With his debut album American Teen, Khalid establishes himself as a new voice for the disaffected youth, as well as proving himself to be a breakthrough artist with roofless potential and refreshing originality.
The syrupy earworm hooks of album-opener and title-track ‘American Teen’ is the sound equivalent to the post-winter sun on your face and getting bevved at 4pm in the park. Opening sleepily with birdsong and finishing stripped-back with Khalid’s friends singing along to an acoustic guitar, the track perfectly introduces the beautifully laid-back yet raw vulnerability of Khalid’s music.
At only 19, Khalid’s heartfelt verses play testimony to his old soul. His hoarse serenade flows throughout the 15-track collection, setting a somewhat lonely undertone below the album’s youthful shimmer and playful R&B. His soulful slur over new-wave drum beats throughout ‘Hopeless’ and ‘Therapy’ embodies Khalid’s ability to sing with genuine grace and emotion; even through perky tracks ‘8TEEN’ and ‘Let’s Go’ he manages to harness a raw, soulful depth.
The album flows by with a sleepy rhythm and smooth spirit, creating a seductively chill ambiance. The vinyl crackle and guitar tics of ‘Cold Blooded’ augment Khalid’s pure vocals whilst breakout hit ‘Location’ showcases his slick lyricism, expressing lust for love in the Tinder-age: “I don’t wanna fall in love off of subtweets so / Let’s get personal”. Throughout the album, Khalid’s lyrics capture a generational mood. From carefree track ‘Young Dumb & Broke’ to more deep and emotional tracks like ‘Saved’ and ‘Another Sad Love Song’, Khalid expresses the relatable complexities of adolescence, mixing feelings of mirror-gazing loneliness to more laid-back Frank Ocean meets Sampha vibes.
Khalid’s authentic sound and raw soul is in a league of its own, unparalleled to any other artist. Yet, it feels inevitable that each track will break its way into the mainstream charts.