Album Review: “Suncity” by Khalid

The “American Teen” singer pays homage to his hometown of El Paso, forever grateful to the city of the 9-1-5.

After countless collaborations with artists such as Normani, Billie Eilish, and Marshmello, Khalid has finally released a seven-track EP, which comes after the success of his debut album, “American Teen.” Its hit single “Location” brought Khalid fame and recognition and has remained a regular spin on Spotify playlists since 2016 until now. The release of “Suncity” marked the rhythm and blues singer’s next shot at becoming a household name. However, success might have to wait until his next album.

Most of “Suncity” blurs together, a sign that each song sounds virtually the same. This is unlike the variety found in “American Teen.” Khalid’s easygoing tone, while soulful at times, rarely fluctuates over the course of the album and runs the risk of sounding flat and static. The exception is the title track “Suncity,” where Khalid rides over an easy, Latin-pop beat with Empress Of. It’s a bouncy, refreshing track in an otherwise somber EP, where Khalid showcases his spectacular ability to play with featured artists and switch off lyrics. While he remains an incredible add-on to any track and collaborator, he continues to struggle when it comes to leading a song on his own.

On “Suncity,” most of the tracks hold a basic, mid-tempo beat. While this makes for easy listening, especially as background music, nothing about it is particularly memorable. “Suncity” doesn’t hold the same narrative weight as its predecessor, “American Teen.” Curiously enough, despite the EP’s vaguely angsty lyrics, it still remains lighthearted for a typical R&B album.

Khalid joins the ranks of Frank Ocean and SZA by including the voicemail “Salem’s Interlude.” However, unlike Ocean and SZA, the track is strangely positive and reassuring, ending with the line “And I’m just happy / I can’t complain about anything.” While the interlude doesn’t add anything of substance to “Suncity” and could have been left out of the EP, it does reveal something about Khalid, or rather, who Khalid is trying to be as an artist. Relatability, positivity, and general geniality seem to characterize the singer both as a person and a musician.

Although “Suncity” is a bit lukewarm, its tracks like the fluid, pop-inflected “Motion” and “Suncity” reveal a glimpse into what the 20-year-old could accomplish in the future. Nonetheless, it was also necessary in keeping up Khalid’s presence beyond his constant collaborations and previously released singles. Khalid is well-liked by the general public and remains as one of the most wholesome and uncontroversial current artists.

“Suncity” isn’t particularly memorable, but it’s enough to tide listeners over until the next Khalid album. It’s a matter of Khalid having another hit like “Location” that will determine whether he becomes the newest pop-like, R&B artist, or risks the title of a one-hit wonder.

Grade: B-
Release Date: Oct. 20th, 2018

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