We were treated to a new serving of Khalid tunes this week via his latest effort, Free Spirit, and we have nothing but good words and good vibes. His American Teen singles “Location” and “Young, Dumb, & Broke” were getting tiresome, and his previous single releases “Better” and “Talk” – both on the new album – were good indications that this isn’t a redux of the aforementioned.
At age 21, we hear a more pained Khalid immediately opens up about being emotional vulnerable for someone: “Lately, I haven’t been doing very well / That’s the difference between heaven and hell.” That’s a far cry from the “location”-seeking, juvenile 17-year-old of yore.
Undoubtedly, this is also a more pop-sounding record, as evidenced by lighter fare such as the chill beach ditty “Right Back,” which is a love child of Bruno Mars’ and The Weeknd’s musical styles. The same can be said for “Paradise,” albeit dashed with psychedelia, where he goes for the obvious: “All your wrongs from yesterday/Smokin’ Himalayan Haze/Won’t wash your sins away.”
Despite still being a solid collection, the effort for commercial appeal is obvious, with vaguer lyrics and “digestible” melodies that are poised to rule Spotify playlists for the months to come. The producers, himself included, didn’t even forget to include a zeitgeisty thing of the month – the “80s” feel – which hounds “Hundred,” a sunset fare that could have also been recorded by The Police or Sting.
John Mayer appears as a breather in the follow-up track, “Outta My Head,” where his and Khalid’s vocals beautifully merge into one while John’s trademark guitar riffs provide the song’s rich texture. An easy standout.
At 17 tracks, Khalid did not disappoint at all. While the spunk is definitely missed, the attitude is bolder than ever.