Don’t be surprised if Khalid’s debut album American Teen, flies under the radar and never scratches the surface of today’s unforgiving r&b environment – it’s just the nature of the increasingly populated genre.
Yet, don’t be shocked if months from now, the 18-year-old from El Paso, Texas is singing hooks for the likes of Drake, Migos or Kaytranada. American Teen is just too smart, too catchy and too in tune with the elements that turn albums into hit albums to miss the boat.
In his debut album, Khalid appeases all sorts of r&b fans with his wide-ranging sounds and willingness to explore all branches of the genre. “Coaster” is an ode to the Maxwell-signature quiet storm sound, while “Saved” features some understated, but effective percussion that’s reminiscent of pre-Overgrown James Blake. Album standout “8TEEN”, gives Bieber’s affinity for tropical house a run for its money – albeit with some much-needed reality check as Khalid naively laments about still living with his parents at 18 years old.
Regardless of tempo and sound, Khalid consistently exhibits his cool, steady vocals. He doesn’t take many risks and avoids the big falsetto moments that are commonplace in a Miguel or Jeremih record, nor does he bob and weave through rhythms like Frank Ocean.
His uncompromising steadiness might be his greatest strength, though – obviously, aside from the extremely polished production for a dude without a Wikipedia. Among the seemingly endless amount of up and coming r&b artists tasked with creating their own signature and flavour, Khalid already seems ahead of the curve – now all he needs is a verse from Quavo.
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