Album Review: “American Teen” by Khalid

Khalid who? He may only have a slim Wikipedia page, but Khalid is hungry for the spotlight and ready to enter the professional music industry. He’s a high school senior from El Paso, Texas, yet he’s already gotten recognition for his deep vocals and sultry persona. Reaching a breakthrough point of advancing from SoundCloud to Spotify, “American Teen” is instrumentally versatile and captures Khalid’s pre-collegiate boyishness and relaxed attitude.

Khalid imitates John Legend’s croons and pianism on “Coaster.” Do you prefer contemporary dance beats? “Winter” has you covered with its juvenile spiritualism and scattered finger snaps. The journey through his carefree life starts with the album opener “American Teen.” “American Teen” captures the essence of living large in America — a celebration of the teenage lifestyle. “My youth is the foundation of me, / Oh I’m proud to be American,” he sings, a line that will set the foundation for the yearbook of teenage havoc about to play out. Khalid is barely reaching the spotlight, but he already makes an intriguing first impression. His hit single “Location” was a great introduction to this soulful innovator, a track about his search for intense love. “Saved,” one of the album’s highlights, has some Usher influences with the assorted R&B tempo reminiscent to “Confessions.” You can hear the desire in Khalid’s own confessions: “I’m hoping that you’ll say / You’re missing me the way I’m missing you.”

Khalid has described his sound as always changing and growing with himself. When you listen to all of the album’s 15 tracks, they not only have their own distinct rhythms and influences, but they instrumentally accentuate each other and the album’s theme of youthful lifestyles. The minimalist style of “Location” smoothly transitions into the club mixer “Another Sad Love Song.” The notable tracks “Therapy” and “Shot Down,” despite being the last tracks on the album, truly portray his intrinsic instrumentation being accentuated by his casual lyrics that yearn for his mystery girl.

His love for the insouciant life is potent all throughout. “8TEEN” and “Let’s Go,” although not as instrumentally sophisticated as the album’s highlights, elaborate on his juvenile life decisions. “Angels” closes the album in a more low tempo vibe. “The angels give me strength, / And I’m not giving up,” he croons as he leaves behind the self-indulgence of childhood for a promising future in music.

“American Teen” is prominently R&B, with a hint of smooth pop that pairs well with 1980s new wave — a mixed sound that is progressive for any other beginning artist with no previous signings. Yet Khalid defeats odds, and his debut is one that is well worth a stream.

Rating: A-
Release Date: March 3, 2017

Image Courtesy of Kenzo Photo