Album review of Khalid’s “American Teen”
March 30, 2017
With some help from Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat stories, Khalid’s silky and sultry ‘Location’ became his first hit and gave him more than 50 millions plays on Spotify plus a record deal with RCA Records, all during the summer after his high school graduation. After a handful of released singles, American Teen was released on March 3rd, nine months after the success of Location. Khalid has made his debut album to the world a memorable one, and shows he’s one to play among the big boys.
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Additional reporting by Tom Hancock in Shanghai
It’s easy to see that 1980’s pop was used as inspiration in the first few tracks off the album, like the title track American Teen, Young Dumb and Broke, and Another Sad Love Song. Khalid has taken his experiences as a teenager and turned it into a coming-of-age album. It’s the musical equivalent to 1980s movies such as John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
His syrupy voice doesn’t sing with power or force to convey his message, it flows off his tongue in a smooth and calm demeanor, even when he’s shrugging off teenage difficulties in 8TEEN, the album’s capstone ballad to being 18 years old: “Woke up a little too late this morning/But I think I’ll be okay /I’ll be okay/Damn, my car still smells like marijuana/My mom is gonna kill me.” Khalid is now 19, so topics like first loves, staying out late, smoking weed and dealing with strict parents are what come most naturally to him.
Listen to the headlining songs American Teen, 8TEEN, Young Dumb and Broke, one thing is obvious: Khalid has taken his experiences as a teenager and turned it into a coming-of-age album. It’s the musical equivalent to 1980s movies such as John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it isn’t just the lyrics that contribute to this, it’s the production style and overall sound of the album. Combine autobiographical lyricism with production handled by Joel Little, the same producer of 20-year old Lorde’s highly successful albums The Love Club and Pure Heroine, and the result is a compilation of tracks that all flow together as one in a cohesive and fulfilling album.
Consider the first few lyrics of the title track, American Teen: “My youth is the foundation of me / Oh, I’m proud to be American” – one of many similar ideas that share the idea of the uncertainty of youth, or the innumerable possibilities kids have among Khalid’s (and our) generation. For Khalid, the sky’s the limit. American Teen isn’t Grammy quality, but having 30 years at his expense to grow into a matured and skilled artist is more than enough time to jump off an extremely solid foundation. Someone call John Hughes – I think I’ve found his new inspiration.
Standout Tracks: Young Dumb and Broke, American Teen, Saved