It seems like singer/songwriter Khalid rose to fame out of nowhere. However, I’d argue it happened after his release of debut album American Teen back in March. ‘Location’ hit soundcloud 10 months ago and now has over 55 million plays. Just this past month, Khalid held a free concert at the Santa Monica Pier June 22, with over 600,000 fans present. Not only is Khalid unapologetically himself through his music but he also doesn’t shy away when it comes to social media. Though the majority assumes that with an X amount of followers and popularity comes a duty to assimilate to “professionalism” or whatever it might be, Khalid still refreshingly interacts with his followers in friendly and playful manner, completely breaking the “fan” barrier. If his music sucked, this would be exactly why people still keep him relevant. But thankfully, his music doesn’t suck as it holds deep and powerful messages about love.
So why is it that teenagers (and young adults) are finding this kid so ridiculously relatable? What is it about ‘American Teen’ that makes us want to listen to it on a continuous loop? Themes. The El Paso native brings the concepts of love, heartbreak and hope to life in a way no other young artist has managed to do before.
The first half finds Khalid discussing things teens experience but don’t want to admit. Whether it’s that feeling of impulsively wanting to meet someone you’re infatuated with in person instead of throwing little hints via social media (“Location”), heartbreak over someone who you truly believed had better intentions (“Hopeless,” “Saved,” “Coaster”) or lacking financial stability and not caring about it (“Young, Dumb & Broke,” “8TEEN.”) Khalid’s delivery on each track is soulful while clearly stemming from R&B, and 80’s new-wave inspiration- an unconventional combination that works beautifully. His delivery grabs the listener’s attention allowing them to dive into a nostalgic world of an American teen.
Digging deeper into the track-list leads the listener into “Therapy,” “Shot Down” and “Angels.” Such songs remind us of the musical styles of current icons such as Frank Ocean or Sam Smith. The last track “Angels,” can be interpreted as a symbol for rebirth after being “Shot Down.” It’s like all the things that the protagonist went through in the album is finally at peace, accepting his past and looking forward to the present and hoping for “better days.”
Although Khalid’s lyrics are at times a stab in the heart, the instrumentals don’t make you feel sad. They make you want to cruise down Pacific Coast Highway, sit around a bonfire with your favorite people and find serenity within the madness that surrounds us everyday. Everybody goes through experiences that make you question yourself, your worth and your purpose. “The hard part always seems to last forever.” True stuff.
Stream American Teen here.
Photo via RCA Records.