Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Khalid: The A Teen

Khalid Khalid Khalid Khalid

So often you hear the saying that youth is wasted on the young, but with the release of Khalid’s debut album American Teen at the ripe old age of 19, the first impression you get is that he’s utilising every morsel of it. The teen singer shifted into popular consciousness with modern day love song “Location”, after posting the track online in May 2016. The tune perfectly encapsulated romance in the digital age with lines like “I don’t want to fall in love off a subtweet, so let’s get personal” and carved out a unique space for his music, striking a clever balance between the realms of R&B and pop’s universal youth appeal. The very same track that sparked critical recognition for the artist has now amassed almost 70 million streams on Soundcloud alone, never mind its Platinum certification or the 370 million streams on Spotify since its official release as a single.

Now signed internationally to major labels such as RCA and Columbia Records, Khalid’s trajectory seems relatively limitless, having already birthed a Billboard Top 5 debut album and finished a stint supporting Lorde on her global tour, all before the age of 20. A Cosign from the Kardashians helped to unfurl his exposure early on and his knack for collaborations didn’t stop there – already Khalid has names like Kendrick Lamar, Goldlink, Rae Sremmurd, Marshmello, Lil Wayne and Kehlani under his belt, in the form of remixes and features.

Sonically, the project’s instrumentation probably falls somewhere into the world of alternative R&B whilst morphing into pop purely because of its infectious nature and the strength of its audience. With production contributions on the record spanning from Illmind and DJDS all the way to the likes of Grades, “American Teen” is laced with guitars, keys and percussion, but modernised with carefully placed electronic and synth additions. The beats remain understated enough for you to focus on the lyrics but strong enough to create distinct atmospheres across the record. With uniquely raspy vocals beyond his years, Khalid – born Khalid Robinson in 1998 – croons with resolve on topics of home, social media, partying, young love and conversely young heartbreak. He explains, “When I was writing the album, it felt like more of a time capsule for myself. Something I’d be able to look back at when I’m not a teenager anymore and see how I felt. That’s why I think that people who aren’t necessarily teenagers can still look back and be like ‘Wow, this is how young love felt’ and they’re probably still going through the same thing right now”, he laughs.

In fact, it’s important not to be put off by the title of the album – the messages of Khalid’s American Teen expand far beyond his explicitly stated target market. Despite the fact that the concept and title of the album focus on the subject of teenagers born in the USA, Khalid explains that the aim of the record was more to serve as a redefinition of trope than anything else. “To me, the title was one of self-acceptance, not necessarily the stereotype of the American Teen. I have to accept all of me and where I have come from, I’m American – African-American – and I was at the pinnacle age of being a teenager, 18. And then I had to say ‘Okay, now how do I feel about my teenager years? What did I go through in those years? And I thought, of course, every teenager goes through heartbreak, so I wrote about heartbreak – that was the closest thing to me.” And upon listening, it’s hard to find fault with that logic. Whether you’re 15 or 55 there are aspects to speak to you, be it through nostalgia for relationships gone by or a perfect depiction of your present situation.

The album American Teen is out through RCA Records

You can read more from our interview with B&S artist of the year Khalid in the current issue of Blues & Soul Magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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