Following up with your first full length album, after a debut as explosive as American Teen was always going to be a big task. Young Dumb & Broke was everywhere, the album reached number 4 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum in October 2017. Most importantly, it was an incredible record.
Therefore, Free Spirit had big boots to fill. Luckily, Khalid has the talent, charisma and creativity to top his own work, and take it to the next level.
Putting the fact he created a whole short accompanying film for the album aside, which is in itself a testament to Khalid’s creativity, the album is one worth replaying, and one which highlights his potential as a performer.
Sticking with the theme of growing up, but this time focusing more on a personal growth, listening to tracks like Hundred strikes the perfect balance of allowing you to relate to the lyrics, while giving you an insight into Khalid’s mind.
Lines like ‘Everybody wants a favour everybody needs me/but I’m too busy tryin’ to fight away all of my demons’ seem to comment on the pressures of fame that the Texas-raised singer is inevitably feeling, but are something that everyone can relate to at some point, which is a winning combination in a song that is as catchy as the common cold.
Like American Teen, the album is a coming of age story, but with the angst and the brunt of the struggle out of the way, it has made way for the discussion of love and relationships. As cliché as you may expect this to be, love songs like Outta My Head (which features John Mayer) are a reminder of why this is a subject so visited – because it works.
The song plays like a dream sequence, with enough harmonies and layered vocals that you can almost feel the butterflies in Khalid’s stomach for yourself. This is something which is found in a lot of the songs, Bluffin’ being another example, and it isn’t hard to imagine this becoming Khalid’s signature sound.
One of the best aspects of the record is the continuity, not one track sounds out of place. Listened to one after the other, in order, Free Spirit has the same energy of a long journey on a sunny day. With brooding, silky smooth vocals and guitar melodies engaging enough to get your attention, but not too energetic to pull you out of the daze the album lulls you into. Each aspect works together to give you a summer feel, regardless of the weather.
One song which stands out from the rest on the album is Alive. While a lot of the album has a feel-good, easy listening vibe, Alive tackles with a much darker theme. Narrating a story form the point of view of someone dealing with depression, lines like ‘Only sweet until it all goes sour, life is what you make it until it gets too real’ show that Khalid can produce music which carries more depth than the radio-friendly tracks that have made his name known.
The album’s final track Saturday Nights, in terms of vocals, sticks to the strict rule of ‘save the best until last.’ First seen on his 2018 EP Sun City, the lyrics paint a nostalgic, typical American-dream struggle, a girl working a job she hates and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. However, it is the falsetto in the chorus that truly shows Khalid’s range and skill.
It is evident from Free Spirit that Khalid has a lot to give to the industry, and you can expect it to be one that gets a lot of listening over the warmer months and be a big hit for the festival season. And it is well deserved.
Hopefully, on the next record we see the skillful story telling that has been hinted at here grow and blossom.
Featured Image Credit – Jason Kim