise” and “Bluffin” that come off a bit corny and label orchestrated. Despite a few hiccups along the way, the album is filled with a heavier rollercoaster of emotions than were used to from Khalid. Free Spirit is still an assortment filled with some exceptionally written tracks.
Khalid’s awesome musical versatility is the core of his talent. In fact, it is the exact formula that had made him a seemingly overnight superstar. The budding youngster who is on the second leg of his first headlining North American tour, has an upcoming performance at the renowned Coachella festival next month, and has now eclipsed the second most streams for a follow up LP in Sound Cloud history still seems humbled and smitten by his own success.
The Texas artist recently sat down with Complex Magazine and shared his thoughts on everything going on for him right now: “Not even 3 years ago, I can remember doing my first show in a coffee shop. It’s unbelievable.” He also talks about his sophomore album stating, “It’s a little bit more mature and it’s a little bit more adult and it’s this coming of age,” Khalid added, “but it’s still like … it’s still 21, it’s really just true to life.”
Some may see the project as a less flavored effort than his initial light-hearted debut, but in essence Free Spirit is just a painfully joyful reminder that nothing really made sense in any of our lives at 21. And most of us are still trying to figure it out! Khalid included.