When Khalid released his hit single “Location” last summer, he became regarded as an upcoming R&B newcomer with some serious potential. Sadly this potential was not exactly reached in the long-awaited release of his full album “American Teen” last friday.
If you’ve ever been in a Forever 21 store and experienced the bombardment of similar sounding pop beats paired with simplistic relationship themed lyrics, that is just about the gist of this album. It has those trendy upbeat vibes, but lacks greatly in substance and originality.
The only criticism of the song “Location” would be its repetitiveness. Of course “send me your location” is a really clever lyric, and as he calls it (genius.com) an “ode to the digital era we’re all going through” but that line is repeated in the chorus six times and there are only two seven line versus. The melodies are the same as well each chorus and verse so ultimately it does not matter if he sings a different lyric it is still repetitive sounding. While this song comes across as an alternative R&B jam, the rest of the album truly leans more on the pop side.
The repetition premise persists throughout. His style is very consistent. This can be seen as a positive quality but since the music is lacking in such important characteristics, every song being too much the same as the last is not necessarily a good thing. Many of the tracks seem to fit the popular style format. The song “Let’s Go” is really the best example of this. The beat drops exactly where you expect it to, the chorus melody is very predictable as well, etc. It’s just been done before, this song may do very well because of this, but for a listener with a more complex ear, it’s just not that inspiring.
Many of the lyrics on this album allude to his age. Khalid is just nineteen years old and while he has lived a lot of different places because of his military affiliated parents, he considers El paso Texas his true home.
“My youth is the foundation of me / I’m high off my American dream.” He expresses pride in his home and his youth again and again, which is cool, but aside from his third topic, girls, there is virtually nothing else touched on. Artistically, this is the most easily digested format. He does not exhibit exploration of the infinite creative freedom that is lyricism, whatsoever.
“We’re just young dumb and broke high school kids,” he mentions, for example, in the song “Young Dumb and Broke.”
None of the beats are as good as the one in “Location,” they are all a bit featureless and thudding. But, the songs “Another Sad Love Song,” “8TEEN,” and “Saved” really stand out. His Texas spirit comes through, mainly in his voice, providing a bit of ingenuity. These tracks are the most catchy and engaging. It can be predicted these may do the best as far as sales and reception, creating radio-pop-hit formate must have been a main goal in the conception of this album.
His voice is probably the most impressive aspect of his music and he sings in a ballad style, a bit like Hozier. This vocal flair is displayed best in a few of the songs on the album, “Coaster,” “Shot Down,” and “Angels.” These songs prove a bit problematic however because of the repetitive nature of his technique. When a ballad is entirely too much the same throughout and the lyrics are not quite interesting enough the track will become a bit boring about half way through. In the song “Angels” he literally repeats the word “angels” very slowly seven times.
After the enticing flow of “Location,” an album of inspired, unique hits was anticipated. To be provided with an album of a completely different simplistic pop style, ultimately it’s confusing.