2017, Music

American Teen (2017) by Khalid

When I first read his name on the list, I worried he somehow might be related to the infamous DJ Khaled, not realizing I had transposed a vowel (and can’t pronounce at least one of them). Fortunately for everyone involved, he’s not.

So immediately the first song is not my thing and feels way too much like the ’80s nostalgia of someone like The Weeknd. Fortunately, things pick up on the next few tracks, which absolutely do not sound like that and closer to what I think of as contemporary/alternative R&B in the mid teens. (As an aside, it’s fascinating how arbitrarily the “chipmunk soul” designation is applied given how many of these records utitlize sped up vocals at least a little bit.)

I understand why “Young Dumb & Broke” became a hit but nothing on here stays with me as much as that track. I think that’s pretty typical of debuts, most people don’t start out with their best set of songs unless they’ve been collecting them for years. When they do rise to catchy enough for me to remember them, they don’t really resonate. He likes his easy vocal hooks – I think there are a few wordless hooks here, right?

Much like with SZA’s debut, I find myself wishing this was quirkier and Khalid’s unique personality came across more. I often feel like the production is relatively diverse by Khalid himself is operating in the same space (which I think I also felt about SZA, even though they are very different performers).

It’s just not something I can imagine ever returning too, not just because I’m not a big R&B person but because, of the R&B I’ve heard from this time, it’s just not as interesting as music made by some of Khalid’s older contemporaries.


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