Khalid, American Teen | Album Review
Up-and-coming teen R&B artist Khalid impresses on his highly-anticipated debut album, ‘American Teen.’
Teen R&B singer Khalid is quickly becoming one of the hottest names in R&B. It’s amazing considering he’s still a kid – 19 years old! Ahead of his highly-anticipated debut album, American Teen, he has had a mighty promo campaign, issuing seven singles ahead of the album. The biggest single, “Location,” gave the singer a true breakthrough single, setting him up for a potentially successful career. The enjoyable American Teen showcases his lofty potential.
“American Teen” opens American Teen bubbly and exuberant in sound. The single borrows from 80s pop and urban cues as its basis. Set in a major key, the optimism is formidable. Vocally, while Khalid is firmly invested, without forcing things. Lyrically, the vibes are positive, as Khalid explores life and the great opportunities ahead of him.
“‘Cause this is our year / So wake me up in the Spring / While I’m high off my American dream / We don’t always say what we mean / It’s the life of an American teen.”
Ultimately, the opener sets the tone for the album.
“Young Dumb & Broke”
“Young Dumb & Broke” keeps the momentum rolling on American Teen. Khalid’s vocals are robust, characterized by distinctiveness. Where Khalid didn’t sound as thick on “American Teen,” he contrasts here with a more biting, grittier sound. “Young Dumb & Broke” superbly balances old and new schools, featuring production cues from both. This record is infectious from the jump.
“Location” gave Khalid his breakthrough single. The best attribute of “Location” is the voice. No one who sounds like the teen artist, who’s in his own lane. Superbly produced, beyond the slick production work, this is a well-rounded song, with Khalid sharing the desires of his heart:
“Send me your location, let’s / Focus on communicating, ‘cause / I just need the time and place to come through…/ Send me your location, let’s / Ride the vibrations / I don’t need nothing else but you.”
Essentially, this is young love, and a new, unfamiliar experience for the teen, as well as his boo. Therefore, the questions, hormones, feelings, all run rampant. Teenage love, as well as love in general, can be characterized as a cluster-fuck, but he is convincing on this highlight.
He doesn’t miss a beat with the groovy “Another Sad Love Song,” which easily gets stuck in the head. As sad as the love song may be, it’s hard to tell, given the joyful sounds of the production work. Once more, Khalid delivers a compelling vocal performance. Like many of the songs from American Teen, there is ample hit-potential.
On “Saved,” Khalid continues to showcase incredible maturity. His voice remains awe-inspiring. Arguably, the subject of “Saved” is both youthful and applicable to adults as well. Essentially, he is hopeful that his ex is going to call him and reignite the relationship. In the big scheme of things, this is childish – more fairy tale and wishful thinking than realistic. That said, young or old, who doesn’t reminisce back to a past relationship and ask ‘what if’ questions and so forth?
“But I’ll keep your number saved / ‘Cause I hope one day you’ll get the sense to call me / I’m hoping that you’ll say / You’re missing me the way I’m missing you.”
“Coaster” – another pre-release single – segues, opening mysteriously with moody vibes. A natural follow-up, Khalid questions the same past relationship – the one he desires to rekindle on “Saved.”
“Maybe you weren’t the one for me / But deep down I wanted you to be / I’ll still see you in my dreams…”
He sums up his emotional state on the chorus, essentially working through disappointment, regret, and moving forward.
“So I’ll be coasting, roller-coasting / Through my emotion / I will be coasting, roller-coasting / I’m hoping that you’ll come back to me.”
“8TEEN” is a welcome change of pace after a trio of brokenhearted songs from Khalid. This feels like a companion cut to the title track, embracing a similar overall sound. On the bright, synth-driven “8TEEN,” he reflects on being young and dumb. The signature line comes on the chorus:
“So let’s do all the stupid shit that young kids do.”
“Let’s Go” keeps things youthful, intact with unnecessary profanity. That said, the profane bomb is representative of today’s culture, as well as Khalid’s youth. “Let’s Go” is as slickly produced as everything else, particularly the hard, hyper-rhythmic beat. “Hopeless” follows lushly, retaining the groovy, 80s vibe of American Teen. Enjoyable, neither “Let’s Go” or “Hopeless” fit the top tier of songs from the album.
“Cold Blooded” adds more oomph to American Teen, following “Let’s Go” and “Hopeless.” In addition to swoon-worthy production, the melody of “Cold Blooded” stands out, particular the pre-chorus.
“And I feel your fear / Surrounded by your skin / You feel my heartbeat vibrate so violent / Inside of your head / I see it in your eyes (see it in your eyes) / That you’re no good for me / And love is blind.”
“Winter” is naturally a depressing season for love, particular in Khalid’s hands. While “the days get harder in November” and “Love grows colder in the winter” for the teen, “Winter” is more enthusiastic than expected. Featuring a palette of sounds including horns, synths, and an electrifying beat, “Winter” is another enjoyable addition to American Teen. “Therapy” continues in excellence, where Khalid is trying to play it cool, but “need(s) your therapy.” From the jump, he states his intentions:
“Something that you’re doing has me falling all the way / I’m tripping off your love and all the other drugs we taking.”
On “Keep Me,” Khalid seems willing to do anything to be with her. He clearly cites their differences, admitting at one point, “I sucked it up, because I wanted to be more than friends.” While “Keep Me” may be somewhat desperate, it also raises legitimate conversation about the compromises and sacrifices one must make to be in love.
“Shot Down” is clearly the crème de la crème of American Teen. It resides in the same league as breakthrough single “Location.” Throwback, yet fresh, Khalid continues to bless the listener with his soulful, distinctive instrument, singing about over infatuation.
“I been through it whole / I’ve been through the worst / But I never knew how much our love could hurt / Over my family I put you first…”
“Angels” beautifully concludes American Teen.
All in all, Khalid impresses on his highly-anticipated debut album, ‘American Teen.’ Throughout its course, his voice is what shines the most. In addition to his vocal maturity, his youthful persona and excellent production work provide a lift. American Teen ends up being a few minutes (or songs) too long at 54 minutes, but all in all, there’s little to complain about. This is a respectable, well-conceived debut.
Gems: “American Teen,” “Young Dumb & Broke,” “Location,” “Saved,” “Cold Blooded” & “Shot Down”