Khalid - Free Spirit
Khalid's rise to fame has been nothing short of meteoric. Social Media popularity and a dedicated group of Gen Zers have assured that Khalid has been in heavy rotation in the past year. A follow up to American Teen was fast tracked and thus we have landed here with Free Spirit. A lot has changed for Khalid and his image as the nice boi teen is wearing somewhat thin. However his warm smile, gregarious personality and all around likability make him hard to root against. Free Spirit opens with a song called "Intro" that will send chills up your spine. The haunting production gives way to Khalid's muffled vocal. The song never engages into a beat but just builds and builds and builds until everything falls away and we are suddenly in the album. Khalid has spared no expense on this record, working with some of the biggest names in the game like Disclosure, John Mayer and Stargate. With this much money and expectation it's hard to imagine something good coming out of it, but Khalid manages to avoid some of the sophomore pitfalls. He doesn't try too hard to reinvent the wheel, or change what we imagine R&B can be. He doesn't try to be Frank Ocean with wild creativity or The Weeknd with overt sexual energy. Instead Khalid is just Khalid and for that is when He is at his best. "Talk" the Disclosure produced track is not their most aggressive production, but that doesn't mean it's not a bop. The album does tend to hang at one level for the majority of it which can be a bit much for a 17 track record.
Even the tracks with a little more pace like "Hundred" do feel like they they should have another setting that they engage. "Outta My Head" is an absolute groove which makes it no surprise that the guitar driven track was produced by John Mayer. Mayer has become more and more relevant as He has settled into adulthood and his production skills have improved incredibly. The album's title track also follows a similar path as the intro where it never really clicks into that second gear and just sort of floats along. These tracks seem to add some weight to this album making it feel a bit bigger than it otherwise would have. "Twenty One" has this wonderful atmospheric beat that is minimal but absolutely stunning. On Free Spirit Khalid tens to look inward trying to come to terms with the changes in his life, but also some really tender love songs. When He tries to go generic and bold like on "Heaven" that is where the album really suffers. I don't think the world is done with Khalid, and this album doesn't really justify the hate it's getting. Just because the man has done well for himself doesn't mean we should be looking for him to fail. Free Spirit is a perfectly nice album with a lot to like, and even some stuff to love. If you aren't on board, maybe it's time to take a look inward.
7.8 out of 10