Khalid Robinson, a singer-songwriter known by his stage name “Khalid,” recently released his first album, American Teen. Khalid started producing music at age seventeen, working on his chart-topping single during his high school’s spring break. The single, “Location,” is characterized by a clean beat with at times a lo-fi-like quality to it. This sound is complemented greatly by Khalid’s smooth, often melancholy voice crooning about his struggle to meet up with and form a more intimate connection with a girl. The song was a massive success and reached the top ten on Billboard’s R&B charts and currently has over seventy-six million streams on Spotify. Two years later, on March 3, 2017, Khalid released his debut album American Teen.
The theme of the album is rather quickly explained within the first couple of tracks, “American Teen” and “Young, Dumb, and Broke.” The production of the sound is similar to the initial single in quality and offers rather simple beats that are livened by Khalid’s vocals. These tracks capture the energy and experience of youth, specifically high school and young love.
But love does at times take a toll on the listener, as I found it difficult to listen to this album straight through without some reprieve. It is a constant, though not wholly unwelcome, wave of bittersweet reflection over his relationships, perhaps most aptly described in his track “Another Sad Love Song.” These drawn-out ruminations on love are, paradoxically, the best and worst parts of the album. About halfway through the tracklist I began to feel like some of the songs were forced and did not contribute to the narrative of the album.
Despite the filler songs, I hail the sound of the album. The highs and lows of young love Khalid endures are sonically conveyed in a sentimental way that is relatable and easy to understand. The album is strangely nostalgic, despite Khalid’s musical adolescence. The nostalgia is amplified for those that are exiting this period of youth. At nineteen, Khalid seems to be reflecting on his teenage experiences and with it, themes of innocence and pain. This album is, in a sense, a fond reflection on the time that was, despite the heartbreak Khalid voices through it.
Overall, this album is a solid entry into the R&B world and there is plenty of promise. Some of the more standout tracks I would recommend are “Young, Dumb, and Broke,” “Saved,” “Location,” “8TEEN,” “American Teen,” and “Another Sad Love Song.” At nineteen Khalid effectively dedicates an ode to the raw spirit found in youth. Despite sections that go on longer than I would like, this album deserves a listen, especially if you yearn to experience high school again.